How to reach high health-risk employees

Absence accounts for 5.9 days,* per employee, each year – so it’s understandable why organisations are keen to look at ways to reduce illness within the workplace. However, wellbeing initiatives that are designed to keep the workforce healthy, are often at risk of being utilised by employees already engaged with looking after their health – not by those who could benefit from them the most. Towergate Health & Protection advises on how to engage the hard-to-reach group: those currently at higher risk of poor health.

Provide education and break down barriers

Smokers that haven’t managed to kick the habit for decades may feel like there is ‘no point in trying after all these years’, or now that ‘the damage has been done’. But even those who quit by age 45–54 reduce their chance of dying early due to smoking by about two-thirds.** It’s important to remind employees that it’s never too late to get on top of their health; and providing support, such as smoking-cessation programmes, can help them to finally lay a bad habit to rest.

The success of the “This Girl Can” campaign was, and continues to be, the understanding of the barriers women face getting into exercise – including practical and emotional reasons (such as affordability of gyms and how they look when exercising). Businesses can help break down such barriers by organising access to free exercise, such as lunchtime park walks, and fitness opportunities that represent all ages and abilities within the workforce. This could help reach an audience not previously engaged in physical activity.

The science bit

DNA testing is not just for criminologists, it has its feet firmly in the world of healthcare too. A simple swab can give healthcare experts all they need to know to look at what specific healthcare will be of most benefit to an individual. Advice on a wide range of health and wellbeing issues can include nutrition – identifying food sensitivities; fitness – looking at likely recovery-response times; and wellness – with advice on stress and sleep.

So rather than feel restricted by their personal genetics, and that they can’t make a difference, employees can create a tailored and personalised plan to maximise their diet and exercise efforts. Where a ‘one size fits all’ approach to diet and exercise may not have worked in the past, DNA tests can enlighten and engage individuals in a method that is more likely to help them reach their desired goals through being highly personalised.

Engage in the day-to-day

Keeping on top of health regularly is just as important as tackling the big issues. Frequent trips to the dentist and optician allow health to be monitored regularly and treatment administered when required. This is generally a more desirable outcome, as opposed to a health concern that has escalated due to lack of monitoring, care or attention. Although neither are desirable, many would agree that a routine dental check-up is better than root canal treatment, for example. It’s important that businesses encourage employees to stay on top of their health, such as by utilising cash plans that provide money off regular appointments with the dentist and optician for example. So if paying for check-ups and treatment is a barrier to employees seeking medical attention, benefits such as cash plans can help to ease the financial blow and encourage staff to maintain their health.

Speed up assessment time

A good way to engage employees in their wellbeing, is offering quick and effective solutions to assess their health. Employees may have been put off engaging in the medical world in the past, due to lengthy waiting times. But this can mean that existing conditions worsen, and ultimately cause employees to require more time off work. Offering access to health screening and diagnostics to employees means they can access private tests quickly – allowing them to act on the results more swiftly if required. Employer-funded diagnostic cover can help get to the bottom of an issue quickly – potentially expediting treatment and rehabilitation times.

Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection, comments: “We often find that the already health-conscious employees in an organisation don’t need as much encouragement to take advantage of company-led wellbeing initiatives. It’s the higher health risk employees, that may already have a health concern or less interest in their health and wellbeing, that are harder to reach.

“If certain groups seem reticent to engage in healthcare initiatives, or feel they can’t make any difference, it’s important that employers don’t give up on them. Health and wellbeing benefits have advanced, and communicating their relevance, and making them easy to access can help to engage employees that previously thought they weren’t for them.”