Kevin Thomson was recently asked to participate in, and contribute an essay to, a new report that was launched at the House of Commons by Dame Carol Black, Mike Beresford MP and Unum. The essay is part of a series focusing on what more needs to be done to support working people with health problems to stay in, and thrive, at work:
Organisations often talk about their employees being
their'number one asset'.
As such there are clear
commercial imperatives for enabling employees to
remain active and well.
Indeed employment experts
agree that investing in the health of your employees
is not only the right thing to do, but has many
tangible business benefits.
Improving employee health contributes to enhanced
organisational productivity through lower absenteeism
and increased levels of motivation, output and
By creating a working environment that
supports employee health, employers help staff to feel
happy, competent and satisfied, and more committed to
their individual roles and collective corporate purpose.
As Kevin Thomson, Head of
HealthFirst at BMI Healthcare, remarks:
The evidence is compelling for taking action to
nurture employee's health at work. Doing so not
only benefits employees and makes organisation
better places to work, the evidence also shows that
people who achieve good levels of health are able to
demonstrate a wider range of skills that will also
benefit their employer
More than employee engagement
To help minimise both absenteeism and presenteeism
(working while either physically or emotionally unwell),
thereby maximising business performance, businesses
should think about implementing targeted healthcare
In doing so, it is important to distinguish
between employee health and engagement. While the two are closely linked, improving health
requires a more rounded approach than an average
employee engagement programme, with a deeper
focus on enabling employees to maximise their
personal resources by creating good work-life
Health and engagement should also be
developed equally: where there is high engagement
but low levels of health, there is a risk of burn-out over
Conversely, where there are good levels of health
but low engagement, employees are likely to feel
disconnected from an organisation's vision, mission and
overall strategic direction.
Preventative, proactive, productive
Healthcare strategies will obviously vary from one
organisation to another.
A preventative model allows
businesses to offer advice and treatment to their
employees before small, minor problems become
It covers everything from health
assessments and health education events to flu clinics,
vaccinations and advice on lifestyle changes.
investing in these preventative services, businesses can
spot, diagnose and treat employee health problems
However, as part of an overall healthcare strategy this
model should also ensure that, if required, employees
also have fast and convenient access to a range of
referral based pathways.
These could range from
occupational health, GP consultations, physiotherapy
and psychology as well as outpatient and in-patient
healthcare services. Such service provision means
employees who do need further support will be back to
full health sooner rather than later.
Contributors to 'What next for health at work?'
- Professor Dame Carol Black, Expert Adviser on Health and Work to Public Health England and the National Health Service England
- Liz Walker, Director of Human Resources and Dr Chris Schenk, Chief Medical Officer, Unum
- Stephen Bevan, Head of HR Research Development, Institute for Employment Studies
- Dr Steve Boorman CBE, Director Employee Health, Empactis
- Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation
- Dr Richard Heron, Vice-President Health and Chief Medical Officer, BP plc. President, Faculty of Occupational Medicine
- Professor Sayeed Khan, Chief Medical Adviser and Terry Woolmer, Head of Health and Safety Policy, EEF
- Dr James Kingsland OBE, President, National Association of Primary Care
- Kevin Thomson, Head of HealthFirst, BMI Healthcare
- Audrey Williams, Partner, Fox Williams LLP
- Professor Anthony Woolf, Chairman, Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance
Empowering employees for mutual success
It's naïve to assume that health and active living is
a uniform concern or focus among all employees.
However, this highlights a key issue, the fact that
employee health is something that employers should
This includes the basics of health and
safety in terms of protecting employees from risk
and poor working conditions.
But it goes far beyond that, employers should not just help employees avoid ill-health, but should support their achievement in good health; empowering their employees to improve their health behaviour both at home and in the workplace.
When developing these support services, employers
should ensure their approach centres on the benefit to
Indeed, organisations shouldn't always
seek a monetary return on their investment. Rather,
they should focus on assessing the subjective value of
This may provide a more rounded
approach to the development of key initiatives within
By delivering a positive healthy working environment
that encourages regular physical activity, healthy eating,
work-life integration and healthcare support, businesses
will empower their employees and their own
Organisations will then minimise healthrelated
disruptions to their own business and help
maintain a healthy, satisfied and effective workforce.
Developing a culture of health
Finally, the culture of an organisation plays an important
role in workplace satisfaction and companies are
increasingly investing in the development of their
Encouraging and enabling a healthy
lifestyle is a key part of this. One positive measure is to
ensure that all levels of the organisation are involved
creating and maintaining the 'mechanism' to ensure
good levels of both job and life satisfaction.
business leaders have an obligation to ensure that they
live and breathe the positive values they look to portray,
offering trust, respect and autonomy to their work
In return employees who feel valued by the
organisation, will provide high levels of enthusiasm,
creativity, put in more discretional effort as well as
become a brand advocates.
As Kevin Thomson, Head of
HealthFirst at BMI Healthcare states:
There are few enlightened companies who
continually focus on developing a culture of health
throughout the organisation, where the employee is
considered as important as its customers.
organisations, there is a simple belief that, if
employees are 'healthy and happy' and buy into the
brand strategy of the organisation then they in turn
will put in maximum effort.