How to… Manage the health of your staff

House of Commons Health Committee has reported that the number of obese people
in the UK has increased eight-fold in the past 25 years and estimates now show
that two-thirds of Britons are either obese or overweight.

is costing British business huge sums of money through a drop in productivity
as well as medical insurance – HR consultancy Towers Perrin reports rises in
corporate insurance premiums of up to 15 per cent in the last year alone.

Today has teamed up with vielife, the health and wellbeing experts, to offer
advice on measuring and promoting staff health. But be warned, none of this
will be effective unless companies have executive commitment at the highest


cannot manage what you cannot measure, so any effective employer-led health
management programme should begin with a benchmarking exercise that will:

Help each employee understand their health status. A multiple choice survey
will enable staff to see how they fare against company targets and their colleagues.
This would include questions on subjects such as sleeping habits and nutrition

Provide an aggregate review of the whole company that can be segmented for
effective targeting of improvement programmes. A report should be sent to HR
and the management team. It should include an overview of the health and
wellbeing of your organisation and how it links to business drivers, eg how
employee stress is impacting on customer satisfaction. It then becomes possible
to benchmark companies and individuals against their peers competing within
their sector or firms with a similar demographic.

Create an effective health assessment/profiling programme

should be:

Inclusive and available to everyone

Confidential at the individual level

Be designed for use by employees, not by the medical professions

Be bi-lateral – offer something for the employee and the employer

Empower employees to help themselves by delivering tailored/personalised
behavioural change information

Empower employers to make investments in the areas that will deliver the
greatest returns

Be directly linked to business drivers

Be statistically validated

Measure leading indicators (health risk), not trailing indicators (illness and

Effective communication

health promotion to work we need to recognise that while ‘health’ issues are
well understood, it is the ‘promotion’ that is often handled badly. Use the
same tools and techniques as consumer goods marketers:

Target segments and personalise to environments and individuals wherever

Be driven by ‘stage of change’ methodology – a person who is in denial about
being overweight needs a different set of messages and motivators than someone
who is actively trying to manage their weight

Use integrated online and offline media to create consistent messages from the
company. Work health programmes into the overall company ethos

Integrate a programme into business messaging. This could include online,
wireless, paper, posters, audio-video etc

Use promotional techniques like competitions, loyalty programmes, trial
generating initiatives etc

Articulate benefits, not functionality or attributes. People are not motivated
by ‘stress management’, but they do respond to ‘strength and resilience
programmes’ and are more interested in ‘looking good and feeling better’ than
they are by ‘weight management’

Accountability – programmes should be measured, evaluated and revised based on

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