Keep the staff in rude health

The NHS changes may put more pressure on firms to support the health of their employees.

Liz Shanahan is global head of healthcare and life sciences at FTI Consulting
Liz Shanahan is global head of healthcare and life sciences at FTI Consulting

In today's challenging economic climate, supporting a strong, healthy workforce is more vital than ever. The burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and mental ill-health, is growing and having a huge impact on socioeconomic structure.

The World Health Organization estimates the global cost of mental ill-health alone will increase to £10tn by 2030. A high percentage of NCDs can be prevented through cost-effective interventions, while a significant proportion of the population can be reached by introducing these preventive measures through the workplace.

In the US, workplace wellness initiatives have been adopted by many corporations to rein in the costs of providing healthcare insurance to their employees. In the UK, recent changes to the NHS and continued bleak growth projections are placing a spotlight on the role employers can play in supporting employee health initiatives that can help relieve the burden on the healthcare system.

Employers already have a vested interest in creating an environment that encourages healthier behaviours, such as healthy eating, exercising and not smoking, as their employees will be more productive and have fewer sick days than their less-healthy colleagues.

However, there is a lack of standardisation of workplace wellness metrics and methods to evaluate return on investment, which makes establishing clear numbers to make a business case challenging.

FTI recently worked with the World Economic Forum and the Workplace Wellness Alliance, a consortium of more than 150 companies committed to advancing workplace wellness and achieving a global standard to enhance health and productivity. FTI led the collection and analyses of data from alliance member workplace wellness programmes and supported the World Economic Forum with the development of the alliance report for the 2013 annual meeting in Davos.

The report brings together the latest thinking on workplace wellness, as well as metrics representing data from alliance member initiatives covering almost two million employees across 125 countries. It reviews the challenges facing workplace wellness and provides a means to understand the importance of measurement and impact of workplace wellness programmes.

A selection of case studies showcase a wide range of ROI measures in different programme contexts. For example, smoking cessation programmes and incentivisation can enhance productivity; nutrition and exercise programmes can reduce employee healthcare costs; and centralised programme design can lead to increased employee engagement. These help to create a blueprint for identifying and implementing effective programmes and measuring outcomes.

Investing in workplace wellness is likely to benefit any organisation, whatever its size, location or industry sector. In the UK, the changes within the NHS are likely to have a profound and ongoing impact on the balance of responsibility for health maintenance between the state, the employer and the employee.

FTI is advising firms that are building on the work of the World Economic Forum to implement the targeted best practices on workplace wellness that reflect each individual firm's business structure and culture. Workplace wellness is a prudent, cost-effective means of supporting the vitality of the workforce, which has benefits at corporate and national level.

To read the Workplace Wellness Alliance report, go to weforum.org.

 

VIEWS IN BRIEF

How are the NHS reforms changing your work?

The reforms promise to affect all doctors, healthcare professionals and the general public in the UK. FTI's remit is to support the Government's mandate for sustainable, long-term improvements in the delivery of care.

Give us an example of how technology is aiding patient education

To increase doctor awareness of the physical challenges of low blood sugar, we developed a cutting-edge simulator for a big Rx client, in conjunction with experts in the field, allowing viewers to visually experience these debilitations.

Click here to view more from the Healthcare PR Ideas Lab

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