UK companies are now doing more than ever before for the wellbeing of their employees.

According to the recent report ‘Employee Wellbeing Research 2017’, 45% of companies have a wellbeing strategy in place, which is a 15% increase from 2016.

So what does this tell us? It shows that those at the top are beginning to realise that more needs to be done to help and support their people, who are the foundation of their business. To quote Richard Branson, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.

64% of large employers want to create a culture of health, but only 19% have one*

A successful wellbeing strategy needs a clear focus and activation plan. So what are companies looking to achieve?

According to the Institute of Directors (IoD), half of the UK workforce report mental health problems, with an increase of 25% year on year. It’s no surprise then that 82% of companies now include this in their strategy, just behind physical health at 85%. Whether it’s heightened awareness or an increase in sufferers, companies are now moving to tackle this head on.

Address mental & physical health with ONE action plan

Many businesses make the error of trying to address physical and mental wellbeing in isolation. Whether it’s discounted gym memberships or introducing a safe space to talk, it’s usually in the form of separate initiatives. However, there’s no reason for these to be mutually exclusive, as mental and physical health are intrinsically linked.

According to the mental health charity Mind, exercise can help reduce anxiety and feelings of stress, as well as increasing self-esteem and reducing the risk of depression. On the flip side, those suffering a mental health condition are twice as likely to die from health disease and four times as likely to die from respiratory disease.

The key is to therefore tackle both areas using one platform or activation plan. Not only does this help prevent and reduce symptoms, but it also saves cost, time and resource.

Outdoor team challenges have a huge impact on mental & physical wellbeing

The days of organisations seeing wellbeing initiatives as a perk are fading. What’s becoming obvious is that this is now a necessary business investment, rather than a ‘nice to have’.

For example, HEINEKEN have implemented a ‘Your Wellbeing, Your Future’ campaign, which focuses on the three pillars of physical, mental and social health. Rather than approach these separately, they’ve provided their colleagues with the opportunity to develop these together, through their sponsorship of the new ultra marathon, HEINEKEN Race to the Tower. Through this, they’ll also be raising thousands of pounds for the event’s partner charity, Mind.

Gaelle Batey, Head of Employee Relations at HEINEKEN, explained, “Our success is down to the great people who work for us, so we’re delivering HEINEKEN Race to the Tower as a unique build on our commitment to their wellbeing. We embed ‘Your Wellbeing, Your Future’ into ways of working to help our colleagues make informed choices about their physical and mental health”.

In addition to this, we’ve seen 90% of participants on the Vodafone Big Bike Challenge say that being active helps with their productivity, energy levels and management of stress. Similarly, Deloitte Ride Across Britain saw 87% of riders being inspired to exercise more regularly in the future.

It’s proof that companies like these are reaping the benefits, and others are following suit.

78% of organisations expect wellbeing to be measured formally by 2018**

Beate O’Neill, Head of Wellbeing Consulting at Punter Southall Health & Protection explained “The jump in companies promoting employee health and wellbeing to improve their culture and engage employees demonstrates that wellbeing is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but an area of growing strategic importance”.

If that is the case, then the signs moving forward are positive. In an age of digital magnification and an ever-increasing pressure to succeed, socially as well as professionally, it’s essential that businesses support their colleagues in this way.

Ensuring physical and mental wellbeing are both at the forefront is a very worthwhile place to start.


* Optum, Sixth Annual Wellness in the Workplace study

** Of organisations surveyed by Robertson Cooper