Trade secrets: Building a wellbeing programme

It’s all very well offering a series of health-related incentives to staff, but joining them together into an integrated programme will increase your chances of getting a return on your investment.

Wellbeing is about prevention and empower­ment. But for a wellbeing programme to work, you need to fully integrate all of your health-related services and benefits and merge them into one programme. Then you will have the management information available to analyse the impact of your programme versus the cost, and use this for future programme development.

Your primary focus should be proactive health management. The effective integration of workplace health brings together all health programmes, services and benefits, from absence management to fitness. It can also be developed and modified to remain relevant to the changing needs of both the business and its employees.

It is also possible to take wellbeing one step further, not simply focusing on health, but on broader workplace programmes such as per­formance management, learning and development, relationships and teamwork, control and decision-making processes.

A truly integrated wellbeing programme can have a positive impact on the bottom line through reduced and sustainable absence, maximised employee engagement and even lower insurance costs.

The traditional approach

The traditional approach to workplace health has tended to focus on providing a competitive benefits package and meeting legislative requirements. Increasingly though, employers now provide staff with access to a broader range of workplace health services, ranging from health screening to on-site massage and smoking cessation programmes. However, these services are rarely integrated and little consideration is given to the impact their presence has on bottom-line results. So when budgets are tight, among the first things to go are workplace health services.

There are also wide inconsistencies across different employer locations when it comes to on-site health services, attendance management and benefits. Finally, few employers link up their wellbeing programme to overall staff engagement.

Integrating workplace health programmes is about being smarter with existing – and potentially new – health-related services, benefits and initiatives.

Bringing it all together

The key starting point is to conduct an audit. This should assess health-related benefits you already offer, absence management protocols and practices, health and safety policies, your overall approach to occupational health, on-site and local facilities, and methods of staff communication with employees.

The second stage is to consider what the organisation wants to achieve through integrating the benefits. Do you want to reduce or control absenteeism? Would you like greater control over healthcare benefit expenditure or reduced employee turnover, for example?

The third stage is to design the most appropriate method of integrating each of the benefits, services and processes. This may involve introducing new providers into the existing programme, or changing existing suppliers.

It is also important to consider measuring the impact of the overall programme – for example, how much has it affected attendance? What impact has it had on medical insurance claims costs? How effective are return-to-work measures?

Robust management information is crucial in demonstrating the financial impact of the scheme. The services and benefits you could include in your integrated programme could have any or all of the following:

  • Attendance management policies and procedures
  • Long-term disability/group income protection/early retirement/ill health cover
  • Occupational health
  • Private medical benefits
  • Employee assistance services
  • On-site health interventions
  • Promotion of, and participation in, national events (such as no smoking day)
  • Screening services
  • Gym facilities
  • Canteen/vending services.

Communication is everything

If your organisation is looking to integrate health or go one step further and introduce a full-scale wellbeing programme into the corporate culture, staff need to be engaged, so communication is absolutely vital.

It is crucial to adopt a consistent brand to prevent a disjointed or confusing message, and if you are using an external supplier, they may be able to help with this. Alternatively, you may choose to create a branded communication programme in-house or with independent consultants. Communication can include anything from posters, flyers, e-mail, intranet, bespoke membership cards, on-site events, competitions, prize draws, giveaways, or training programmes.

To stand any chance of recouping your investment, employees just need to know what’s on offer and what the benefit might be for them.

Case study: Perkin Elmer

Health sciences company PerkinElmer’s wellbeing programme claims to include every conceivable element of workplace health, from attendance management to health benefits.

Before it introduced the wellbeing programme, the company provided employees with medical insurance, group income protection and life assurance, as well as an employee assistance programme. The new scheme brought together all of these existing benefits, but also increased health-related services and aimed to be more consistent. It delivered financial savings from day one.

The project was spearheaded by the HR department, which wanted PerkinElmer to remain competitive in its market – both in terms of its customers and in terms of recruitment. However, it was also important for the company to weigh up these potential benefits with the cost of providing them.

The communication process is crucial to the programme’s success. PerkinElmer has made sure employees and managers understand how the wellbeing programme works through an intranet site, tailored communications at work, interactive employee sessions, posters, flyers and even a bespoke membership card.

By bringing all of its wellbeing efforts under one umbrella, PerkinElmer has been able to provide substantially enhanced benefits to its employees, while at the same time saving money up front.

As a result, it has reduced absence and can manage it better, has increased employee engagement, motivation and productivity, and has also reduced its indirect costs and increased revenues through enhanced productivity.

The projected reduction in absenteeism will represent a direct annual cost saving to the business of 3%.

Our expert

Steve Haynes is a senior consultant in the health and risk practice at professional services company Towers Perrin. He has a broad range of experience in health-related benefit consulting, encompassing domestic and international healthcare design and implementation, employee wellbeing programme development, and attendance management research & development and project management.

Prior to joining Towers Perrin, Haynes worked for two of the UK’s leading medical insurance companies and has 15 years’ experience in the sector.

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