Typically, employers have viewed providing healthcare benefits as a valuable perk rather than a fundamental need. However, a recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personal Development has highlighted a concerning trend: the number of employees taking leave of absence due to poor health is at its highest point in a decade.
It’s obvious that the UK’s workforce is amidst a wellbeing crisis, which is negatively impacting business performance and employee productivity. To address these issues and help improve employee wellbeing, evidence shows boosting the provision of healthcare plans and improving workplace design can have a significant positive impact.
As the value placed on healthcare continues to grow, so does the NHS waiting list, which reached 7.68 million this year. As a result, the UK witnessed a surge in private healthcare use in 2022, with over 800,000 private in-patient admissions, surpassing even the tumultuous Covid years. The dissonance between lengthy NHS wait times and increasing demand for healthcare has led to private healthcare provisions becoming not just a luxury, but a requirement for new employees. In fact, a recent survey of our staff at Office Space in Town (OSiT) found that 63% of our own employees considered healthcare to be a crucial employee benefit.
Looking ahead, businesses should recognise the appeal of robust healthcare provisions for employees, and the role that improved wellness can play in attracting new talent, increasing employee satisfaction, and achieving better business outcomes. Healthcare benefits are no longer a nice-to-have; for many modern employees, they are an essential offering of any new role.
Why should businesses provide healthcare plans?
Physical and mental wellbeing are fundamental to business operations, influencing both individual productivity as well as wider business success. Poor wellbeing is a major contributor to the economic activity of the nation, as evidenced by data from the Office for National Statistics, which indicates that almost 2.5 million Britons were economically inactive due to long-term sickness this year.
However, research by the Mercer Group this year has revealed that workplaces do not currently demonstrate enough sensitivity towards employee health, with healthcare provisions generally reserved for only the most senior employees. Such an approach alienates rank-and-file workers, who are likely to feel unsupported on what they now consider a fundamental employee benefit. Consequently, the current exclusivity of private healthcare provisions in the workplace encourages both new and existing talent to seek employment opportunities with better healthcare offerings. This means that from a market perspective, employee health is rapidly becoming an essential component in shaping how businesses attract and retain talent.
Mental health is far more difficult for managers to assess and measure than physical health, and it often goes unrecognised as a result. However, it is no less disruptive, with research by the World Health Organisation reporting that 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety alone,  highlighting a pressing need for employers to improve their sensitivity towards mental wellbeing in the workplace.
In the wake of World Mental Health Day, businesses should reevaluate the strength of their mental health provisions to ensure employees feel supported in their working environment.
Office design and employee wellness
For healthcare benefits to be effective, they must be part of a holistic approach that ensures employees are educated on available wellbeing support, and from our own experience at OSiT, we know that intelligent workplace design can play a role in this.
Flexible and serviced offices are taking the lead in terms of their approach to the health and wellbeing of clients and organisations using their services. Through bespoke workspace amenities, combined with additions such as onsite medical consultations, serviced offices can both subtly and directly improve the physical and mental wellbeing of their clients.
Most serviced offices feature adjustable and ergonomic desks to support physical wellbeing. Additionally, pay-as-you-go meeting rooms or breakout workspaces give employees the flexibility to control their day in ways that suit them best, which can help to alleviate common stress factors.
Utilising a serviced or flexible office can allow businesses to rethink their approach, or budget, for employee benefits. For instance, serviced offices can help businesses save on general overheads, which allow employers to direct more finances into better healthcare for employees, or to organise more workplace social events. In a survey of our own employees at OSiT, we found that 58% utilised our annual health check, and a further 95% believed that these provisions could positively impact their mental and physical health, reflecting the growing emphasis workers are placing on good healthcare provisions in their roles.
The implementation of healthcare plans cannot be a one-off measure; but instead, must form part of a codified, holistic approach to employee wellbeing and business management. An organisation’s approach to healthcare benefits must be proactive, and adaptable to changing workplace priorities to maintain value. If businesses cannot do this, they risk becoming obsolete, damaging the trust, satisfaction, and productivity of their workforce.
To stay competitive and maintain a satisfied, productive workforce, companies need to see healthcare as a dynamic and proactive component of their employee offerings, aligned with the evolving needs and expectations of the modern workforce.
Niki Fuchs founded Office Space in Town back in 2009, alongside her brother Giles. Since beginning less than 15 years ago, OSiT has established serviced, flexible offices across each of the UK capitals and now owns 100% of its portfolio. In July of last year, Niki took over from Giles as CEO of the company and in this new capacity hopes to steer the business into the future of flexible office space.