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Research findings from Aetna International’s report on Business of health 2020: Why overcoming employee health inertia is essential for organisations, shows that despite access to information and technology, non-communicable and lifestyle-related diseases continue to rise.

As a leading global health benefits provider, we set out to explore the attitudes to health of 4,000 office workers in USA, UK, UAE and Singapore, focusing on the health fears of today’s workers and probing the gaps in their own health knowledge.

Despite the fact that 96% of those surveyed think about their health at least some of the time, 40% do not go to the doctor to get health issues checked, even if they are concerned, and nearly a quarter (24%) say they are too scared to get a health check. Inflexible and long working hours compound the problem, as employees feel unable to take time off to manage their health.

The data shows the size and breadth of the challenge, but also provides an opportunity for employers to build happier, healthier, more productive businesses. Below are some actionable tactics that businesses can implement to reduce personal health inertia:

5 ways companies can tackle employee health inertia

  1. Know your audience

Your company’s health and wellness strategy should be intrinsically motivated. By analysing the factors that motivate employees, understanding their health needs and the social determinants at play, employers can embed health care and healthy behaviours into daily working routines and corporate culture.

It’s important to create an environment where people feel they have some control over their support options as employees might be sceptical about employers who ‘push too hard’. Commit to reviewing and revising your initiatives to see what worked and what didn’t. Involve your employees in this process.

Employers have an opportunity to foster loyalty and retain talent for longer if they provide good health and wellness benefits and implement workplace well-being policies that meet the needs of today’s value-based workforce.

  1. Be consistent

Beyond making holistic health and wellness benefits available to your employees, extract the optimal value from these programmes by motivating your workforce to be more conscious of their own health. Promote the value of taking preventative action to help employees stay healthy and well – whether for their own benefit, the benefit of their family or their future financial security.

This can be accomplished by informing and educating your staff through consistent, ongoing communication. Provide simple and clear messaging using every available communication channel and promote a culture of openness and acceptance around emotional, mental and physical health.

  1. Deliver personalisation

Whatever stage of their health care journey, employees will feel less isolated and be more productive when there’s a greater level of support from their employer. Through providing confidential health and wellness support, employers have the power to become equal partners in an individual’s health care journey. This partnership entails providing motivation, support and access to workplace health advice.

For example, you can implement a multi-option approach to health and wellness benefits with a range of services, tools and options tailored to your workforce. Ensure that it is easy for employees to find and access the health support they need. In addition, provide clearly written and published privacy statements, and demonstrate that firewalls are in place.

  1. Embrace innovation

The role of technology cannot be ignored. People are ready for more technology in health care and employers should capitalise on this.

Virtual health care services offer ease of access to personal health advice and diagnoses, and could be more widely used worldwide to tackle health inertia. Better access to online health consultations would encourage nearly a third of people to get regular check-ups.

Improved symptom checkers and online triage tools will use reliable information sources for better health outcomes. Beyond diagnosis, personalised treatment journeys can be developed that offer support throughout. Other health care technologies, such as Aetna DNA, are already making it possible to predict, prevent and manage health in new ways.

  1. Build a culture

People delay seeking help for health issues due to worries, nervousness and a lack of time – this can be compounded by the stigma attached to stress and mental health. Establish workplace policies that empower people to adopt healthy behaviours, including taking time out to investigate and invest in their own health.

Embrace wellness at a leadership level, and keep up to date on what employees think, what’s resonating and what they need. This will help the organisation find out how wellness initiatives are working – whether it’s locally, regionally or internationally – and what can be improved.

Companies can introduce health clinics within office settings, so employers can see a doctor on site. Our clinicians agree that while technology has many applications, there’s little substitute for speaking to a human being.


About Aetna International 

As one of the largest providers of international private medical insurance, Aetna International serves more than 900,000 members worldwide. Its global benefits include medical, dental, vision, and emergency assistance.

For information on the data that informs our insights, or how we can help you customise a well-being strategy to suit your workforce, contact us.