Nearly seven in 10 UK adults feel occupational health is important, but only a fraction feel the same about the health and wellbeing interventions provided by employers, suggesting organisations’ investment could be going to waste.
A YouGov survey of 2,090 adults, commissioned by the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) and the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association (COPHA) to mark Occupational Health Awareness Week, identified a need for employers to move away from a reactive approach to health issues and instead seek professional advice around what would benefit workers most.
While 68% said having access to occupational health was important to them and 67% regarded it as useful, many of the interventions put in place by employers were not seen as important. Access to health assessments (8%), counselling (10%) and advice around health and wellbeing at work (11%) were seen as low in importance.
Respondents tended to regard cultural aspects of work as more important for their health. Having a good work-life balance was seen as the most important element (75%), followed by good management and leadership (66%) and a good workplace culture (58%).
One in five respondents had never heard of occupational health in the workplace, suggesting that many employers either did not offer an OH service or did not promote the services they offer.
SOM and COPHA encouraged organisations to seek professional advice before implementing health and wellbeing interventions to avoid wasting time and resources.
SOM president Dr Jayne Moore said: “Looking at the survey results, it’s clear that employers are not making the most of occupational health expertise and are failing to provide what employees actually want and need.
“A reactive DIY approach to occupational health, which we know is prevalent among businesses in the UK, is wasteful and ineffective. Companies of all sizes should use professional occupational health guidance to develop a clear workplace health strategy in the boardroom and steer how they invest in employee health services.”
Alan Ballard, chair of COHPA, said: “From mental health to menopause, occupational health doctors and nurses have a wealth of experience and specialist knowledge that is currently underutilised by much of the private sector. Many business leaders feel like they are fire-fighting health issues as they arise, so bringing in an occupational health expert to assist with a more strategic and proactive approach will take that constant pressure out of their hands.
“Companies that take on a bespoke health and wellbeing strategy in collaboration with an occupational health provider will see improved employee health and a better bottom line.”