International Men’s Day (19 November) and men’s health campaigns such as Movember are an opportunity for employers to step up efforts to support the physical and emotional health of male employees, writes Dr Bernard Yew.
Men are twice as likely as women to feel like their employer doesn’t support their health and wellbeing. According to research carried out by PAM OH for International Men’s Day, 16% of men say they have little or no wellbeing support from work, compared to just 8% of women.
Men are significantly more concerned about developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and three times as likely to become alcohol or drug dependent. Worrying new data also reveals that prostate cancer rates tripled during the pandemic, while suicide remains the major cause of death for men under the age of 50.
A common theme is the reluctance of men to ask for help when they need it, meaning employers have a vital role to play in providing proactive support. Here are three things to focus on this International Men’s Day.
1.Conduct ‘check-in chats’
Men are often perceived to be less in need of emotional support and more resilient. This means men typically have less effective support networks in place, with one in three (35%) saying they worry about a lack of social contact with others, compared to one in four women (28%).
These stereotypes can persist in the workplace, with managers more likely to ask female employees how they’re coping than male employees. Critical to transforming this is encouraging managers to make a habit of conducting ‘check-in chats’ with men as well, instead of just talking about targets.
Although these conversations can feel a little awkward at first, over a quarter of men say a supportive manager is important for helping them to stay healthy. Men are also much more likely to utilise support services at their managers’ suggestion than if left to initiate asking for support themselves.
2. Encourage men to make “one small change”
The top five wellbeing concerns men say they are most worried about are:
- Emotional health (41%)
- Ability to manage finances (40%)
- Weight and physical appearance (39%)
- Developing cancer (39%)
- Not getting enough sleep (38%).
When it comes to making lifestyle changes to reduce health risks, men face different challenges to women, especially when it comes to behaving differently to their peers. By encouraging them to think about “one small change” they can make, organisations can empower them to start taking control of their health.
For example, many men who know they are consuming too much alcohol don’t want to give up going to the pub if this is their only source of social interaction. Encouraging them to think about drinking more slowly, or swapping every other drink for something non-alcoholic, can help them reduce health risks without losing an important source of social connection.
Similarly, those struggling to get enough sleep could consider introducing a digital curfew, to switch off all screens after a certain time to encourage more sleep. Those who are eating unhealthily could try batch-cooking healthy food to reduce their temptation to eat junk food if they don’t want to cook from scartch every evening. The key is encouraging men to think of one small but doable thing they can put into practice.
3. Make wellbeing support more accessible
Almost half (47%) of men find it difficult to access their doctor or GP, while 56% have been personally affected by delays accessing NHS support. Add to that the general reluctance of men to seek support, and it’s never been more important to make wellbeing support more accessible.
When it comes to making lifestyle changes to reduce health risks, men face different challenges to women, especially when it comes to behaving differently to their peers.”
Health and wellbeing services, ranging from virtual GP and physiotherapy services to onsite clinicians, now often cost less to fund than the cost of covering employee absence. Used in a preventative way they can even help stop men from developing problems in the first place.
Many of the health problems men are most concerned about, such as cancer and heart disease, are non-communicable diseases, meaning they have subtle to no symptoms in the early stages. Blood testing, in the form of a simple finger prick test, is often required to detect earlier signs of abnormality, such as high cholesterol.
It can also be useful to offer wellbeing days to give men the chance to ‘know their numbers’ – to get their blood pressure and cholesterol checked and think about lifestyle factors contributing to their above average health risks. With two-fifths of men saying they value wellbeing advice based on personal data, this approach is also more likely to motivate men to make positive lifestyle changes.
Aggregated and anonymised data collected through employee health monitoring can also be used to inform an employer’s wellbeing strategy and help it take stock of the issue male employees face.
This International Men’s Day, employers should consider using the increased awareness of male-specific health concerns to revisit how they support men in their organisations.