How do you know if your health and wellbeing strategy is actually working?

Feature image

Staff health and wellbeing is a highly topical issue. As companies struggle to retain staff, reduce long-term absence and accommodate an ageing workforce, focusing on health in the workplace is more important than ever.

Whilst businesses are aware of the problems and taking a proactive approach, a recent report by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and Howden has revealed that few know if their strategies are fit for purpose. [1]

The report highlighted that a large proportion of manufacturers are unaware of whether their employee health strategies have any impact on the number of cases of ill-health.

The EFF asked companies about instances of work-related illness and found that:

  • 45 per cent of companies did not know if their strategy affected cases of occupational lung disease.
  • The figure stands at 43 per cent of companies for cases of work-related stress.
  • Marginally less - 37 per cent – did not know if there had been an impact on work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

This is not exclusive to the manufacturing sector. Work-related stress, for instance, can arise in any work environment. Companies across all sectors are following the trend and investing in employee health, but many are failing to add the final piece to the puzzle: measuring the impact on employee health.  

The widening skills gap is also not unique to the manufacturing industry either and has placed pressure on employers to retain highly skilled staff and ensure they are fit for work. Mature workers are staying in post for longer thanks to medical advances and later retirement is good news for retention figures, but these workers are also more likely to fall ill during the course of their employment.

Companies that do not know if their employee health strategies have an impact cannot measure their return on investment. This makes it difficult to determine if the strategy is cost-effective and if employees are any healthier, which spells bad news for retention and productivity. 

Advice for tracking the success of a wellbeing strategy:

  1. Keep data on referrals.

Tracking both the frequency and type of referrals to health programmes will provide useful data to help determine whether the strategies in place are having an impact on occupational health.

If the numbers are low and show that employees are not using the programmes in place, it may be worthwhile implementing an engagement strategy. This can examine whether the methods already in place are the right fit for the workforce and sector. Taking a tailored and data-focused approach will ultimately mean that employees have the necessary support in place.

  1. Record long-term sickness absence

The EEF report shows that one third of manufacturing companies do not record their long-term sickness absence. When data relevant to long-term sickness absence is readily available, cross-referencing is possible. This can help determine if the strategies in place have aided employees’ return to work. 

Comparing data year-on-year makes it easier to put the necessary support in place to intervene and rehabilitate employees back into work, as well as manage and prevent long-term sickness absence. 

  1. Understand that mental health support may be harder to track

Businesses need to ensure that they have a range of methods in place to support employees who may have mental health concerns. As one size does not fit all, there is potential for difficulty in obtaining data to track the effectiveness of mental health support. Despite this, it is still an essential area to track and measure.

  1. Review the strategy often.

It is essential that the sustainability of the health and wellbeing strategy is regularly assessed to ensure it is fit for purpose. Recording and using data will help businesses take a robust approach to occupational health.

According to the EEF & Howden survey, the top cause of long-term sickness absence is surgery or medical investigations, accounting for 37 per cent of responses. This can, in part, be eased by Private Medical Insurance, which can enable quicker access to treatment.

The top causes of long-term sickness absence may differ from workplace to workplace, however, which means that a robust approach to employee health strategies is vital. Four fifths of the companies surveyed have access to occupational health services. An external occupational health provider can help the business to assess fitness to work, employ health surveillance and provide advice on workplace adjustments, managing chronic conditions and disabilities in the workplace.

There are a number of solutions to work-related illnesses which should be explored. The task for businesses is to track their data and make effective use of it.

For further advice, speak to Mark Fosh to discuss your Employee Benefits strategy.


[1] EFF Report 

About the author

Mark Fosh
Divisional Director
Employee Benefits +44 (0)20 7648 7099 Email