Steve Bridger looks at how employers can move with the times to proactively manage employee health and wellbeing
As life becomes busier and we juggle our many commitments, we naturally look for the most convenient and easiest way of doing things. From online shopping to contactless card payments to video calling, technology has changed how we live and how we organise our time.
At Aviva we aspire to think “digital first”. This doesn’t mean directing everyone to a webpage or only communicating via e-mail; it’s about moving with the times and serving customers relevant information that meets their needs in a way that’s most appropriate to them.
The increased use of fitness trackers and exercise apps highlights how individuals are willing to engage with technology to manage their health and wellbeing. As we look to the future, using technology to manage our day-to-day health or more chronic medical conditions will become more commonplace and provides us with an exciting opportunity, particularly in the workplace.
A comprehensive benefits package is not only about providing benefits that add value to your employees or business, but also about considering how your staff want to receive information and how to best engage them.
The tools and support you provide need to be easily accessible, offering relevant and digestible content across a range of formats – and this is where technology can deliver real value.
Providing online training and guidance on different topics, from advice on health matters to managing sickness absence, gives employees valuable insight and support. Online learning can be delivered in short, bite-sized modules using online assessments to help employees reaffirm their understanding of a topic.
Working with experienced third parties who embrace advances in technology can also add a level of expertise to your business that may not already exist.
Offering an employee assistance programme (EAP) with access to a face-to-face counselling service is extremely important. However, many EAP providers also offer valuable insights and comprehensive suites of information on a range of workplace and personal issues that affect employees.
But it isn’t just about sharing information. Delivering fun and interactive content in a timely manner will improve engagement and encourage employees to proactively manage their health and wellbeing.
In partnership with our EAP provider Care first we offer access to “EAP in Your Pocket” – a mobile app providing direct access to a range of valuable support tools and information. The app also includes access to Stress Free Island, an interactive support tool that combines clinically validated coping techniques and gamification to help manage conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Stress Free Island allows users to track their mood over time, identify situations that may make their symptoms worse, and use tailored exercises to manage their condition and boost their coping mechanisms.
Giving employees access to virtual GP helplines gives them greater flexibility to manage their health. Making a doctor’s appointment during a busy working day can be difficult. Employees can be left trying to juggle work and home commitments as well as health concerns when they should be concentrating on themselves. Having the ability to make an online appointment and arrange a virtual video-call with a GP at a convenient time makes things a little easier.
Speaking to a doctor who can recommend treatment or provide a prescription for medication which can be delivered to their home or workplace makes that ever-expanding ‘to do’ list much more manageable.
Using technology to provide health solutions for employees also provides rich and valuable insights for your business. While many services are private and confidential to protect employees, obtaining high-level data on reasons for absence, use of support services, webpage visits or information downloads will help you identify trends in absence, and allow you to determine the value your investment has driven.
There is obviously a balance between providing a comprehensive benefits package and managing costs. Providing employees with engaging support tools accessible ‘on the move’ empowers them to proactively manage their own health and wellbeing, and could result in lower levels of long-term sickness absence in the workplace.
I would challenge all of us to embrace advances in technology and encourage employees to engage with the resources available to maintain healthy, happy, working environments.