Health coaching

Can employee health coaching add value?


6 July 2017

Health coaching

Health coaching

AXA Health’s health coaching can be used to complement your existing activity or we can work with you to tailor a complete programme.

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"A health risk affects our everyday physiology, so in turn this impairs our energy, creativity and sharpness that is our productivity.”

Dr Chris Tomkins (Head of Wellbeing Services, AXA Health)

Employee Health Coaching isn’t new, but incorporating it into your health and wellbeing strategy for all employees could be. Here we answer a few of your questions about health coaching and how this can help you deliver healthier outcomes for your employees, helping support the wellbeing of your workforce.

1. In a nutshell, what is Health Coaching?

Health Coaching is designed to support behaviour change and reduce health risks – targeting outcomes such as losing weight, managing stress and creating healthier habits in nutrition, exercise and sleep. Employees can benefit from access to coaching sessions by telephone, email or video-link, scheduled with a personal coach during a period usually around 6-12 weeks.

This ties in perfectly with AXA Health’s onsite wellbeing assessments where our physiologists are on hand to provide guidance on the small lifestyle changes that can make a big difference to an individual’s overall health and wellbeing. If there are any areas identified during the assessment that show a possible elevated health risk, the employee is referred into our health coaching pathway.

running through the water


From expert workshops and assessments to health coaching with physiologists, we’ll make it easy for you to support your employees on their journey to healthy habits.

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2. Why provide health coaching at all? How can it add value to my organisation’s health and wellbeing strategy?

The biggest criticism of the wellbeing industry in the past is that it has made a lot of fit people even fitter. Having successfully introduced AXA Health’s Proactive Health to many clients, we understand when to use face-to-face consultations and when to work digitally. This ensures that we focus your budget on those most in need. Traditionally they have been called ‘the hard-to-reach’, but we have found this to be a misnomer. In fact they were not offered a solution that would improve their health. This is the purpose of Health Coaching.

Our team make sure that all assessments are followed up with help and guidance so that they continue to drive behaviour change within your workforce. Health coaching is an integral part of the process; employees feel supported and assisted on their journey to better health outcomes under the expert guidance of the proactive physiology and coaching team. Coaching sessions are delivered at times to suit the employee and over whatever platform they feel is right for them whether that be telephone, video or email. With the support network around them, the employee tends to feel more comfortable as they make the small but important lifestyle changes that can provide the health outcome they need.

3. What does a typical health coaching session look like? Are there follow-up sessions and what do they look like?

Having taken part in one of our onsite health assessments, or on completion of the AXA Health Age Calculator on the Health Gateway, our online health portal, any employee that is identified as having a high health risk will be invited to attend a Personal Wellbeing session via the phone. They can then elect to ‘opt-in’ whereby they will be signposted to the most appropriate combinations of coaching, counselling and/or intervention services. These services would be funded via the company’s Intervention Fund.

A Health Coaching Programme is typically a 12 week process. The coach and employee will discuss relevant targets and goals and how these can be met by following expert advice and utilising specific support geared towards their needs. The employee and coach then have regular contact throughout the 12 week period covering any areas of concern, answering questions and providing additional support and being signposted to resources. On the completion of the coaching sessions, there is a follow-up wellbeing assessment where the goals are re-visited and discussed. By the end of the 12 week coaching course participants are usually well on their way to improved health outcomes.

By entering their details on the AXA Health Age Calculator the employee can access their health age and measure improvements as they progress through their coaching plan. The Health Gateway provides ongoing health information and guidance on diet, exercise and a range of health topics, and available 24/7 on any device it literally puts help at the end of your employees’ fingertips.

4. How do employees benefit from Health Coaching?

At AXA Health we’re setting out to deliver the ultimate win/win. Employees improve their energy, confidence and future health; employers gain in productivity.

Health Coaching has been proven to help facilitate positive behaviour changes. In fact employees are more likely to achieve their goals and reduce their health risks when taking part in a programme as measured support and goal setting helps to increase and maintain engagement. Testimonials from employees across our portfolio strongly support this.

“I had a coach that was there to answer any questions via e-mails and over the phone, this was done in a completely non intrusive way, and at my pace, they were there when I needed them. I was given help and advice/education about the things I should be avoiding and adding into my diet with suggestions on how to begin bringing exercise into my life. This was through conversations and backed up with articles and links to look at.”

AXA Health member 

5. What are the business benefits of Health Coaching? Will I see a reduction in absenteeism for example?

High health risks go hand-in-hand with productivity issues. At AXA Health we work on a research backed model that shows how a reduction in health risks per employee can generate a ROI for employers. Health Coaching is targeted at the higher risk individuals who represent the most significant ROI for the organisation.

The challenge measuring the business benefit because, although there are established methodologies to calculate presenteeism it is then complex to put a productivity cost on different job roles. In short, the cost of measuring the benefit is greater than just doing the programme. Therefore AXA Health have drawn on the scientific literature to calculate the time recovered from removing health risks and thereby set targets and deliverables for our programmes.

6. What results and successes have you seen so far through the implementation of health coaching with clients?

We see lower weight and healthy improvements in cholesterol and blood pressure. Our clients with Health Coaching have shown a reduction of around 3,340 health risks across 1,225 employees. This has had the added benefit of making these employees collectively 2,681 years younger.

AXA Health Health Coaching figures (May 2017)

Health Coaching – experience is everything

It can be hard to quantify the value of a service like Health Coaching, but one way is by collecting feedback from those who have experienced the service. That’s why we thought you’d like to see how a referral to the Health Coaching Programme for one employee helped them realise a health goal they weren’t aware they had.

"… I turned up for my AXA ‘Know Your Numbers’ (KYN) appointment not really knowing what to expect, the assessment was completed by the health coach who was thorough and informative and this is where my 12 week AXA journey started.

During my initial assessment it was identified that my cholesterol was extremely high (8.7 and should be <5) and although it was recommended that I visit my GP we continued to discuss my current diet and lack of exercise, but the communication and support didn’t stop there. The following day I received a call from a dedicated Health Coach where we discussed potential incremental but sustainable life changes, set realistic goals (dietary & exercise) and follow up sessions.

During the next 12 weeks, the support and communication between the dedicated heath coach and myself was fundamental to the outcome. Every week I received an email to check that I was sticking to what had been agreed, how I was feeling and provide nutritional advice. In addition to the weekly contact, the health coach was always available if I had any questions and even provided detailed advice and guidance to my own cholesterol reducing research e.g. Beetroot Juice, Porridge, Hot Baths/Saunas and even Alcohol studies.

Six weeks in, reduced portion size, healthier meals, oily fish, fruit & veg rather than corporate cake time and light exercise (up to 30-60 mins per day) had started to pay dividend and my weight and cholesterol had reduced and now registering at 6.6. These results and the continued support from AXA made me even more determined.

Twelve week point, my cholesterol is at the lowest it’s ever (5.7) and is no longer a concern and has prevented me having to take Statins daily for the rest of my life. In addition I’ve lost 4cm from my waist, an acceptable BMI and feel great!

Overall the support during the 12 week programme has been outstanding, without the service provided by AXA and supported by my employer, my risk of heart attack or stroke would have continued to increase and who knows what would have happened.

Making realistic incremental life changes that can be maintained for the rest of your life, really could save your life."

AXA Health member


Dr Chris Tomkins



Chris combines both business experience with his doctorate in molecular biology, giving him an understanding of and passion for solutions against the diverse range of risks created by modern lifestyles, including challenges such as diabetes and hypertension.

If you would like to find out more about Health Coaching please email the team.