By: Professor Denis Kinane, founding scientist at Cignpost
A business can be market-leading but if it has employees who are suffering from long-term illnesses – either physically or mentally, then productivity, efficiency and the happiness of the workforce is likely to suffer. This is a major issue facing companies across the UK, following the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the current climate, and taking into account a burgeoning recruitment crisis, employers need to bolster their benefit packages – beyond basic salary – to stay competitive and attract the best talent. Recent data found that in the UK, 89% of Generation Z members of staff would resign if their employer did not focus on employee wellbeing.
The feeling of employees is also echoed by their employers, with new data revealing that companies believe they should be doubling their current spend on employee wellbeing initiatives, as 71% of organisations admit they are spending less on broader wellbeing benefits than they think they need to. Now is a good time to start, with economic inactivity due to long-term sickness at a record high in the UK and the NHS waiting list for treatment has reached over 7 million, the longest since records began.
Why should businesses care about employee health?
It’s in the best interest of businesses across the UK to put in place strategies to regularly test the health of their employees. There are multiple reasons for this – not just because it creates a healthier workforce but because it is what employees are coming to expect. Half a million people have had to leave the workforce in the last three years due to long-term illness – regular tests can decrease this.
Recent research by Cignpost has revealed that over 70% of Brits are willing to take diagnostic tests to support their wellbeing, and 42% expect their employers to conduct regular health screenings. Corporates have the opportunity to not just help the NHS, but assist in the long-term health of their workers.
Preventative action has the potential to reduce pressure on the NHS by lowering the number of patients requiring treatment and minimising the level of intervention for those who do. The result could be a significant cut in the 7 million people on waiting lists and the amount of time before they receive treatment.
How can preventive measures help?
Discovering a health problem early can help people make better informed decisions about their health, improving the likelihood of successful treatment whilst reducing the risk of long-term illness or fatality. A good example of this is Cancer – a disease where significant improvements can be made in the lives of patients by detecting the disease early and avoiding delays in care. People whose treatment is delayed by even one month have a six to 13% higher risk of fatality – a risk that keeps rising the longer their treatment does not begin. Additionally, it eases pressure on the NHS because the earlier cancer is detected – the lower stage it’s likely to be, in turn meaning treatment is more likely to be successful.
Is it working?
We can see already that diagnostic tests are becoming popular with many forward-thinking organisations, as identifying health problems early prevents staff from missing large periods of time due to illness, and a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce.
It’s not a surprise that a healthy business begins with healthy employees – but the pandemic highlighted this more than ever before. Health has been pushed to the forefront of conversation and people have been reminded this is the priority. As a result, when looking for new jobs – people look for businesses that offer sufficient health benefits. Those businesses that can offer these and in turn achieve their goal will inevitably steal a competitive march on their rivals.