Survey proves fitter employees lead to healthier balance sheets

Workplace wellbeing programmes can generate a return of investment of nearly 400% for employers, according to the findings of a year-long study.

The report, by wellbeing consultancy Vielife, also says that unhealthy staff effectively work for one day less each week than their healthier colleagues.

The 12-month study, compared staff who were signed up to workplace health programmes against those who were not, and found a clear link between the health status of workers and the performance of the organisation.

It concludes that “a conservative estimate of business benefits” after staff have undergone a health programme is £3.73 for every £1 spent by the employer. And it shows that unhealthy staff are 18% less productive than their healthy counterparts.

Dr Peter Mills, chief medical officer at Vielife and author of the report, said health issues were a crucial factor in the success of businesses.
“In today’s business environment, where we have an ageing workforce and increasing costs, we found a direct correlation between better health and better productivity for the first time,” he told Personnel Today.

Vielife conducted the study using an ‘intervention group’ of 266 staff from consumer goods company Unilever, who were put on a work-based health programme, and another group of 251 staff from virtually identical working environments elsewhere who were offered no extra help.

The intervention group’s programme included a web-based health portal, which offered health risk assessments, personalised content and behaviour change programmes. The Unilever staff also received on-site health promotion activities, including workshops, seminars and health fairs and paper-based literature and information.

The study also found that single men are very unlikely to improve their health status whether or not they undergo health programmes.

Vielife’s three-step guide to managing the health of workers

Benchmarking

Help each employee understand their health status. Provide an aggregate review of the whole company that can be segmented for effective targeting of improvement programmes. Enable companies and individuals to benchmark themselves against peers.

Create an effective health assessment programme

It should be: inclusive and available to all; confidential;  designed for use by staff; empowering; linked to business drivers; statistically validated; measuring ‘leading’ indicators (health risk), not ‘trailing’ indicators (illness and absence).

Effective communication

Target segments and personalise to environments and individuals. Use inte-grated media and promo-tional techniques. Articulate the benefits. People are not motivated by ‘stress management’, but they do respond to ‘strength and resilience programmes’.

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