Report predicts ageing, less healthy future workforce

Employers, occupational health and government are going to have to work together to cope with and manage the challenges of an ageing, much less healthy workforce of the future, a “health at work” review has argued.

The Healthy Work: Evidence into Action report from Bupa, in conjunction with The Work Foundation, C3 Collaborating for Health and RAND Europe, has argued that demographic changes will mean workers in the future will generally be sicker and older.

It is the final report of an 18-month health at work project led by Bupa to identify ways to improve the effectiveness of workplace health provision and support in the UK.

With some 40% of adults set to be obese by 2025, the number of people working and living with chronic conditions is likely to rise steadily, it argued, leading to increased levels of absence and lower productivity.

Managing absence and attendance and working to promote workplace health and well-being will therefore need to become an even greater priority for employers, particularly as the health and productivity of the workplace could also make a significant contribution to how, and how fast, Britain recovers from recession, it argued.

The report urged the coalition government to do more to promote the link between organisational performance, national prosperity and health, as well as encourage employers to intervene more to improve health and well-being.

It suggested there could be more encouragement of firms to report publicly on their workplace health investment and more work in raising awareness around how the workplace can act as a hub for the improvement of public health.

There could be more co-ordination of research to improve the evidence base for workplace health interventions and more research done into what sort of financial incentives might be most effective in encouraging firms to invest more.

For OH, the key will be for the profession to act as champion, evidence gatherer and conduit between management, employee and health professional, argued report author Helen Vaughan-Jones, senior manager, policy research at Bupa.

“More people will be living on a daily basis with a certain level of ill-health or living with obesity or chronic conditions. So how employers support people with long-term health conditions at work will become more important,” she told Occupational Health.

“OH professionals will have a key role to play in offering expert advice and gathering and sharing evidence on how best to do this,” she adds.

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