The future of occupational health

    • Proper planning for the future plays an important role in the success of any workplace environment. But while preparing for what comes next isn’t always easy, there are some trends and predictions which may help employers put the right measures in place when it comes to occupational health.

      Here we look at some key social, economic and technological predictions which could make a big difference to workplace wellbeing in the future…

      Social

      The proportion of those aged over 65 in Europe is set to rise from 16% of the population in 2000 to 24% by 2030. This aging workforce is bound to lead to a range of new issues in the workplace, and occupational medicine practice will have to adapt quickly to meet their needs.

      Chronic disease will become an increasing burden on the working population, not only due to age but also modern lifestyle-related factors such as obesity and inactivity. Over 60% of the adult population are now obese which will contribute to the increasing healthcare burden of those suffering from diabetes, dementia, cancer, cardiac and respiratory disease.

      Economic

      The increasing population has been proving to be a strain on the NHS with the current situation of waiting list rationing and inconsistent provision (the so-called postcode lottery) is likely to become even more noticeable within the next five years. Therefore it is likely that in the future employers will bear a greater responsibility for both prevention and treatment of employee ill health.

      Technological

      Advances in technology have enabled a much more mobile culture, placing more emphasis on flexible working practices. It has been predicted that, with most people able to work from home, the need for large offices and fixed places to work will diminish.

      Although these advances may allow for a more flexible working life, there will also be an increased risk of social isolation and potential loss of workplace engagement. Mental ill health is already said to be experienced by 1 in 6 of today’s workforce, with an estimated cost of £15.1 billion to UK businesses. This means that the prospect of social isolation and a poor work-life balance due to mobile technology will need to be considered seriously by employers.

      So how can these trends help planning?

      Although it can seem impossible to predict the future, these demographic trends can allow employers to implement measures to ensure their business is ready to face inevitable challenges. Factors such as the aging workforce, legislation, technology and the decrease of NHS support will have an impact on all UK businesses, so planning ahead when it comes to occupational health is vital.