UK employers may want to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees by introducing wellness initiatives, but these often don’t deliver the hoped-for results.
Workplace health studies repeatedly show massive rates of absence amongst UK workforces. According to the CIPD Absence Management Survey 2015, UK employees will take an average of 6.9 days off sick per year, but this is significantly higher in public sector organisations. The irony is that the public sector spends more on wellness initiatives than on any other sector.
Absence management expert Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence believes that wellness initiatives make a difference – but only if targeted effectively.
“The key is to finding the causes of absence through data and then responding to the challenges you find – it’s simply common sense.”, he says.
However, it does not appear that this is how initiatives are presently derived. A recent survey by Aon Employee Benefits found that 40 per cent of employers don’t use data to drive corporate health and well being strategies or target costs at all.
Stress absence is a particular issue in the public sector and the NHS last year announced its intentions to tackle this via yoga classes and counselling, however Adrian Lewis feels this is not the best way to tackle the issues unless it is targeted specifically at staff with a known problem.
“A good absence management system can help managers view patterns of absence, both at an individual, departmental and company-wide level and you can use the information to mould your wellness strategy accordingly.
“Wellness programmes shouldn’t just be offered globally. Employers should be using absence management data to identify and respond to individual health challenges you could otherwise miss. Anti-stress initiatives are all well and good but employers need to make sure they reach the right people.
“Recent research from CV-Library, revealed a massive 63.5% of sufferers wouldn’t be honest about taking time off for stress or depression. Sufferers of workplace stress are often disengaged, so it’s a challenge to get them to engage in wellbeing initiatives or counselling. A gentle return to work interview process, triggered by a data pattern can enable these employees to be identified and offered better, specific support at an early stage.
“Wellness initiatives are not just about tackling sickness, so much as managing all your resources, tackling cultural issues and responding to known challenges using every tool available. Learning more about your employees’ health is the starting point to making improvements, rather than spending money on initiatives and just hoping they solve the problem.”