Viewpoint: Wellbeing in the workplace –a more holistic approach
- Date: Tuesday 29th September 2015
With long term health issues on the rise across the world, all eyes are now on employers to support people with ongoing illnesses and develop a general focus on well-being within their organisation. However, what causes us to be unwell due to non-specific illnesses and what can employers reasonably do to support good health?
According to the Office of National Statistics 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013. Arguably, most absence are related to accidents or underlying medical conditions.
However, according to the HSE 244,000 cases could be attributed to work related stress, depression or anxiety. In 2014, Diabetes levels rose to 6% of the population now being registered as diabetic, with roughly 90% of cases being Type 2, which is typically triggered by obesity and unhealthy life styles. Considering that many of these cases would have been avoidable and are merely a result of modern day living, education and habit changes are now the focus of healthcare professionals.
Clearly, lost working time has a massive impact on all employers, which is why the notion of workplace wellbeing is one to be seriously considered. Additionally, stress related illnesses caused by work pressures can have long term effects on individuals and personal injury claims attached to employment tribunal claims are now becoming more common.
Shift work also receives a lot of attention at the moment, with health professionals debating the impact of shift rotation on our wellbeing. Long term shift workers are reporting a variety of symptoms from insomnia to obesity and depression and it will only be a matter of time until current guidelines will have to be revisited.
What can Employers do?
Although ultimately employees are responsible for their own health, employers are expected to manage the risks they are exposed to in the workplace.
This might include:
- Assess stress levels in respect to environment and working conditions, workload and expectations and general organisational culture. This can be done through a risk assessment, survey or via an external advisor such as SSG.
- On 10th October 2015, workplaces all over the world will take part in World Mental Health Day – a great opportunity for you to get involved! https://www.bhf.org.uk/health-at-work/events/newsletters/september-2015/world-mental-health-day?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=590264_HEALTHATWORK%20E-Newsletter%20September&utm_source=dotmailer&dm_i=2FKD,CNG8,49AOCA,TBG3,1
- Provide adequate welfare facilities, including a sheltered area for breaks and clean toilets.
- Review food subsidies. If you provide or pay towards staff lunches, you may want to consider healthy eating options or more variety. This does not mean you have to offer lettuce to your construction workers. But you might want to consider swapping the sticky toffee pudding for a fruit salad.
- Sign up to wellbeing initiatives such as a cycle to work scheme. They will not cost much but add to your employee benefits list. Or why not create your own initiatives? You can have internal sporting competitions or strike a deal with your local gym to support people on their journey to better health.
- Get advice and guidance. The Wellbeing Charter is an NHS funded organisation, providing helpful advice and guidance to employers and accrediting their efforts through a certification process. Signing up to the charter can not only have a positive impact on attendance and retention but also reflects on you as an employer and scores points if you are applying for IIP certification. Alternatively, you can ask an occupational health advisor, your local council or HR provider for advice and support (www.wellbeingcharter.org.uk).