· Insights

How to positively impact your workforce’s health

"An app might be the solution," suggests Liam McClelland, business development manager for WPA Health Insurance   - ©ChayTee/Adobe Stock

According to research from the University of Warwick, being happy makes employees more productive at work. Whichever comes first, health or happiness, the link to organisational productivity and success is indisputable.

It could be suggested that employers should strategically aim to improve employee health and wellbeing in order to improve employee happiness and therefore their productivity, with a byproduct for the business of increased profitability.

To boost productivity, employers have been strategising about how to drive down short and long-term sickness. Perhaps there’s a more simple solution – technology. But what should a really good technological solution provide to employers and employees alike?

It seems that hardly a day goes by without some report of the rising numbers of people impacted by increasing levels of poor health, or access to healthcare services – with employers particularly feeling the strain. According to the Office for National Statistics, we have reached a record 10-year high for the number of days lost due to sickness absence.

At the same time, we know that the NHS is still struggling to cope with the backlog of patients built up since the Covid-19 pandemic, with GP services notably hard pressed.

These issues have a critical impact on employers, who are having to find ways to support their employees at a time when the NHS is under huge stress. As a result, employees are looking more and more to their employers to provide effective health and wellbeing support.

Putting in place dedicated health and wellbeing programmes in the workplace can bring enormous benefits for both employers and employees. Not only do they allow health issues to be identified early and the necessary support to be put in place, reducing the burden of sickness absence, they also provide an effective benefit which employees now expect to see as part of any reward package. They are a vital tool to enable employers to attract and retain talent. But a balance needs to be struck between that benefit and the costs of providing it – a balance which some employers, even with the best will in the world, might struggle to achieve.

This is where technology can help and an app might be the solution. These can provide a cost-effective and viable answer to the issues of delivering healthcare support. But what should employers be looking for from an effective healthcare app? What options should you expect a provider to offer?

What makes a good healthcare app?

One of the great benefits of an app is that employees can access the support they need when they need it most. That enables them to have control over the process, allowing for greater privacy and peace of mind. So clearly one immediate need is for an app that can work on any device, including interaction with wearable technology such as that provided by companies like Apple and Garmin.

But what of the actual clinical support? Here are four key benefits that apps like WPA Digital Health, developed by WPA Health Insurance, really must provide:

Symptom checker

Being able to find accurate and reliable information on your symptoms is a good starting point. Yes, the internet is something anyone can search, but finding quality, reputable and personalised information is hard to come by. So giving access to experts – be they GPs, mental health professionals or physiotherapists – is helpful to cut through misinformation, giving employees the best-quality advice.

Access to GP and primary care 24/7

The NHS’s own figures from 2023 suggest that under half of GP appointments take place on the day they are booked. By using technology, appointments can be made quickly and efficiently. So any solution should allow employees to book online consultations at a time which suits them, via phone or video.

Mental health support

Mental health issues such as depression, nervous disorders and anxiety have risen from 40% in 2019 to 53% in 2023. So specialist counselling from mental health experts also needs to be a key part of any package.

Physio access

Unfortunately, remote working can mean getting into bad habits when sitting down at your ‘workstation’. With musculoskeletal issues featuring as a leading cause for both short-term and long-term sickness absence, providing good advice on posture and access to physio services can help nip any potential problems in the bud. Advice and customised exercise programmes to deal with musculoskeletal conditions are, therefore, a ‘must have’.

In addition to the above, with some apps you can even integrate cash benefits for dental, optical or audiology, with a seamless claiming experience. They should also provide aggregated and anonymised data to leadership teams around employee health and productivity, to enable them to make informed decisions to improve both areas.

The right support when it’s needed

All employers have a duty of care to their employees. At a time when the NHS is working very hard to meet even the most basic levels of service, it is falling to employers to take an even more active role. This not only shows that they care, but by giving employees access to healthcare services they can reassure them that, should they ever need it, the support they require will be there.

The benefits are clear: peace of mind and a boost to productivity, recruitment and the overall wellbeing of your employees – all in one easily accessible and affordable app.

Liam McClelland is business development manager at WPA Health Insurance   


To discover more about this topic, WPA Health Insurance has commissioned a whitepaper, The Current State of UK Primary Healthcare and the Impact on Workplace Wellbeing and Productivity. This looks in detail at the present situation and offers help and advice around planning and developing work-based solutions. You can download it by clicking here

Where apps like that developed by WPA Health Insurance include cash benefits, you should note that exclusions and limitations may apply. It’s always important to check the policy terms and conditions before buying.