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Health - None of your business?

…in fact it should be every part of your business as I attempt to reveal hidden benefits beyond the traditional arguments of “Return on investment” stats” and “sickness figures”…

In today’s world, the online universe provides a plethora of information, facts, studies and statistics that have built a business case that is hard to ignore around investing in the health and wellbeing (H&W) of your employees.

Well that is how it looks from “us lot” in the Public Health community anyway. But to resonate with business leaders and in particular the boardroom there needs to be other drivers for investment in health and wellbeing strategies and programming that goes beyond the ethical argument.

The trouble is, although the evidence is compelling, it is often produced and researched by academics, public health professionals and approached with arguments we think are relevant to business, without actually knowing what really is relevant to business.

For example reducing absenteeism rates is a definite business tangible, a long term one, and the term presenteeism (at work but less productive as a result of a health issue- think stress/personal/MSK etc) also a valid argument. But in the short term how is it measurable, or better put how does H&W contribute across the business to other business tangibles?

Of course for some Organisations reducing absenteeism is enough of a catalyst to lever investment and, provide in response,  a suite of health and wellbeing initiatives, activities and resources to help combat some of the aforementioned workforce health issues of our time.

For others, excuse the phrase, it is like ‘a stab in the dark’ – feeling compelled to do something but not sure exactly what to do, or where it fits in the bigger picture. It is an increasingly more complex area of business. Furthermore how does health and wellbeing fit with the wider Business strategy and how can it transcend every business function?

As I am lucky enough to occupy a position purely managing a health and wellbeing strategy and programme in business and working with multiple businesses across the Sheffield City Region I have a unique insight into how a Health and Wellbeing Programme sells at board level and experience of a range of evidence based health initiatives eg inactivity in workforces.

I also come with over 15 years of public health experience for the NHS, VCS Sector and Housing Sector which enables me to pool the knowledge and expertise I have gained across Sectors. Often sectors that don’t deal with each other in day to day operations – which brings business benefits you may not think about when involved in H&W programmes.

So health statistics, evidence, and return on investment, infographics, and Chief Medical Officer Health guidelines aside – how can a health and wellbeing programme translate health benefits into overall business benefits that make a board tick?


Think of a constant source of human interest stories providing a rich source of content to feed social media channels, staff magazines and add value to the external brand. For example a b2b business brand may not reach local / regional communities but Health and Wellbeing activities can add value to brands by exposing your business to new markets and networks through community / employee involvement.

For example award winning health and wellbeing programmes, accreditations (such as Investors in people that include a H&W element) and the achievements of staff circulating their Healthy activities across personal social media networks provides invaluable reach to new audiences.

Ethical Investment

According to data on investor preferences, put together by London-based investment firm IW Capital, 24% of investors would refrain from pursuing an investment decision because of ethical concerns over the product or service.

And consider this, it goes on to state, ‘Of 2,004 respondents, almost a third said the ethical, social or environmental impact of the company they were investing in was just as important as the financial return’.

So an effective Health and wellbeing programme can contribute directly to investment opportunities, brand credibility and new growth markets. And this is true throughout my own observations in business. Contracts, tender and bid documents all require much more information than a quote purely based on the cheapest cost. Procurement Professionals want to know about your business, your employees, credibility and CSR etc.

Suddenly in ‘business speak’ H&W is picking up more momentum than just the ‘it’s the right thing to do’ argument, or an approach based purely on projecting savings through H&W investment. All arguments based on solid evidence may I add, but on their own may not be enough to convince some boardrooms.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

CSR is a little like H&W ‘a nice to do’ or an added extra section on a tender document as a tick box exercise with no real direction or thought going into it. Of course not true of a lot of Organisations who have some innovative H&W programmes.

Virgin Money Lounges are a beautifully crafted example of a CSR agenda tied into brand, reaching new audiences, supporting deprived communities and feeding back into increasing banking customers.

If your business has expertise staff skills be sure to share this across multiple systems (think educational business visits, university fairs, community health and wellbeing programmes etc). Your long term brand floods future recruitment channels – think Talent selection, recruitment and retention. It is a hotly contested job market out there. Potential recruits look for more than just the salary; pay and benefits, an advocate of the brand, health and wellbeing culture…the list goes on.

An example of this is Perkbox – a pay and benefits platform, that has a predominately young workforce and therefore positions its brand as the ‘hip’ ‘cool’ choice of Employer. If you’re one of the best tech graduates you are going to want to work with a brand known for its unique work environment – think a performance work ethic wrapped around fun, plank challenges, chill out areas, social space, bonuses, free fruit/food and games.

Pay and Benefits

REBA held their Health and Wellbeing congress in London a few weeks ago – with input from Debi O’Donovan. It was a mainly HR audience interested in the role of H&W in engagement, policy, recruitment and the ‘bigger picture. Amongst the many fantastic speakers there, one presentation talking about ethical investment was as solid business case for H&W as I have heard with fascinating insight.

Aviva also presented on the power of employee stories regarding mental health and their programme which includes support for employees, training and expert support. Read about the programme here: AVIVA HEALTH AND WELLBEING

If you work for a company you genuinely feel proud to work for, valued, part of the family / brand you are much more likely to perform better. Reciprocation. According to HR Technologist ‘Beyond the salary – A salary is the minimum a company must offer an employee to complete tasks. For work that is immune to quality problems, maybe a salary is enough.

However, in roles where completion is not good enough – where engagement, productivity, and resourcefulness matter – incentives are indispensable. In challenging work, there is no reciprocity without incentives. H&W can be part of those incentives. A business investing in the health of ‘you’ gives a personalisation and caring feel very few benefits can achieve.

The ‘Golf Course Effect

I spoke about this in an article I wrote earlier in the year around health and wellbeing activities outside of work. I made the link between Health and wellbeing activities acting as a driver for increased communication and collaboration in business bringing colleagues from different departments together.

This argument comes back to the point I made about H&W transcending parts of the business other initiatives don’t. Especially true in bigger business, it can indeed act as an educational tool for people to learn about different parts of the business that may not come into contact with each other in normal day to day business operations.

Imagine the difference between a cold email from a colleague in some far distant department further in the supply chain, or an email / call from a colleague you have participated in an activity with and have a rapport with. I’d suggest you would fulfill that request / task to a better level and with a tailored more friendly approach. Great for business.

See more on this article dubbed ‘Employee Health and wellbeing programmes – on “COURSE” to take over “GOLF”!

Cross Sector brand credibility

I can say from experience – the range of health projects and initiatives across the UK at the moment opens up unparalleled opportunities to work with sectors you would have never worked with in daily business operations. But what does this mean? Let me provide an example.

B.Braun Medical Ltd has its Head Quarters in Sheffield and provides industry leading medical products and services across the UK Health sector.

Through a 10 year health and wellbeing programme operating under the brand B.Healthy B.Braun it has links with

The National Centre for Sports and Exercise MedicineRoyal Society for Public Health recognised H&W Scheme.Featured in active travel campaigns for South Yorkshire Transport ExecutiveFeatures on the Yorkshire Physical Activity Knowledge Exchange platformHas regular content in the local and regional mediaHas input into the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellbeing groupFacilitated a visit by John Lewis to help inform there H&W programmeA case study for the Inmotion active travel campaign,Features in HR publications around Employee Health and Wellbeing programmes Featured in the Outdoor City run routes videos for the Sheffield City Region with employees.Part of the England Athletics LIRF Run England Programme.Has a large active employee group in short and long walk trips, running groups, onsite activities and colleagues presented at a recent health awards event.

This carousel of activity provides reams of content for marketing as well as positioning the Company as a role model for other business in leading the field of employee H&W locally.

The H&W landscape is vast and knowing where to go, access to resource, tapping into existing schemes can save both time and money going it alone with a H&W programme.

It is my specialist area and I have included a few examples of where you can access these resources from Public Health England for free (link below) and also my slideshare account that contains a selection of H&W reports, examples and presentations.

The synergy

Hopefully you have joined the dots between the six subtitles and made the discovery that H&W gels them altogether. It is hard to pick the most relevant benefit for business, as each Organisation has its own culture, board personalities and all the internal and external factors that influence the way it operates.

I could have filled this article up with fancy infographics, statistics, ROI calculations and the like that are readily available free – check the excellent Public Health England resource out here

It is information I use to inform and drive H&W programmes within business, it is a field I operate in and a landscape I know inside out. But I also have the advantage of working in business, with Boards of Directors on H&W to offer observations and insight into other drivers of H&W programmes that might get missed out by the Public Health sector but offer just as much, if not more power to persuade businesses to invest in employee H&W.


Presentations on physical activity guidelines (2018 Nuffield report), REBA Employer Survey example report, NICE Workplace guidance and example slides of my own H&W initiatives programmes and behavioural change projects

Notable reports and sources of Health information – follow links;

Health Foundation 

Royal Society for Public Health 

Westfield Health

Sport England



Andrew PickenBA HONS/ DIPHE /HND / MRSPHMember of Royal Society for Public HealthHealth and Wellbeing ConsultantNational Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine (Sheffield)B.Braun Medical Ltd (Sheffield)Living Streets Associate (Leeds)07887400202Twitter: @AJPConsultantFacebook: manbeast28 /

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