Elevating employee benefits: The new era of private healthcare and workplace wellness

UK News Group - 27 October 2023
Niki Fuchs
5 min read
Published: 4 Dec 2023 3:50

Mercer’s recently published national survey of employer-based health plans indicates that prior to the pandemic, employers most often prioritised cost-management strategies. This year, ‘enhancing benefits to improve attraction and retention’ topped the list, with 84% of large employers rating it important or very important. This is a clear indicator of the growing demand for benefits like private healthcare among employees, especially as costs continue to rise. This is something for modern businesses to consider when looking at employee benefits packages.

The new imperative

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom experienced a significant surge in private healthcare use, with over 800,000 private in-patient or day-care admissions, surpassing even the tumultuous COVID years. This surge in demand led to over a quarter of a million people dipping into their savings or taking out loans to access private healthcare, underscoring the growing need for such services.

The growing reliance on private healthcare use has brought into focus the critical role that employee healthcare and wellbeing benefits play in the modern-day workforce. With the NHS under relentless strain, soaring recruitment challenges, and employers grappling with low employee retention rates, private healthcare has emerged as one of the most sought-after employee benefits.

Once laughed at by traditional businesses unwilling to fall in line with ‘trends’, wellbeing has quickly evolved into a lifeline for businesses in the fiercely competitive talent market.

A competitive edge

In this maturing landscape, the employment market is undergoing a transformation. The ability to attract and retain top talent is a cornerstone of a successful business, and private healthcare plays a pivotal role in this. As a testament to this, a recent survey conducted by Office Space in Town (OSiT) of our own workforce revealed that 63% of respondents considered healthcare provisions to be a very important element of their employee benefits. Companies that embrace healthcare as a part of their employee benefits package stand to gain a significant advantage in this ruthless job market.

The OSiT survey also revealed a compelling statistic – 95% of employees believe that employee healthcare provisions positively impact their mental and physical health. This statistic underscores the immense value that employees – rightly so – place on the state of their minds and bodies.

At a time when 8.65 million adult Britons are economically inactive, companies that offer healthcare are setting themselves up to attract and incentivise talent.

In order to sustain this growth in attracting and retaining skilled professionals, it is essential that we address the current challenges facing the NHS. Waiting lists for NHS services have reached an all-time high of 7.68 million, and with little respite from these long backlogs in sight, more and more people are turning to private healthcare to get the timely care they need. By offering healthcare plans, companies can increase employee satisfaction and help to alleviate the significant rates of long-term illness that currently affect the UK workforce.

Importantly, for businesses, healthier, happier employees are typically more productive employees.

Investing in employee health and productivity at the office

A combination of private healthcare benefits and a focus on physical and mental well-being ensures a holistic approach to supporting employees that aligns with the evolving landscape of employee wellness. Studies have shown that individuals dealing with mental health issues are more likely to also grapple with preventable physical health conditions, including heart disease. This underlines the need to incorporate physical well-being as a key pillar of any genuine workplace healthcare strategy.

A practical solution to this challenge involves investments in ergonomic office design. Features such as ergonomic chairs that support posture, height-adjustable desks, and well-illuminated workspaces shouldn’t be perceived as mere luxuries; rather, they represent a strategic investment in employees’ health and productivity. Many of our OSiT office spaces include amenities like bike racks, standing desks, and on-site gyms. By providing these facilities, employers actively encourage employees to adopt healthier habits.

Curating healthcare benefits for maximum impact

Recognising the importance of healthcare provisions for employees is just the first step in improving worker wellbeing. To ensure that employees get the most from these benefits, companies should curate their medical policies around what people need and want most.

For instance, people often have varying priorities when it comes to their healthcare benefits. While 58% of OSiT survey respondents said that an annual health check was one of the most important medical offerings, 95% prioritised comprehensive health insurance. These variations in preference underscore the importance of engaging in open conversations with employees and highlight the necessity for flexible healthcare packages that cater to individual needs. By understanding the unique healthcare requirements of their workforce, companies can tailor their offerings to create an effective benefits package.

The tides are shifting in the world of employee benefits, and healthcare is riding the waves.  Ultimately, it’s not just about fulfilling a requirement; it’s about investing in your most valuable asset – your employees. Businesses that understand the significance of healthcare are not only supporting their employees’ wellbeing but also gaining a competitive edge – setting themselves up for success in a world where the line between ‘perk’ and ‘necessity’ is no longer clear cut.