How employers can support health and wellbeing at work

14 Jan 2019

Employers who take a lead on workplace health can have a positive impact on their employees’ health and wellbeing, with clear business benefits.

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that, across the UK, over 26 million working days were lost last year due to work-related ill health.

Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for the majority of sick days, with other common issues including general ill health and musculoskeletal disorders.

Based on the customers that had a Bupa health assessment last year, 59% reported that they had felt stress or strain in the past month. According to the healthcare company, this equates to almost 28,000 people putting their health at risk and potentially needing time away from work.

Dr Petra Simic, medical director for Bupa Health Clinics, said it makes business sense for employers to tackle these problems head-on by having the right employee support in place.

“More employees are experiencing work-related health problems, which is ultimately impacting business productivity,” she explained.

“The key to better health is prevention, early diagnosis and intervention, so it’s important to take a proactive approach when it comes to employee health. While sometimes employees needing time off work is unavoidable, employers can play an important role to engage with and understand their team’s health concerns and help them where they can.”

Dr Simic outlined five ways employers can support everyone’s health and wellbeing at work:

1. Ban presenteeism

It’s important that employers encourage unwell employees to go home and rest. Not resting during a period of sickness can worsen health problems and, if it’s a viral illness, there’s a chance it will spread within the workplace.

2. Encourage a health MOT

Allowing flexibility to attend medical appointments during working hours and providing the opportunity to have regular health assessments will help employees make the right lifestyle choices and be healthier in the long term. In turn, this can increase productivity and improve retention levels. What’s more, having a proactive approach to workplace wellbeing can also help attract new talent.

3. Operate an open door policy

Encourage colleagues at all levels, from leaders through to entry level, to be open about any health issues they might be experiencing.

4. Put health on the agenda

Consider inviting mental health experts into the office to offer guidance and support, or inviting a specialist for consultations during awareness periods such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You could also set up sessions on behaviour change to empower employees to reduce or curb unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking.

5. Lead by example

To ensure a good work-life balance, employers should encourage employees to leave on time, leading by example, and make sure they know there is no expectation to check and respond to emails once they leave the office. As Bupa explains, leaving on time and disconnecting from work could mean someone getting home an hour earlier, making the school pickup on time or making it to the gym class they promised themselves they’d go to. These small differences can have a huge impact on someone’s physical and mental wellbeing and in turn, help them to feel more refreshed and motivated when they’re back at work the next day.

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