March 30, 2021
Caring for employees’ health and well-being is a key issue that large, medium and small businesses alike must address. As such, when deciding how to implement a well-being plan, SMEs must start by adopting a holistic approach which combines various aspects which impact their workforce’s overall health.
Indeed, peoples’ lives consist of multiple, interconnected factors which influence their well-being: from physical to mental health to their financial health, family relationships and home life and access to medical care and their support network. For that reason, it is also essential that those in leadership positions acknowledge the individual circumstances of each employee so that they can create a plan which meets their needs and launches a message of overall commitment from the outset.
The specific characteristics of a SME present certain advantages when implementing plans of this nature: having a smaller team compared with a larger company provides greater room for manoeuvre when promoting this type of programme and, as a result, its impact on the corporate culture will be much more noticeable. That is not to mention the operational facilities that simplify their implementation and provide greater agility and speed to execute and supervise them and to correct potential issues.
However, the great advantage that SMEs have over other organisations is that, generally, the corporate structure is simpler and, for that very reason, you have an exhaustive knowledge of the specific challenges faced by each employee, together with the preferences of the whole workforce. It therefore allows you to offer individualised solutions which are consequently more effective.
Investing in employees’ health and well-being is an investment in the company
One of the first doubts that usually emerges when promoting a health and well-being plan are the associated costs. There is a clear answer to this: caring for employees’ well-being is an investment that has a direct impact on the company’s balance sheet. Healthy employees who feel that their employer is supporting them with the things that matter most to them in their day-to-day lives are satisfied, motivated and committed and will not hesitate to give of their best to achieve their objectives. Investing in health is, therefore, investing in the SME’s success.
In this regard, it is important to take account of the circumstances we are currently experiencing. The pandemic has increased levels of interest in caring for health and well-being, of both employees and their relatives. According to the latest data gathered in the ‘Cigna COVID-19 Global Impact’1 survey, some of the main requests made by employees to their employers in relation to health are to have improved health cover (62%), better mental health support (53%) and tools and services for maintaining a healthy lifestyle (48%). These data show the need for SMEs to have a healthcare plan that responds to all employees' needs.
A step-by-step guide to creating a health plan for a SME
Once the basics have been identified, it is time to get to work and start to build a health and well-being plan. Where to begin?
- Situational analysis
As a starting point, it is essential to conduct an exhaustive analysis which will provide a snapshot of employees’ circumstances. For that reason, it is helpful to assess several indicators, such as the level of absenteeism and the employee surveys, amongst other things. Equally, it will be crucial to know what budget is available so that healthcare service providers can design a plan that covers the most specific needs of the organisation.
Once you have reached this point, you need to remember that the internal transparency with which the results are collected and the solutions are established is key to the success of health initiatives. Accordingly, it is essential for those in positions of responsibility to promote communication between teams at all levels. This will create greater employee trust and engagement and strengthen ties with the organisation, as well as boosting the company's reputation.
- Establishing quantitative and qualitative objectives
Following the initial stage of analysis, the quantitative objectives will be determined, including the level of income, retention rate and the plan’s cost efficiency, together with the qualitative objectives. In this case, we are talking about employee satisfaction levels, the company’s image or market consolidation. Establishing these objectives will be crucial to identifying the areas on which efforts must be focused.
- Defining the strategy
When drawing up a healthcare plan, it is essential to draw up a strategy and for the actions to be centred on collaboration between the entire workforce, regardless of its size. As such, promoting shared commitment and an understanding of the importance of caring for employees’ health and well-being can ensure the success of a plan such as this in a SME.
- Approach to, and implementation of, the action plan
Once the strategy is established, the team with responsibility for it will be formed. They must have plenty of availability and flexibility to deal with employees’ requests and will be responsible for identifying any issues in order to correct these in good time.
It will also be important to establish an implementation timetable to organise and visualise the launch of each of the initiatives connected to the plan and to have a clear idea of the timeframes in which results should start to be observed. For example, during the first month, implementing psychological sessions to evaluate the initial state of health of the workforce; continuing to give access to digital guides to promote caring for physical and mental health; offering the telemedicine service when they are already familiar with the plan dynamics, etc.
Accordingly, this plan must include action to deal with the various areas that influence people's well-being, to guarantee support to employees at all times and in any circumstances: programmes focusing on improving access to medical attention for employees as long as they need it; programmes focusing on specific diseases, aiming to support employees suffering from health problems; tools to promote positive lifestyle and behavioural changes (healthy diet, stopping smoking and weight management programmes) or plans which help to prevent illnesses from developing, such as the flu vaccination, together with the promotion and fostering of hygienic practices in the workplace.
- Continuous evaluation
Finally, the Human Resources department or the team responsible for managing company personnel will need to evaluate the staff feedback to estimate rates of participation and commitment. To access this information, it would be advisable to run online surveys before and after implementing the programme. Once the plan is put into action, it will be helpful to receive staff feedback to identify needs that have not been met, new opportunities, resolution of any issues that may influence teams’ well-being, as well as measurement of the value and effectiveness of the plan.
Relying on the support of healthcare providers, such as Cigna, will help to balance the financial cost and resources with the objectives of the health plan, obtaining a personalised, made-to-measure solution. To design and implement it, it is essential to work alongside companies that offer global solutions: wide medical networks, 24/7 customer support teams, services focusing on mental and physical health, guidance during the implementation of a wellness programme, telemedicine tools, etc. These services will enhance employees’ feeling of security and will strengthen the company's positioning.
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1 Cigna ‘COVID-19 Global Impact’. Positivity around Vaccine Roll-Out and Anticipated Approval Leads Improved Perceptions on Whole Health. Link