Two of the most common health and wellbeing challenges facing organisations are a “one size fits all” approach as well as a lack of data on which to base the programs offered, according to an expert in the area.
For the employee population, the ability to cost-efficiently triage people into an appropriate health and wellbeing program based on their own risks, has been an ongoing challenge in Australia, said John Hall, CEO of Executive Health Solutions (EHS).
He observed that the use of data from digital platforms that utilise AI to target information and then provide human contact for those at risk will improve the ROI on workplace health and wellbeing programs.
“The tracking of impact is also important,” he added.
“There is plenty of data to show that healthier employees are more productive, but the challenge is matching this data to an organisation’s absenteeism data to demonstrate a direct benefit.”
Hall explained that data is crucial in creating tailored programs as well as tracking their impact.
For clients (and particularly long-term ones), the data gathered in health assessments allows them to pinpoint the health risks for executives in their organisation.
“This not only helps to tailor health and wellbeing programs but also tracks the impact on individuals and the business, for better evaluation of return on investment,” he said.
EHS recently released its latest Executive Health Index, which ranks industries by the health and wellbeing of senior employees and consists of data from 28 health parameters across lifestyle, physical, medical and mental health.
“A strong focus is now on early intervention rather than providing support once psychological issues are evident”
It found that many industries are looking to tackle workplace stress and mental health issues, and Hall expected to see continued attention in this area.
“A strong focus is now on early intervention rather than providing support once psychological issues are evident,” he said.
As those in leadership roles have a greater ability to impact business outcomes and to influence team members, Hall said that managing mental health and wellbeing for senior staff is increasingly important.
“Coupled with the growing awareness of mental health more generally, this is likely to lead to more emphasis on managing mental health in the workplace over the coming years,” he said.
“The use of integrated care models, utilising digital platforms and AI will assist in the management and reporting back to organisations regarding the key risks within their populations.”
Health and wellbeing: who is most at risk?
The Executive Health Index also found that women generally fared better than men, with an average number of health risks per female executive at 2.6 (compared to 3.5 for men).
Furthermore, older participants were generally at higher risk than younger people.
The older age group of 60-69 years had the highest average risk rating across both sexes, and those aged 60 and over were the most likely to have risks associated with lifestyle factors such as poor sleep, obesity and alcohol consumption.
The group with the most people working more than 60 hours a week was women aged 60 and over.
“Coupled with increasing clinical risks with age in areas such as blood pressure and cholesterol, this requires different health initiatives than those offered for younger employees,” said Hall.
When it comes to psychological health and wellbeing these trends are flipped, with younger women more at risk.
The most prevalent age group for psychological health risk was 20-29 years, while women in the 20-29 age group had nearly three times the number at risk of anxiety compared to men.
“The health of senior staff can have notable impacts on productivity and the index demonstrates that organisations need ongoing strategies to support high-level employees in managing their health”
Overall, women were seen to have double the number at risk for stress compared to men.
The index found that both the manufacturing and construction/engineering groups fared poorly across categories of physical activity and fitness, which contributed to being higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“So, designing health and wellbeing programs to focus on improving exercise and physical fitness in the executive group for these industries would make sense,” said Hall.
Based on data gathered in FY18 from over 10,000 executive health assessments in more than 200 organisations across 18 industries, the index also found that the legal sector has dropped from first place in 2017 to 7th place for overall health.
The banking industry moved up one position into first place, after legal executives’ performance fell in most areas of health (the majority of banking organisations included in the index are investment banks).
“The fall down the ranking of the legal industry, and the rise of the transport industry, show that in only a year, changes in health risk can have a significant effect on overall health performance,” said Hall.
“The health of senior staff can have notable impacts on productivity and the index demonstrates that organisations need ongoing strategies to support high-level employees in managing their health.”
The agriculture, forestry and fishing group has maintained the lowest ranking of all industries.
Those with a lower health ranking have more risk factors for developing chronic diseases, and poor health and wellbeing can lead to more time off work and reduced performance and productivity.
Of the blue-collar industries included in the index, the mining sector fared best for overall health achieving 8th position, mainly let down by a low medical health ranking of 15th position.