Organisations need to be aware of the health challenges faced by younger employees and the impact this might have on employers in years to come, despite claims that members of Generation Z are “healthier” than previous generations.
Although numerous reports have claimed workers aged 18 to 23 are more health conscious and smoke and drink less than their older colleagues, The Health Insurance Group warned they are half as likely to meet recommended levels of physical activity as Millennials (workers aged 23 to 38). It claimed that this, along with an allegedly poorer diet, could affect their short- and long-term health.
Younger workers’ wellbeing
Last year it emerged that almost 7,000 people under 25 have type 2 diabetes, driven mainly by rising rates of obesity, according to charity Diabetes UK.
Brett Hill, managing director at The Health Insurance Group, said: “The temptation for businesses can be to deal with current crises, rather than focus on prevention when it comes to healthcare. Employers may therefore be focusing their health and wellbeing efforts on supporting those that already have an existing condition, rather than concentrating on how to improve the overall health of others now and in the future.”
It encouraged employers to consider wellbeing benefits such as nutrition talks, running clubs or yoga evenings to promote a healthier and more active lifestyle among staff of all ages.
Meanwhile, a report has found that almost one in seven firms (68.4%) now has a strategy in place for monitoring employee wellbeing – more than double the proportion seen in 2016 (29.8%).
The Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) and AXA PPP healthcare, which conducted the survey as part of their 2019 Employee Wellbeing Research, found that the number of organisations offering wellbeing apps jumped from 8.5% in 2016 to 30.5% in 2019, and almost a third (31.5%) now offer staff access to virtual GPs.
Since 2018 there had been a 57% growth in the number of firms introducing a dedicated health and wellbeing component to their website. Now almost half (47.3%) of employers offer advice to staff in this way.
“Employers are doing a pretty good job helping their people to lead healthy, active lives. And, welcome though these findings are, in our enthusiasm to promote wellbeing, we must remember to be inclusive and reach out to those employees with most to gain from making the incremental changes that can transform an unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy one,” said Chris Horlick, distribution director for AXA PPP healthcare.
Most of the investment, however, was focused on benefits that sought to improve employees’ mental health. Nearly half (45.9%) of employers reported having a dedicated mental health strategy in place – up from 15.8% last year.
“It’s clear from the data that CEOs are under more pressure from their shareholders to make the fundamental changes needed to improve wellbeing in their workforces as a key way to create long-term sustainable businesses filled with productive employees,” said Debi O’Donovan, director at REBA.