21/03/11

By Andy Wilkins, chief executive of south-Wales-based Gwent Hospitals Contributory Fund

The current economic climate and recent spending cuts have caused worry among both businesses and employees. As staff agonise over job security and the rising cost of living, which can often cause ill health. This article discusses how looking after your employees’ health can help ease burdens and at the same time boost your business.

The Health and Safety Executive estimated that last year 34 million business days were lost due to work related ill health and injury, costing the UK economy billions of pounds. For this reason, it is essential to look after the wellbeing of your employees to keep staff turnover low, increase morale and help reduce the level of stress and tension-related illnesses.

Employers can’t control external stresses, but they can do something about the work environment to help ease worry. It is important first of all that employees know if their jobs are going to be secure, if they are, make sure they are aware of this. You can then introduce cost effective measures to look after their health. By showing your staff that you are concerned about their wellbeing, it will make them feel valued and help raise motivation levels.

A simple and free method to alleviate worry and concerns is for management to offer an open-door policy. If your employees know they have someone to talk to when things are getting too stressful, it will help to ease pressures.

A work/life balance should also, where possible, be encouraged. If staff are working too hard and don’t have time to relax, then stress levels will build up and cause illness.

A healthy workforce is a happy workforce, so why don’t you offer healthy options like fruit as an added benefit. After all, an apple a day is a very cost effective way of keeping the doctor away.

Offering a healthcare benefit to your entire workforce, rather than just senior management, can also increase staff motivation. However, businesses often think of private medical insurance (PMI) when considering a health benefit for employees, this can be expensive. There are more affordable alternatives available on the market, such as health cash plans.

A health cash plan allows your employees to claim cash back for routine medical procedures, including trips to the dentist and opticians, areas which currently are not fully covered by the NHS or PMI and can often be more valuable to the employee concerned.

Most health cash plans will also offer a helpline which staff can call for free if they have any problems they would feel more comfortable talking to a professional about.

So, at a time when budgets are tight and stress levels are rising, it is more important than ever before to make sure your staff are happy and healthy.

Investing in your employees’ health doesn’t need to be costly, as demonstrated above, and it can make them feel more valued and appreciated. A motivated workforce is more productive and will work harder to achieve the best possible results for your business.

Andy Wilkins is chief executive of south-Wales-based health cash plan provider, Gwent Hospitals Contributory Fund. For more information visit www.ghcf.co.uk