The new wave of occupational health: What it is and why it's becoming an essential investment
For many years, traditional occupational health has revolved around workplace safety, specifically handling work-related injuries and treating those impacted on the job to get employees rehabilitated and back to work.
But the new economy in 2022 has forced companies to redefine the traditional concept of occupational health to include far more than just workplace safety. In addition to post-pandemic health concerns, the 25% increase in anxiety and depression on a global scale is directly impacting companies and their workforce, leaving them no choice but to view occupational health with a much broader perspective.
The next wave of occupational health will need to be an employee-centric approach to levels of care that layer in multiple services. Infectious disease management, critical illness screening and preventative healthcare and mental health services are examples of services that will engage the modern worker. A renewed focus on overall wellness is becoming a standard expectation for prospective employees in the new world of work.
Employees expect companies to play a substantial role in their well-being; that goes far beyond workplace safety and ergonomics to prevent injury. Investing in employees’ overall wellness—especially mental health—has become a crucial, competitive differentiator when attracting and retaining talent. Not to mention, it’s an important factor in the overall success and profitability of the business.
Here's why investing in the new wave of occupational health is essential.
It’s an operational necessity. Business operators wouldn’t expect their company to continue functioning if equipment is constantly broken or their networks are always down. In fact, they probably heavily invest in preventative maintenance to keep everything running in tip-top shape. Employees are the single most critical operational asset of most companies, so how can we expect them to continue working effectively if they’re broken and down? Investing in employee focused occupational health services like mental health care and wellness programs is preventative maintenance for people, and it’s essential for business continuity.
It creates a better employee experience. Today’s employees want to work for a company that cares about them as people, not as entities, and the pandemic accentuated that desire. Investing in employees’ overall health and well-being demonstrates a commitment to their longevity which they will reciprocate with loyalty. It’s also extremely convenient—by offering onsite services like routine check-ups and other health screenings, it’s one less thing employees have to log off early to make time for. Just like providing onsite childcare, food service and dry-cleaning delivery, anything that improves employees’ lives is a valuable benefit.
It enables better performance. Employees are under a tremendous amount of stress, which can impact their physical health and their job performance. Plenty of evidence shows that healthy, happy employees are more productive and engaged on the job. Including holistic health programs like mental health services and wellness programs like quality sleep support, and rewards for healthy behaviors—actually going to the gym, not just offering a free membership—supports creativity, innovation, performance and productivity, all of which contribute to their personal growth and company success.
It’s more economical. Offering on-site preventative health care and wellness services not only reduces lost time involved in going offsite for appointments, but it can also help keep employees healthier by detecting chronic issues earlier or preventing them altogether due to the convenience and accessibility. That, in turn, creates less burden on the health plan, reduces emergency care utilization and major medical expenses, and reduces the cost to ensure them. Plus, investing in on-site occupational health may be more cost effective than raising wages in a bid to attract and retain talent—80% of workers say they prefer better benefits over higher pay.
Without a doubt, people are the single most critical aspect of any business—and the single largest expense. In order to remain competitive and create an environment that attracts more great assets to the team, companies must get serious about protecting and maintaining this most vital asset.
Investing in the new wave of occupational health with services that span both preventative physical healthcare, mental health and lifestyle/wellness programs is now essential. Otherwise, neglecting this trend will likely cost companies their people and their competitive edge.