Why are health and wellbeing important?
For individuals, this is simple. Maintenance of physical fitness and mental stability reduces mortality and increases happiness and a sense of worth.
For organisations, of course, there is a morality element but it has many benefits to the business at large too. Happy and healthy employees are productive, present and engaged employees which ultimately generates more revenue and a positive reputation.
The Financial Times November 2019 Health at Work report revealed employees who have financial concerns are losing more than twice as much productive time than those without, and report on significantly unhealthier lifestyle choices.
The report also found that:
- 56.4% of surveyed employees suffer from at least one dimension of work-related stress.
- 35.1% of employees reported having felt unwell as a consequence of work-related stress.
- Financial concerns are very common, with 51.1% of employees reporting at least some level of concern.
- Productivity loss is higher amongst lower-income workers and younger workers.
This clearly demonstrates that businesses could benefit from less absenteeism and more productivity if there was greater financial and lifestyle support/education/reward available.
AccountancyAge reported that British workers will spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetime. The average person will also work 188 days of overtime during their professional life.
Whilst organisations are not to blame for an entire person’s wellbeing, they are certainly responsible for a large proportion of it.
According to The Health at Work report, employees who took part in the survey lost 14.6% of their working hours due to absence and presenteeism, representing a loss of 38 productive days per employee per year. The loss of productive time has increased steadily since 2014, where employees were losing 23 days.
The Labour Force Survey also represented similar concerns.
There were 828,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or longstanding) in 2019/20. And 17.9 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/20.
Phrases like ‘don’t bring your problems to work’ have created stigmatised attitudes to the very trait of being open and honest about your physical and mental struggles in the workplace. The above statistics also show how some of these problems are created at work - and yet these issues can be left solely for the employee’s household to manage.
Whilst a stable home environment is integral to an individual’s wellbeing, this does not stop the spread of mismanagement of workplace stress which could fall on a person who does not benefit from that support network.
How do you promote health and wellbeing?
We can bet that an employee will remember the time you gave your full understanding and support to their personal issue, more than the time you bought everyone lunch.
Contributing to your employee’s health and wellbeing isn’t about installing a trendy pinball machine or cake on Friday afternoons. Whilst these things can contribute to job satisfaction, you cannot rely on them to promote a culture where an individual’s health and wellbeing will thrive.
It’s about creating a culture and an environment where their physical and mental health needs are understood and acted upon where possible.
A management style that incorporates praise; effective communication; wellbeing budgets; an understanding that sick days include mental health; promotion of healthy lifestyle choices; encouragement of taking screen breaks and walks; and mental health first aiders - are all just a few examples of the things that can really contribute towards long-term health and wellbeing.
But the secret to really help your employees? Ask them.
You can press forward with big plans and strategies but if they do not adhere to your workforce on an individual level then it’s simply wasted time and money. Have conversations. Ask employees what you can be doing to better support them. And listen.
Encouragingly, The CIPD, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Health and wellbeing at work 2020 report found the following:
• A gradual increase in the proportion of organisations including counselling services and employee assistance programmes among their wellbeing benefits.
• Financial well-being remains further down the agenda, but we are seeing a gradual increase in the proportion of organisations that include financial education among their well-being programmes.
However, the same report shows 37% of respondents have seen an increase in stress-related absence over the last year, with the top two causes of stress are heavy workloads and management style. There was also a 60% increase in reports in common mental health conditions.