Attitudes to staff health are changing almost as fast as the technology we use on a daily basis. Canny employers make sure that the two are combined for an effective strategy, says Ian Bird, founder and director of business development at Mybenefitsatwork


Adopting a holistic approach

Workplace wellbeing is today’s hot topic, and increasing numbers of employers are addressing it in different forms – from offering therapies such as massage and yoga to providing pensions seminars and workplace financial education. Recent research conducted by our sister brand, Secondsight, indicates that 55% offer their staff access to a wellbeing programme.

I firmly believe that adopting a holistic approach makes complete business sense. Employers should be looking to join up the various aspects of wellness – physical, social, mental and financial – to ensure the programme is effective and there is a good return on investment. Such an approach will also ensure that people are getting the most from the initiatives.

Wellness in the workplace should be centred around identifying and understanding the impact that stress has on staff. The CIPD Employee Outlook Survey (July 2016) indicated that 31% of employees questioned have experienced mental health problems, with half of respondents describing their mental health as poor. From this group, only 43% have disclosed their stress or mental health problems to their employer or manager.

Effective communication

However, it is encouraging to hear of employers becom­ing more receptive. And it is also positive to see the increased take-up in workplace wellbeing programmes. But I’d argue that without strong communication around these initiatives, employers aren’t effectively engaging their employees. It is vital that employees are provided with all the correct and relevant benefits information. Only then will it deliver the best value for the investment, supporting employee recruitment and retention.

Our recent research has also uncovered that nine out of ten HR directors / managers confirmed they face chal­lenges when communicating their benefits to employ­ees. The main challenge cited was a lack of time (by 20%). Earlier research we undertook highlighted that employers believe their staff would be more loyal if they had a full understanding of their benefits package, reinforcing the need for effective communication in the workplace.

Keeping up to speed

We are a society that has become dependent on our mobile phones and tablets, communicating through them, buying things and using apps for work-related activities. The number of UK smartphone users in 2016 stood at 42.4m and this is set to rise to 46.4m by 2018.

However, I’d suggest that many employers have failed to keep pace with the technology, with many of the traditional techniques for communicating workplace initiatives not always delivering the best outcomes. A multi-channel approach is always recommended.

Admittedly the larger companies have adopted a more proactive stance when it comes to moving with technology and the times, and much of this can be attributed to the associated volumes and cost. But costs are no longer prohibitive, and – for many – taking this approach should be the next logical step.

Portals are designed to be interactive communication tools, enabling the employer to communicate the bene­fits they offer in a friendly, accessible way, using every­day language. Their focus is around keeping the employee connected – creating awareness and educat­ing them. They should be intuitive, allowing staff to view the information on any device at any time.

I believe that the days of the staff handbook are numbered – it is now paving the way for a new means of promoting employee benefits; one which has the abil­ity to communicate more frequently, accurately and to a higher proportion of the workforce.

Technology is here and it is here to stay…

This article first appeared in Reward's new research report, Wellbeing in the Workplace 2017. To read the report in full, CLICK HERE