Employee wellbeing is fast becoming the next big thing in employment relations, with many companies drawing a link between low productivity and the unhealthy lifestyles of staff.
Rising obesity, Stress Levels and sickness absence have all been blamed on things like bad diet, a lack of exercise and poor lifestyle choices.
The growing Long Working Hours culture in the UK coupled with the fact that most people work in an office environment all feed into what is becoming a growing problem. Few people have the time to exercise because of the demands of their job and with the growth of the ‘desk diners’ culture, junk food is also becoming a problem.
However, more and more employers and workers groups are pushing the heath at work agenda with some of the more forward looking businesses introducing employee wellbeing schemes.
Health at Work
Good health is currently moving up the corporate and public agenda with all sides agreeing that people in the UK need to focus more on healthy living.
The Labour government has launched a raft of public health initiatives but in the workplace companies are becoming more interested in improving heath because of the impact on staff.
According to the latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) the average employee takes eight days off sick every year at a cost to the economy of £599 per person.
Separate research suggests 200 million working days are lost to sickness absence every year, at the cost of an estimated £12bn to the British economy.
These figures are galvanising many firms into action and looking into schemes that can help staff improve their health. Other conditions such as obesity and stress-related illnesses are also being linked to poor health, which can ultimately lead to staff leaving work and not coming back.
More than a quarter of firms now have a health and wellbeing scheme in place designed to help improve the physical and mental health of their employees.
Some of these schemes include:
- Stop Smoking Campaigns as well as support for staff looking to quit tobacco.
- Regular health checks and advice for staff.
- Healthy eating campaigns and dietary advice for employees.
- Free access to Occupational Health professionals.
- Confidential counselling.
- Specialist advice on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
- Medical screening to identify serious diseases.
- Advice on nutrition, exercise and relaxation.
Some companies now have a health strategy for their staff so you should check with the HR team in your workplace for any further details.
Fitness at Work
Most people say they would like to improve their fitness and employers are now getting wise to the fact that fitter workers are happier, healthy and less likely to be off sick.
Naturally fitness is a big part of being more healthy and the government has recognised this in a new strategy called Health, Work and Wellbeing – Caring for our Future.
This is designed to improve the health of all working age people through a coordinated process involving employers, employees and several government departments.
This strategy contains a range of ideas and initiatives to create more healthy workplaces and is currently being implemented by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Some of the various schemes to improve workplace fitness include:
- Cycle to work initiatives, where employers provide access to bikes and cycle parking.
- Sponsored step campaigns where workers agree to walk a certain distance in aid of a charity.
- Any workplace can get involved in Sport England’s Everyday Sport campaign which has loads of great ideas for keeping active while at work. A pilot campaign in the North East of England helped reduce sickness absence by 5% in just four months. Several employers got involved by arranging 5-a-side football tournaments; ban the lift days and office games.
- Some workplaces offer subsidised swimming or arrange trips to local swimming pools during the lunch hour.
- Employers will often provide some sort of gym membership scheme.
- The BBC’s Big Challenge was one of the biggest workplace fitness programmes. This brought together a range of experts to suggest ways of staying fit at work. It helped thousands of people transform their workplace through office workouts and shared exercise sessions.
More Sources of Advice
- The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
- The Health and Safety Executive
- Trade Union Congress
- Sport England Active Nation