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Physical Wellbeing: 2023 Watercooler Conference and Exhibition

Sinead Murphy Jul 19, 2023 11:00:00 AM

Ensure your people are practically engaged in preventing poor physical health with key takeaways from this year’s event  

A very warm welcome to the third instalment of our 2023 Watercooler Conference and Exhibition blog series. In our last post, we discussed the key takeaways around creating a sense of community to help your employees thrive in the workplace. If you missed it, you can catch up on tips and insights from the expert guest speakers here. 

 Today, we’ll be summarising the main talking points around the second pillar of wellbeing: physical health. Let’s see what our industry thought leaders had to say on the subject…   


Hilary Todd, Associate Director of Occupational Health and Wellbeing, NHS  

Within her role as Associate Director of Occupational Health and Wellbeing for the NHS, ​Hilary Todd believes it is vital to understand the barriers people face when attempting to take charge of their physical health. That’s because, despite popular misconception, NHS employees do not receive fast-track access to healthcare and must wait in line just like everyone else.  

However, with 2,078 fewer fully qualified full-time GPs compared to September 2015, those requiring in-person appointments are facing waiting times of up to 10 days for a GP appointment, 8 days for a telephone appointment, and 13 weeks for specialist treatment – including NHS workers.  

Todd believes that these barriers will prevent employees from seeking care when they need it, which in turn may negatively affect presenteeism or prompt workers to attend their shifts when they are unwell and not at their most productive. In response, the NHS introduced fast-track access to physical therapists near people’s homes – rather than their workplaces.  

“I live 35 miles away from our trust HQ,” explains Todd. “If I had a bad back, I would have to be well enough to drive for an hour, receive half an hour of treatment, and then drive an hour back. So, I’m not going to do it. I can now go to my nearest NHS trust (which happens to be 3 miles down the road) and that has had a significant impact on people’s physical health because they can get treatment quickly and easily.”  

But, how can you incorporate this flexibility and accessibility to meet the physical health needs of your own workforce? Providing your people with access to online GP services is a great way to encourage them to take a positive, proactive approach to their wellbeing. Because  virtual services can offer a level of comfort an and convenience and can be a more flexible approach to in-person appointments , your staff are able to book a slot at a time that suits their schedules - often eliminating the need to take time off work or arrange childcare.  

Another way to ensure your people are prioritising their physical wellbeing is by providing access to a Health Cash Plan. That’s because covering the cost of essential healthcare is a source of anxiety for many people and can often take a toll on the mental wellbeing, performance, and productivity of your workforce.  

With access to a Health Cash Plan, your staff can gain immediate access to personal healthcare cover for their individual needs, helping them manage the cost of essential services like dentists, opticians and physiotherapists as and when they need them. This helps to promote peace of mind and a sense of security for your people, enabling them to make their salaries go further while managing their health in a proactive way*.     

Todd is also passionate about making employers aware of the impact of menopause and ensuring the correct framework is in place to help those affected feel seen and supported. “We know that menopause affects people’s ability to take care of their physical health, Todd explains, “so we introduced menopause surveys where staff can self-refer.” 

Todd and her team have worked hard to deliver a comprehensive range of menopause-focused communications so that staff are aware of how others may be affected and what support options are available. These communications were also aimed at male employees, as often they are in a relationship where they need support and education as well.  

This holistic approach to health and commitment to understanding what impact physical wellbeing can have on mental wellbeing has helped a huge amount of people take charge of their physical health within Todd’s organisation. She is therefore passionate about urging other employers to take the same approach in order to identify and address the unique barriers to healthcare amongst their own workforces.  


Cadence Woodland, Head of Communications, Wilson James Limited  

Speaking on behalf of Wilson James Limited, Cadence Woodland kicked off her session by considering the difference between workplace wellbeing and personal wellbeing, and where those two areas do and do not intersect.  

After collecting data to identify the key pain points being experienced by employees in her own organisation, it became clear that one of the most common reasons for absenteeism was due to safety issues while working on-site. “Wellbeing is an outcome of a lot of things going right,” Woodland explains, “so, one of the things we’ve done is invest in a health and safety team and deliver bespoke in-house training that is specific to the needs of our workforce.”   

Because the physical wellbeing issues being faced by Wilson James employees in the workplace were very different to the issues they were facing at home, Woodland believes it is vital that organisations deliver a flexible set of solutions that meet people where they are at in their personal lives while addressing the pain points being experienced in their professional lives.  

“I find that a lot of organisations tend to want a hard line between [personal and professional wellbeing], Woodland muses. “I don’t think we live in an age where that is possible anymore. Our lives overlap and intersect between personal and professional to a degree that they haven't done before.”  

As such, Woodland believes that the solutions implemented by employers need to be a lot more proactive that they used to be. They need to strike the balance between in-house expertise around physical health, and a surrounding culture that enhances and supports a person’s overall wellbeing.  

As Woodland so succinctly puts it, employee physical health is “not just physical anymore.”    


*Benefits are payable according to the benefit schedule up to the maximum benefit per Insured Person in each Scheme. Exclusions may apply.