Occupational Health Trends, 2017
More organisations are recognising the importance of focusing on wellbeing in the workplace. A clear strategy to improve the wellbeing of staff can help to reduce employee absence and make work a less stressful, healthier place to be, while proving a return on investment to the rest of the board.
In order to make these improvements and to meet legal working requirements, more and more businesses are using the occupational health services of specialist organisations like ours.
But with advances in technology and ever-evolving demands on individuals in the modern workplace, it can be difficult for HR managers to keep on top of the latest developments in occupational health.
Here at Fusion, in order to keep at the forefront of the changing world of work, we make sure that we’re up-to-date on the latest trends in occupational health. So here are a few of our thoughts on the most important things businesses should focus on when it comes to the wellbeing of their staff.
By no means a new trend in the workplace, managing employee sickness absence has been and always will be a primary focus for any organisation. Occupational health strategies can be used to measure the impact that the workplace has on employee’s health and the knock-on effect that has on sickness absence. Early intervention by occupational health is paramount in managing these employees, especially in the case of musculoskeletal and mental health issues.
A robust strategy for absence management can ensure that impartial advice is provided to both the employer and employee. The right approach will not only meet the legal and moral obligations of the business, but also improve employees’ productivity and efficiency. An effective occupational health strategy will be good for your employees and save you money.
Employee wellbeing programmes
We’re expecting to see an increasing amount of businesses integrate their traditional occupational health services to create an employee wellbeing programme and overall health & wellbeing strategy for their business.
This can focus on early intervention, musculoskeletal issues, mental health and psychiatric services. The intention being to combine as many services as possible into one programme that meets the values and principles of the business.
This will also include activities to encourage all employees to make better lifestyle choices, by giving them the right information, encouragement and results. A properly managed health and wellbeing programme will help your employees become healthier and engaged with your organisation. It will also provide you with genuine insight through MI reporting into the health of your workforce.
The onsite/offsite balance
It’s undeniable that an on-site occupational health specialist will provide engagement with employees. However, this is becoming adopted less and less. Over time, there is a danger of the advice provided not being “objective”. An on-site provision also runs the risk of becoming a drop-in centre if the service is not managed effectively by the OH Provider. It is also less cost-effective when dealing with management referrals, 85% of which can be dealt with remotely in the first instance.
However, it’s important that off-site advisers have an understanding of the business’ culture. So, even if the OH provision is remote, an induction and training programme should be put in place for the advisers with regular client awareness and contact.
If there is a health surveillance need, a mixture of on-site and remote services provides the perfect mix for an all-round occupational health service.
New technology and occupational health
While the importance of face-to-face advice can’t be underestimated in some circumstances, advances in technology mean that certain services can be offered remotely and therefore more cost-effectively. At Fusion, we work on a remote case-management model, which means fast turnaround with an employee being contacted within 24 hours. Consultations normally happen within 2 – 5 days, with reports being uploaded for viewing within 48 hours of the consultation (depending on employee consent).
If required, management calls can also be organised before the consultation with the employee. These conversations give occupational health advisers further information which may be relevant if the case is a little more complex.
A health & wellbeing portal is a great tool for providing employees with information on current health risks, lifestyle advice and greater insight into certain medical/psychological issues.
An ageing workforce
With both life expectancy and retirement age increasing, we’re moving towards an ageing workforce. Government figures show that a third of employees will be aged 50 plus by 2020, with the number aged over 65 already well in excess of one million.
This brings significant health challenges. While older members of staff have less short-term absence, they are more likely to develop chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Employers will need to factor this into their workplace health and wellbeing programmes.
Providing information and advice will help to reduce the risk of developing conditions like these. More health-screening initiatives will also help employees detect problems early on.
Mental health awareness
The charity Mind estimates that mental health affects one in six British workers a year. A major issue for employers, an increasing amount of businesses are taking the mental health of their staff more seriously.
To assist with this, business owners can help their employees become more resilient through employee assistance programmes (EAPs) such as mindfulness training in the workplace. At Fusion, we can provide health and wellbeing days that will promote this key part of a balanced programme.
As well as improving physical and mental health, wellbeing programmes can help employees improve their work/life balance.
This might include offering wellbeing day allowances or simpler measures like flexible working, allowing them to work around family issues.
These are just a few of the trends that we expect to shape the world of HR and occupational health in the coming years. With the right strategies, businesses can not only improve the wellbeing of their staff but also retain productive, healthy staff for longer.
Find out more about how we can help. Call one of our team today.