A landscape fuelled by fear and uncertainty means people are increasingly reliant on their employer to protect their wellbeing.
But has this expectation gone too far?
Yes, employers have a duty of care to their workforce, but the burden is too great for them to carry alone.
Now is the time for businesses to encourage and support employees to take control of their own health and wellbeing.
What to eat and how much to exercise is, of course, down to the individual. Yet employers can provide the right tools and advice to make it easier for employees to follow a healthy lifestyle. The major incentive to get this right is that healthy employees are more likely to do well.
It’s easy to sound patronising when talking about health, and no employer wants to alienate their workforce by preaching at them.
Here are some practical ways businesses can help employees take control of their own health, while respecting privacy and personal boundaries:
- Fitness challenges: Make exercise fun and social by hosting a friendly competition, like a step challenge or miles run/cycled. You could offer to sponsor a group of employees undertaking a fitness challenge for charity or promote a local event like a fun run amongst staff.
- Sharing knowledge: Use your company’s internal communication channels to give employees access to reliable, fact-checked tips on leading a healthy lifestyle. There’s so much health advice out there - and often contradictory - that it can be useful to have everything in one place, coming from a trusted source.
- Wearable tech: With technology benefit schemes, employees can save money on fitness trackers like Garmin and Fitbit. These can be really helpful in staying motivated and measuring progress towards personal fitness goals.
- Discounted gym membership: By offering employees money off a monthly membership, cost need not be an excuse to skip the gym.
- Setting a good example: As part of encouraging employees to get healthier, it’s important that you take a look at company culture around diet and exercise. If you don’t already, make sure that employees have access to healthy options at company catering facilities; perhaps even subsidising these to encourage good habits.
- Cycle to work: The UK’s cycle to work scheme enjoyed a 120% increase in the number of people joining it in June, according to data from the Cycle to Work Alliance. The government also recently removed the cap on the cost of buying a bicycle as part of the scheme to encourage uptake in e-bikes. Employees can save money on a new bike or cycling equipment using their employer’s Cycle to Work scheme. If you already have one, do some digging into take-up rates. Who’s using it at the moment? Are there groups of employees who don’t seem engaged with the idea of cycling to work? If so, what can you do to drive adoption?
The focus should be on providing support for people to take control of their own physical, social and mental wellbeing. This will help employees to live a healthier lifestyle and be a valuable asset to the business.
Featured in the HR-Zone blog on the 16th Sep 2020