Preventative healthcare covers a lot more than just health screenings. As individuals we need to be more proactive by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and staying fit both physically and mentally, as well as going for regular health checks.
Prevention is better than cure – a 2018 ONS study found almost a quarter of all deaths in the UK were from causes considered avoidable1. This shocking statistic shows how important it is that we start to shift our focus from being reactive to health issues, to being more proactive with a focus on prevention when it comes to looking after our health and wellbeing.
Why is prevention better than cure?
With the right support, poor lifestyle choices and unhealthy behaviours can be changed. Binge drinking and smoking for example, are major causes of many chronic conditions.
By being proactive when it comes to our health, there are a wide range of associated benefits, including:
- Improved quality of life
- Early diagnosis and treatment
- Reduced symptoms of illness
- Improve and maintain productivity and efficiency
- Regular health screenings can save costs long term
It’s obvious that poor lifestyle choices have negative effects on us as individuals – but what we don’t often think about is the less obvious, but equally important effects that poor health can have on business.
Where does the responsibility lie?
Ultimately, as individuals it’s our responsibility to take control of our own health and implement preventative measures.
People need to know the importance of preventative healthcare, and shift their thinking from reactive habits such as only visiting a doctor when they are ill or making lifestyle changes only when complications from chronic illnesses arise.
Health screenings and vaccinations are the obvious ways that people can be more proactive when taking a preventative approach to their health, but exercise and lifestyle choices also play an important part. Maintaining an active lifestyle plays a key part in your overall, long-term health.
It’s really down to the individual to take up healthier lifestyle choices and habits. However, there are things you can do as an employer that will empower your workforce to be more proactive, which in turn has great business benefits.
What are the benefits of prevention to my organisation?
A lot of workplace prevention initiatives currently look at office environment based health issues such as ergonomic workstation set up and the prevention of musculoskeletal issues, and encouraging staff to be more active to overcome the sedentary lifestyle. However, a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing needs to be taken into account.
It’s safe to say that an unhealthy workforce can directly impact your bottom line, and often quite significantly. Chronically sick employees can become costly, due to costs around absence and potential medical expenses, and these employees are also generally less productive whilst at work.
Taking a strategic approach to health and wellbeing yields increased productivity, reduced costs and improved morale, amongst other tangible benefits. At the end of the day, a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce, with less sickness and lower absence rates, contributing to higher organisational success.
How to empower your employees to be proactive when it comes to prevention:
1. Health promotion
Provide resources to educate your workforce on different health and lifestyle topics that outline simple ways to start making positive behaviour changes. This could be displaying physical flyers and posters around the office, sending online resources via internal communications, or by taking 5 minutes to talk about the current health topics in team meetings.
You could start by launching a campaign that catches the attention of your employees, encouraging them to start thinking about their wellbeing at work. You can then work with them, either by sending out a survey or taking part in focus groups, to gather their feedback then consider how to best respond to it.
2. Support behaviour change
Educating your staff on the importance of and how to lead a healthy lifestyle is important, but you need to recognise that changing ingrained, habitual behaviours can be difficult.
It can be daunting taking that first step and often people don’t know where to start when it comes to implementing change. Behaviours that a person may have been doing for years - or even their entire lifetime, can be extremely difficult to eradicate.
Research in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests that a new behaviour only becomes a habit after an average of 66 days, and often it can take much longer2. Encourage your employees to forget about the numbers and focus on doing the work – you can only get to day 66 by starting with day 1.
3. Implement a strategy
To truly transform your organisation and improve employee health and wellbeing, you need a strategy in place. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all solution for this. You need to consider things such as, what does productivity really mean for my organisation? What is the current mental and physical health profile of employees? You should also take into account the age and demographics of your workforce. Make sure that you’re not just thinking of ‘nice things to do’, assuming that this is what your employees and your organisation needs. Use data and organisational goals to inform your strategy.
You need to know the desired outcomes for your strategy to be effective, and ensure that these goals are measurable. This is key if you want your workplace initiatives to be effective and sustained.
4. Think outside the workplace
How can your employees be healthier both in and outside of the workplace? Yes, it’s important to prevent work related health issues, but if change isn’t made outside of the office walls then you won’t see the best results.
Workshops tackling issues such as smoking cessation and healthy eating, as well as onsite fitness classes are becoming more popular and are a great way to encourage your workforce to start implementing healthy changes.
5. Set reminders
Utilise internal communications to let employees know when fitness classes, workshops, on-site immunisations such as flu jabs, or other health related events are taking place and send further reminders closer to the date.
You should also acknowledge and support national awareness days to spark conversation around different health topics, such as mental health awareness, nutrition, being active or stopping smoking.
6. Understand the importance
You need to really believe in the importance of supporting the health and wellbeing of your workforce if you want to drive positive change. If employees feel as though you are only putting a strategy in place to drive profits, with no real concern for their overall health, they won’t engage and you’ll not get any results.
Employees will not engage if they do not feel valued. There’s also no doubt that employees who feel that their employer genuinely cares about their health and wellbeing will love working there, which in itself has great benefits and can help you to be seen as a great place to work for potential future recruits.
Whilst you’ve probably heard about the importance of preventative care many times before, it’s a message worth repeating, especially to your workforce. The more we talk about it the more likely we are to embrace it. If all your staff start to make small incremental changes that positively impact their health and wellbeing, you will start to see significant changes overall.
Regular preventative interventions are pivotal to improving and maintaining health, and are the first step towards improving the overall health of your workforce. Preventing and treating disease at the early stages will essentially keep healthcare related costs down and lead to longer, healthier and happier lives, as well as boost workplace productivity.
For more information, our free Health & Wellbeing Toolkit contains all the information you need to start creating your company's health and wellbeing strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.
- Avoidable mortality in the UK, ONS, 2018
- How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world, European Journal of Social Psychology, July 2009