The pandemic has created a backlog for the healthcare industry, delaying many diagnoses and treatments and putting immense pressure on the NHS. With the Mental Health Foundation estimating 70 million work days each year lost due to poor mental health, costing employers £2.4bn, supporting employees with their health and wellbeing is as important as ever for businesses, especially when it comes to those more reticent to seek help and get treatment.
This is particularly true for men who can be more prone to developing health issues, such as high blood pressure, in part because they are more likely to engage in smoking or drinking. Stereotypically, they are often also the most reluctant to report any health worries. Indeed, 65 per cent of men say they put off going to the doctor for as long as possible, according to research from the Cleveland Clinic, and even when they do visit their doctor, over a third – 37 per cent – withhold information out of fear or potential embarrassment.
With one third of our life spent at work, it is therefore crucial for employers to actively encourage healthy practices and support their workforce with services that help them stay happy and productive. This starts by encouraging a culture of openness, especially among men.
Mental ill health is the perfect example. The stigma around it persists, often resulting in staff ‘sticking it out’ or trying to hide their issues. Employers can normalise the dialogue around men’s mental health by providing access to services such as workshops, self-help online services, digital consultations and specialist appointments that can all be made available through healthcare benefits. It is possible for employers to respect confidentiality but provide meaningful help by facilitating peer support and signposting appropriate tools and resources.
Prevention, awareness and access to regular check-ups are also key to encouraging men to engage with their overall health. Staff can benefit from webinars and organised sessions that educate them on both statistical and anecdotal evidence of the benefit of physical activity, healthy diets and early intervention. By promoting awareness weeks or campaigns – like last June’s Men’s Health Week that promoted the ‘man MOT’ – employers stand to gain a lot. It shows they are serious about their staff and how they take care of themselves, rather than just paying lip service or meeting their own business needs.
Stressing the importance of seeking professional help and the impact ‘doctor-dodging’ can have on the outcome of potential health issues is also crucial. Digital healthcare platforms such as online portals and on-demand GP helplines that are easy and convenient to access can make the prospect of seeking medical help seem less daunting to men. Moreover, we’ve actually found that men are generally more likely to seek support compared to face-to-face services, as they can access services at their own pace.
There is no doubt that prevention is better than cure, so healthy lifestyle choices are key for everyone. Therefore, employers may also consider offering access to medical screenings as part of their workplace benefits to promote a more preventive approach to health. There are tools that can help male staff learn about their individual health risks according to their personal and family medical history too. Accessible through a healthcare trust or private medical insurance (PMI), these can boost early intervention and treatment providing an opportunity for them to gain specific and personalised insights in a way that respects their privacy.
With men often reluctant to seek professional help, encouraging positive health and wellbeing practices with proactive services can go a long way. For employers, employee wellbeing has a direct impact on the business, so it goes without saying that fostering a happy, healthy workforce can help cultivate a more productive and dynamic workplace culture. With some simple steps and access to digital healthcare, businesses can benefit from flexible and cost-efficient services that truly support their workforce.