Improve health and wellbeing in the workplace

Why is health and wellbeing in the workplace so important?

The health and wellbeing of your staff is paramount to business success. Every business relies on it’s members of staff to drive productivity – whether that’s designing something, manufacturing, line management or distribution. The wellbeing of staff is paramount to productivity as it is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.

A major contribution to the costs associated to productivity are personnel – on a purely monetary level this encompasses:

employee wellbeing
  • Wages
  • Benefits
  • Sick leave payments, including long term sickness and occupational health costs
  • Cover for individuals on sick leave

 

How productivity is affected by employee’s wellbeing

Aspects that affect the productivity of individuals, can be:

  • Motivation levels
  • How secure staff feel in their roles
  • Staff ability to adapt to change
  • How stressed staff are
  • Staff working whilst ill

It need not be a major event that causes stress and impacts on health and wellbeing. There can be a cumulative effect of daily stressors.  These can be routine challenges of day-to-day living; everyday concerns of work, caring for other people, commuting, unexpected work deadlines, and malfunctioning computers1. These piling up over a series of days can create persistent irritations, frustrations, and overloads that may result in more serious stress reactions such as anxiety and depression [Lazarus, 1999; Zautra, 2003].

It is also well researched and reported that peoples mental state impacts on their physical wellbeing. An example being that those with depression have a 2-fold increase in the odds of getting cancer. xxxxx

 

The impact of mental health on businesses

Sixty percent of employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work. Almost a third of the workforce have been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue. The most common diagnosis was depression or general anxiety2.

More than two in five admit they often feel stressed or anxious at work3.

A report conducted in 2015 from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) estimated the cost of long-term sickness absence (six months or more) at £4.17 billion to private sector businesses in the UK.

 

stressed at work

Unfortunately, we are a nation of treaters instead of instilling the resilience and right thinking to allow for preventative management. It takes longer to resolve the situation if an individual has reached the tipping point of long term sickness.

Companies may have staff welfare at heart but in fact staff may not feel comfortable talking about mental health. In a BBC article in December 2017, a poll of 2,025 UK workers found that only 16% said they would raise the matter with a line manager.

Some of the reasons for not speaking to a line manager may be:

  • Perceived stigmas with mental health
  • They feel they will be seen as not performing
  • The risk that they could be demoted or not promoted
  • It may limit their progression or opportunities

So what can we do about it?

Suggestion 1: Independent health and wellbeing staff member

A simple step would be to identify an appropriate member of staff who can be the ‘go to person’ for any employee wellbeing issues. This person should be an independent person, who can then work with the employee and support them in discussions with the line manager.

 

Suggestion 2: Stress gauge

Running a business is a delicate balance between pushing for success whilst bringing your staff along with the journey. Challenging staff to a level that won’t break them can be difficult. Having the simplicity of a “stress gauge” that individuals consider on a weekly basis can give an indication as to when stress levels are rising and becoming ‘the norm’ at an unacceptable level or rise to level that starts to affect their wellbeing (a degree of stress is not adversary).

Having awareness and an openness about levels of stress in teams or on projects can lead to considering adjustments which can still ensure a successful outcome i.e. proactive people and project management.

 

Suggestion 3: Investing in health and wellbeing pays off

Research has shown that active intervention has benefited companies – benefiting both the staff and productivity.

For example, for a company with 500 employees, where all employees undergo intervention, it is estimated that an initial investment of £40,000 will result in a net return of £347,722 in savings, mainly due to reduced productivity, due to an employee working while ill) and absenteeism (missing work due to ill health)4.

In addition, findings suggest that those businesses who invest in their employees’ health and wellbeing are reaping the rewards. Of those that offer health and wellbeing benefits, more than three in four (77%) believe this has had a positive impact on the workforce. Employers also report increased happiness levels (41%) among employees with improved morale (32%) and productivity (30%) as a result of having initiatives in place to keep employees healthy5.

Suggestion 4: Teach staff how to be resilient

Resilience is the capacity to adapt and recover quickly from difficulties.  This could be a demanding time at work, an illness or companies undergoing change and uncertainty.

Resilient employees will bounce back, embrace change and see the positives rather than being stuck in their ways and resistant. In addition, employees will challenge themselves and the status quo due to confidence and knowledge that they can cope if things go wrong. All this will affect productivity, how dynamic the business is, but also staff likelihood of becoming ill (either mental or physical illness).

 

In conclusion, investing in staff health and wellbeing will ensure a healthy, mentally resilient workforce. Actions such as giving them help and support, being open and approachable aswell as proactive intervention are beneficial. This makes staff more loyal, productive, will reduce sick leave and motivate them to go the extra mile.