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10 ways to encourage good health in the workplace

Employee health

We are constantly being told the benefits of happy and healthy employees in the workplace. A major part of being healthy is regular check-ups with a GP, but how encouraging employees to take a trip to the doctors means that they have to take time out of work. This comes to a disadvantage to both employee and employer. So what is the solution?

At a time when the NHS is facing its biggest crisis to date, and whilst our busy lifestyles mean we struggle to prioritise our health, private GP healthcare/ concierge medicine is now on the rise and companies that offer it as a perk to their employees are increasingly viewed as forward thinking.

What is concierge medicine and how is it a business perk?  Concierge medicine is where patients or businesses, pay a fee (often pay as you go, or a membership fee) for private healthcare.  Patients benefit from enhanced GP care in terms of appointment availability and time given to the patient, as well as additional services that aren’t on offer from the NHS such as particular vaccinations or treatments.

Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, GP and director of Your Doctor, explains why offering private GP access to employees is in growing demand: “Many companies offer their employees a contribution towards private health insurance, but this rarely covers private GP services.  We are now seeing an increase in demand for GP concierge medicine to provide rapid diagnosis and treatment of health issues by eliminating barriers that patients currently face such as rushed visits and long waiting times.

“Savvy employers are increasingly offering this benefit to their employees because concierge medicine is a win-win situation for employees and their employers. The number of sick days are often cut dramatically and time taken off to visit the doctor is reduced. Employees feel like their employer cares about their health and wellbeing which is invaluable in obtaining employee loyalty and staff retention.”

An example of what Dr Di Cuffa has said came from Vanarama, who offered their employees a small onsite clinic by the company offices every Friday morning. Employees are invited to book an appointment with the GP meaning they don’t have to take significant time off work. The appointments are entirely confidential.

Most private doctors insist that concierge medicine is not trying to compete directly with the NHS and that private GPs can work in partnership with local NHS GP colleagues. Dr Di Cuffa says: “Some patients no longer solely use the NHS to tackle their health problems. Having private treatment means they are seen faster but sometimes they may use private health to get a diagnosis and then choose to receive ongoing treatment on the NHS. Importantly their health is looked at more holistically and they are treated more proactively because they are given more time in their appointment yet it fits in with the busy lifestyles that we lead in modern day life. Most importantly the employees as well as employers get the best outcomes.”

How to encourage good health in the workplace
By Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, director and GP at Your Doctor

1.  Contact your local private GP to set up a weekly visit for a few hours on an agreed day each week to allow employees to talk through any worries or medical issues they may have. This reduces workers needing to take time off and lets them know that as an employer you value their health. It should of course be made clear that the appointments are entirely confidential. Recent evidence shows that health has better outcomes if you know you doctor or doctors well.

2. Provide the staff room or canteen with free fruit to promote healthy eating. Also include a fridge to encourage people to bring in healthier lunches which can be kept fresh.

3. Enforce an office closing time to ensure everyone leaves at a reasonable hour. Also see that everyone takes their necessary holiday, to ensure they are getting time off to recharge their batteries.

4. Encourage staff to keep up their fitness by creating an employee sports team or entering fun runs etc. Try having meetings that don’t require note taking whilst going on a walk.

5. Liaise with the local gym to obtain a corporate discount to encourage workers to exercise before or after work, in their lunchtime or in their spare time.

6. Train managers on mental health strategies and encourage employees who suffer with any mental health issues to speak to them if they are feeling anxious or low.

7. Have team building exercises that ensure everyone is involved and colleagues of all levels work together as a team to encourage interaction and bonding.

8. Create a ‘quiet space’ within the workplace to enable employees to have their own space when they need it to reboot, refresh and enable them to have a more positive mindset for the rest of the day.

9. Encourage staff to take breaks and to move around to prevent them from sitting down all day.

10. Arrange an onsite flu vaccination to encourage those who want to be vaccinated and to reduce hours taken off work by either going elsewhere to have a vaccination or because of your workers develop the flu itself.