Looking after the health and wellbeing of staff is now widely recognised as integral to fulfilling business objectives. We now have more knowledge of what staff really need, but for health and wellbeing policies to be effective we need to ensure they’re what staff really want. Brett Hill, managing director for The Health Insurance Group looks at the key health and wellbeing areas that are likely to be top of the corporate agenda in 2019 and what SMEs need to do to engage staff with them.
The increasing awareness of mental health among employees, and the encouragement to talk more openly about issues, will drive an increase in demand for support and assistance among SMEs in 2019, with companies looking to provide tangible solutions to engage staff.
Companies that want to support their staff will need to ask them about their mental wellness and run surveys to get a better understanding to enable them to measure the effectiveness of any support.
We’re likely to see an increase in tangible mental health support being offered, including mental health training, more utilisation of employee assistance programmes, and access to mental health specialists.
More SMEs recognise that a holistic health and wellbeing approach is needed to support their employees’ welfare, as the understanding grows that physical health and mental wellbeing are not separate, distinct subjects but intrinsically linked to each other. Gone are the days of looking at healthcare benefits in isolation, employers are looking at putting together packages that support staff holistically.
Companies need to not only look at offering rounded support for physical and mental health, but also preventative care, such as providing access to screenings, health MOTs, access to alcohol-management and smoking-cessation programmes
As such, there is likely to be more focus on improving personal fitness, encouraging staff to improve on an individual level as well as part of a team. As this is enabled by developments in technology, companies need to ensure they know what’s available and review the appropriateness for their staff.
We now have five generations in a workforce, and each has its own particular needs. SMEs will need to look at benefits and communication methods that are relevant for different demographics.
While support for financial, physical and mental health is relevant across all generations, it needs to be tailored to specific needs to be relevant. So companies need to have a good understanding of their workforce to ensure support will resonate.
Those that don’t understand the specific needs of the demographics of their workforce will see less utilisation and engagement of the benefits they offer.
With increases in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) and general business expenses, we’ll see employers looking for a return on investment on all their benefits spend.
The more employers promote how well they look after staff, the more their staff see the value, the better they utilise the benefits. This leads to increased engagement, retention and loyalty.
Employers will need to get more creative in their communications, and use a mix of communications methods to engage. We’re likely to see an increasing emphasis on technology, one-stop-portals and apps to reach more people and encourage interactivity.
SMEs know they need to compete with the bigger budgets of large corporates when it comes to competing for talent. In the past some SMEs may have disregarded offering healthcare based on cost. The market’s responded and there are now more cost-effective options open to smaller companies.
For SMEs to demonstrate they care about the welfare of their employees they need to be aware of healthcare solutions tailored for a smaller company’s needs; consider offering cashplans, dental plans, and employee assistance programmes.
Our only prediction for Brexit at this stage is that we should expect the unexpected. Businesses of all sizes need to understand the possible repercussions of a disorganised Brexit, should it happen, and have plans in place to manage changes. Businesses will need to find experts that can advise and support them in relation to the repercussions of health and wellbeing.
Brett Hill, managing director, The Health Insurance Group said, ‘SMEs face so many pressures, from recruiting talent to growing the business, to dealing with economic and political changes. As more companies offer better support for the health and wellbeing of their staff, employees now expect it; others then have to follow suit. In practice this means better solutions become available, and companies need to keep on top of this.
‘For health and wellbeing benefits to really be effective, SMEs need to engage staff early on in the process to find out what support they really want, then they can offer benefits that are tailored to the needs of their workforce. Therein lies true engagement, and the business is supported.’