Sick employees mean sick workplaces.

September 8, 2016    Andrew Peers     

Wellbeing is the new watchword of workplaces. New figures, reports and case studies are published each day highlighting the growing responsibility of employers to make sure staff are healthy as well as productive.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published its newest report last month which reveals that even though staff absences cost business £554 per worker each year, workplace wellbeing is rarely used proactively to try and combat it. For large Plcs with headcounts in the hundreds if not thousands, this is a staggering cost. For smaller businesses with fewer employees, this can be even more onerous.

So why is investment in employee wellbeing, performance and health considered so lightly in an age where employers need to extract even more value from their workers?

Don’t think for a moment that workplace wellbeing is an airy-fairy concept, one that has little real impact on working practice, performance or people, or just a passing fad. Reports that show that there is unequivocal link between our health, motivation and the environments we occupy. One of the most common causes for workplace sick days is stress, anxiety and depression (responsible for circa 15 million days each year) as well as musculoskeletal conditions (back and neck pain in particular).  It’s easy to see the link between these health issues and the workplace.

Such is the seriousness of this topic that the Government has created a Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit, a new movement has been borne to ‘Get Britain Standing’ and businesses of all shapes and sizes are starting to build wellbeing into their day-to-day operations.

Workplace wellbeing comes from organisational wellbeing. Companies that operate effectively and efficiently with engaged staff. For employees that’s about having work that is meaningful and fulfilling and enjoying effective relationships with colleagues, all in an efficient, safe, fit for purpose environment. Businesses that understand wellbeing give their employees the tools they need to do the job, fulfil their goals and maintain work-life balance too.

Take responsibility for your workplace wellbeing and ensure you reduce sick levels and keep your workplace in rude health by considering some of our tips:

1. Set some goals. Work out how much sickness costs your business each year and set some targets so you can monitor the effects of any workplace wellbeing initiatives you put in place. Work out your staff attrition levels and the costs associated with attracting new talent too. This will prove a useful benchmark when assessing workplace performance in the future.

2. Survey staff (anonymously is best for honest answers) about how they feel about stress, pressure at work and work life balance. The answers will help you understand where you need to improve workplace wellbeing.

3. Consider how technology can support a more agile way of working – are you taking full advantage of all the flexibility that mobile technology offers? Could employees work from home? Reduce the time driving to meetings or enjoy quicker ways of working?

4. Think about introducing motivating and inspiring initiatives to support your team–run classes on healthy eating or make fresh fruit free to staff, install showers so those who cycle or run to work can freshen up or launch a book club to encourage people to take a break at lunch.

5. Build more flexibility into your working week. It doesn’t work for every business but could you give your employees more choice over the hours they work and how they organise their day? Would more part-time and job share options help you keep hold of good staff for longer?

6. Think about the basics – sound, light and ventilation. Noisy environments can be very difficult to work in; improved office acoustics would aid concentration and wellbeing. Better light and ventilation will keep people alert and focused.

7. Put buddy systems in place so that your employees know there is a friendly support network for anything that’s worrying them, in or out of work.

8. Provide online access to doctors and other health professional during working hours and reduce time away from work.

9. Consider whether simple improvements to your communal areas such as break out spaces and the kitchen, would give your staff more opportunity to come together, talk and relax.

10. Create more diverse spaces in your work environment – is your workplace stimulating, welcoming and pleasant? Perhaps less focus on traditional desking and more task-orientated spaces would better support staff and keep them stimulated too.

Put wellbeing on the agenda. Don’t wait until staff leave for your competitors’ businesses. The right wellbeing initiatives will put money in the bank through improved productivity, reduced sick days and less staff attrition.

As Professor Carey Cooper said in the latest CIPD research report “…the way we manage people and creative cultures that enhance wellbeing are now bottom-line issues.”

To find out more about workplace wellbeing and how to write a wellbeing agenda, download our Workplace Wellbeing whitepaper, which is full of guidance and advice:



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