From increasing workforce productivity, to securing the best executive talent, the commercial benefits of putting wellbeing at the heart of strategy are well documented. But how can you take full advantage? Bupa Global’s Lorna Friedman explains
Wellness and wellbeing are the buzzwords of the moment – but they’re also increasingly important to the strategy of any business wanting a world-leading workforce. Around 140 million working days are lost in the UK each year due to sickness and 300,000 employees a year quit due to ill health, according to non-profit research firm Rand, while the Financial Times calculated that stress costs the UK £70bn annually.
So it’s never been clearer that businesses can benefit from greater productivity if they invest in the health of their people. A US study reported in Forbes magazine found that every $1 invested in wellness could yield $4 in higher productivity.
Lorna Friedman – Bupa Global’s director of medical and health benefits – tells Director that company health benefits are a key factor in attracting executive talent: “Healthcare is increasingly a benefit that employees value,” she says. “Individuals have choice on where to work, particularly as people are no longer working for one company for their entire career. Business leaders need to keep high-performing executives engaged by giving them options – and healthcare is what employees value. If talent affects your bottom line, then healthy talent impacts your bottom line.”
The solution, she adds, is to discuss the issue with employees: “All leaders should listen and understand what people want and ensure that their benefits deliver what their workforce needs. Traditional insurance products are often slow to change – do you have the right benefits to meet the needs of a 21st-century workforce? We are adapting with the times, investing in our digital platforms, increasing accessibility for clients and bringing in new propositions for decision-makers who are proactive about preventative health measures. Employers need to look at it through a competitive lens and a global lens.”
With half of the world’s population now in employment, and so many of today’s UK directors holding pivotal roles globally, this international perspective on healthcare is crucial – as employees expect consistent support wherever they are: “We’re in the business of creating health products that respond to market needs and that respond to our customers’ needs,” says Friedman.
“When we look at Bupa Global’s customers, two-thirds are UK nationals but about a third are not. There’s a much more global workforce than in the past. A quarter of our UK customers access their healthcare from outside of the UK – we see people wanting global products that address their values.”
In addition, the ‘always-on’ 24/7 nature of technology-driven business has markedly increased the pressure on individuals (“it can intrude on every moment, and that’s quite new,” says Friedman) and this has contributed to a sharp rise in mental health issues. Stress is now one of the top five causes of absence in the UK and approximately five million people of working age have a mental health disorder.
Clearly, looking after the mental health of your managers is key – an issue Bupa Global is addressing by introducing a range of new health plans for business execs. These can include benefits to cover wellness and both mental and physical health.
With 30 per cent of the workforce now aged over 50, and so many of this number employed at executive level, Friedman suggests corporate cultures need to change with the times. Keeping people productive and not exhausted is what brings benefit.
Preventative healthcare can help people stay ahead of issues arising. “Today, people understand the curve of human productivity and human functioning. If you think of that curve as a mountain shape, you want to be near the summit where your energy and productivity are on the way up. But at some point, you can start to fall down. That’s the reality individuals understand and businesses need to appreciate. Keeping people on the correct side of the curve and having energy to be productive is imperative. That’s a real shift in business culture.”
Bupa Global is a leading international health insurer providing premium health insurance services to the globally minded consumer. Executive healthcare plans from Bupa Global are designed to protect the people who protect your business by giving them healthcare that can cover mind as well as body. This can impact the wellbeing, motivation and positivity of your employees, supporting you to recruit and retain the executive talent needed to take your business forward.
For more information on Bupa Global’s healthcare plans designed for executives, visit bupaglobal.com/executive
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