By Kirsty Jagielko
What does good health and wellbeing look like? With so many factors influencing how someone feels, it can be a difficult question to answer. An individual’s health and wellbeing can be affected by diet, activity levels, their relationships with friends and family, the way they perform at work and even their finances.
Taking the time to think about what’s important to your employees, as well as encouraging them to think about how they are performing in key areas that impact their wellbeing, will help in answering this key question.
Many employers are now recognising that proactively engaging with their employees regarding their health and wellbeing, while they are fit and well, can help reduce instances of ill health in the future. The employer mind-set is moving away from focusing on caring for employees only when they become unwell, to encouraging employees to actively manage their health, fitness and activity.
A digital Health Risk Assessment (HRA) is a popular starting point for understanding the health needs and issues employees may be facing, both inside and outside of work. Digital HRAs are a great tool for employers to understand just how healthy – or unhealthy – their workforce may be.
Aggregated data from completed HRAs can help identify areas of concern among employees such as job satisfaction, stress, and lifestyle challenges like smoking, poor diet and low physical activity levels. This information provides useful insight on key areas of focus for use in health and wellbeing programmes designed to help improve employee health.
Supporting Employee Health Improvement
It’s well documented that exercise plays an important role in keeping us in good physical health. The NHS recommends adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week. Cigna research1 indicates that people in the UK aged 25-39 are the most satisfied with their physical health, with 38% of people in this age group exercising regularly.
Consumer research from Cigna2 shows that 73% of people are interested in developing a better understanding of their health and the opportunities available to them to improve it. Employers are in an advantageous position to support their employees’ efforts in this regard.
A first step many employers take to help increase health engagement among their employees is to have regular, workplace-based health fairs. Onsite massages, free fruit, gym discounts and health screenings are just some of the popular features of such events that can help re-energise employees and motivate them to make improvements to their health and well-being.
Another popular option is creating a health and well-being competition or initiative which encourages employees to accumulate physical activity minutes as part of a team. Using an online platform, which can sync to popular fitness devices such as Fitbit or Garmin, to record team achievements and physical activity logged can provide employers with a detailed account of how fit, active and keen employees are to make health improvements.
Engaging Employees in Digital Health
Cigna’s research1 shows that 68% of people are interested in health provider tools that help turn data into a more detailed picture of their overall health and well-being. Cigna’s new app, Cigna Virtual Health®, is one example of a digital tool that can help support and enable employees to get healthy, stay healthy and access care easily when it’s needed.
Not only do health apps provide easy access to practical health and wellbeing advice and tools, some also provide access to general practitioner appointments via video. Employees can receive a quick diagnosis and, with e-prescription options only a click away, these apps can provide a swift and convenient solution for all. Cigna Virtual Health® users can also complete a health and wellbeing assessment that measures their health status and receive personalised feedback. They’re then encouraged to improve their health by participating in lifestyle coaching programmes.
If employees need to make use of their healthcare plan, apps can also provide a link to providers’ helpline numbers, making clinical advice and treatment easy to access. Where self-referral pathways are available, such as for physiotherapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), employees are empowered to quickly access the treatment they need.
Embracing digital technology and offering employees access to new and exciting tools can go a long way in helping encourage healthier behaviours and reducing the incidence of illness in the workplace. Paired with an employee engagement strategy, apps can help employers encourage healthier lifestyle behaviours, whilst making it easier for their employees to access advice and treatment when they need it. It is a win-win for your employees and your organisation.
1 Cigna International, Cigna 360 Wellbeing Score Survey, September 2015; 1,000 UK responses.
2 Cigna and You Gov Consumer Health Engagement Research 2016.