Discussing Wellness Strategies with Saumya Barber at Unum
We recently sat down with Saumya Barber, proposition development manager at Unum, to discuss how effective wellness strategies are vital to the success of any organisation.
Unum is an employee benefits provider that helps employers protect their workers by providing employee benefits. Saumya is responsible for the health and wellbeing agenda, educating organisations on how to think preventatively when it comes to the wellbeing of their workforce. Saumya says organisations see great results when they take an innovative approach to their workplace wellness. However, measuring and understanding the impact of benefits is key.
“Wellness is not just about people saying they feel good, but tangible returns such as reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and engagement,” she says. “When an organisation is focused on keeping people well, then they are staying ahead. It’s about shifting the paradigm away from reactive spend to more preventative measures.”
With organisations spending twenty times more on unwell employees, an effective wellness program makes business sense. Yet with up to five different generations working in one workplace, finding a wellness program that works for everyone can be challenging.
“It can be disheartening to see people invest in band-aid solutions like weight-loss programs but not targeting the actual risk for that population,” Saumya says.
Two key areas of wellness that many organisations are investing in and which cross the generational gap are mental and financial health. Globally, mental health is the biggest cause of workplace absenteeism. An effective mental health strategy might include training up a group of Mental Health First Aiders to spot signs of stress and anxiety in the workplace. Technology can also play a role in better tracking and managing mental health before it becomes a crisis, such as with resilience building and early intervention apps such as Mood Gym and Thrive.
30% of UK employees say financial issues are the number one cause of their stress. A financial wellness program would help individuals have a better understanding of their financial situation and make better financial decisions, including preparing for any financial changes or uncertainty, such as long-term sickness. With Statutory Sick Pay at £89.00 per week, many people may find themselves unprepared for their financial commitments if they suddenly became unwell and unable to work. Workplaces can support employees to be informed and have the tools necessary to make good financial decisions through access to tailored benefit packages.
And while it’s promising how organisations are putting mental and financial health higher up the agenda, physical health remains a top concern for many. In 2017, cancer overtook mental and psychological workplace claims and remains the biggest health risk to people in the UK. Organisations need to know how to have the right conversations and manage the possibility of long-term absence.
The role of an organisation’s HR department is key in developing effective wellness strategies tailored to the unique needs of their workforce.
“HR plays a vital role in developing strong wellness strategies within their organisations,” Saumya says. “People want to work for organisations that genuinely care for them and give them permission to talk about their health. A strong wellness strategy, aligned to business goals and with the active support of senior management results in more productive and engaged individuals.”
Visit www.unum.com to learn more.