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5 corporate wellness strategies to help encourage employees to take control of their own health

Our recent survey Business of health 2020: How organisations can overcome employee health inertia, found that despite access to information and technology, non-communicable and lifestyle-related diseases continue to rise. People want to be healthy, and they have the means at their fingertips, but something is missing, and people aren’t acting.

This article summarises the key findings, but, most importantly, offers guidance on how employers can support their employees in building healthier lifestyles.

Key findings

Our research finds that there is a significant disconnect between employee concerns and action:

  • While there are high levels of:
    • Concern employees feel about their health and well-being
  • There are low levels of:
    • Knowledge of their own health status
    • Motivation to change their health-related behaviours
    • Action taken to maintain their physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Provide simple, clear, consistent communications using every available communication channel
  • Promote a culture of openness and acceptance around emotional, mental and physical health
  • Promote the value of taking preventative action to help employees stay healthy and well in the future — whether for their own benefit, the benefit of their family or their future financial security.

The data highlights eight key insights into the mindset and behaviour of global employees.

1.      Concern about personal long-term health does not correlate with action
2.      Fear of the unknown prevents people from taking action
3.      Lack of time prevents people accessing advice and care
4.      Diet and fitness levels are top health concerns
5.      Management could play a bigger role in motivating individuals
6.      People are unaware of their own personal health status
7.      ‘Dr Google’ could be preventing appropriate action and treatment
8.      Access to health care technology would encourage more people to seek care and guidance.

5 ways companies can tackle personal health inertia

The data shows the size and breadth of the challenge, but it also provides an opportunity for employers, so they can build happier, healthier, more productive businesses. Below is a list of actionable tactics that businesses can implement to reduce personal health inertia and help employees on their journey to better health.

1. Know your audience: design health and wellness strategies based on workforce needs

Your company’s health and wellness strategy should be intrinsically motivated, not extrinsically motivated. By analysing the factors that motivate employees, understanding their health needs and the social determinants at play, employers can change culture to embed health care and healthy behaviours into daily working routines and schedules.

It’s important to create a culture where people feel they have some control over their behavioural choices and support options. This is important as employees might be sceptical about employers who ‘push too hard’, but when it becomes a part of company culture it becomes the norm.

Commit to reviewing and revising your strategy and initiatives to see what worked and what didn’t, so you can constantly improve. Involve your employees in this process.

Employers have an opportunity to foster loyalty and retain talent for longer if they provide good health and wellness benefits and implement workplace well-being policies that meet the needs of today’s value-based workforce.

Tackling individual problems, rather than delivering a one-size-fits-all solution, is just one of the ways we make sure our members’ health care has real value.

Just as employee needs, interests and expectations will continue to evolve, so too should the organisation’s well-being culture. Adopting different well-being themes and culture-building initiatives over time will help to keep the focus fresh, fun and engaging.

Further reading: ‘Health is more important than health care’.

2. Be consistent: inform, educate and signpost via consistent, ongoing communication

These are things that companies can do to motivate people to be more conscious of their own health:

  • Provide simple, clear, consistent communications using every available communication channel
  • Promote a culture of openness and acceptance around emotional, mental and physical health
  • Promote the value of taking preventative action to help employees stay healthy and well in the future — whether for their own benefit, the benefit of their family or their future financial security.

Further reading: ‘Business of health 2020: Tackling polarised perceptions in corporate health and wellness’

3. Deliver personalisation: provide personalised, confidential health and wellness support

Employers have the power to become equal partners in an individual’s health care journey, providing motivation, support and access to workplace health advice. For example:

  • Implement a multi-option approach to health and wellness benefits with a range of services, tools and options tailored to the workforce
  • Make it simple for employees to find and access the health care and support they need every day
  • Make health checks more accessible to employees
  • Communicate that health checks are part of the norm, so people don’t make excuses or avoid using them
  • Provide clearly written and published privacy statements
  • Demonstrate that the correct firewalls are in place.

Whatever stage of their health care journey, individuals should be supported, rather than left to face things on their own. When there's a greater level of support from the employer, employees will be more productive and feel less isolated.

Further reading: Find out more about Aetna International’s comprehensive Employee Assistance Program.

4. Embrace innovation: technology will facilitate access and personalisation

The role of technology cannot be ignored. People are ready for more technology in health care, so governments and employers can capitalise on this.

Virtual health care services offer ease of access to personal health advice, guidance and diagnoses, and could be more widely used worldwide to tackle health inertia. Better access to online health consultations would encourage nearly a third of people to get regular check-ups, while over a third would like the use of an app or online service.

Improved symptom checkers and online triage tools will use reliable information sources for better health outcomes.

Beyond diagnosis, personalised treatment journeys can be developed that offer support throughout.

Other health care technologies and innovations, such as pharmacogenetics, are also already offering the chance to predict, prevent and manage health in new ways.

Further reading: Discover how to build a stronger workforce with Aetna DNA.

5. Build a culture: make health care a part of day-to-day office life

People delay seeking help for health issues due to worries, nervousness and a lack of time — this can be compounded by the stigma attached to stress and mental health. Establish workplace policies that empower people to adopt healthy behaviours, including taking time out to investigate and invest in their own health.

Embrace wellness at a leadership level, and keep up to date on what employees think, what’s resonating and what they need. This will help the organisation find out how wellness initiatives are working — whether it’s locally, regionally or internationally — and what can be improved.

Companies can introduce health clinics within office settings, so employers can see a doctor on site. Our clinicians agree that while technology has many applications, there's little substitute for speaking to a human being.

For more information on the data sets and experience that inform our insights, or how we can help you customise a health and well-being strategy to suit your workforce, visit us or contact us. Whether you’re an employer, a health care broker or an intermediary, we’re here to help.

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