Improving the health of your staff and the nation

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Britain’s Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, has suggested that employers should provide free fruit to their staff. This is one of  the new measures that make up an initiative to encourage employers to “help improve the health of their staff and the nation”.

He also wants companies to learn some lessons from the military – injured soldiers have an 85% return to work rate after injury, whereas for civilians it’s just 35%.

This discrepancy is likely for many complex reasons, but the strategy is going to begin with loans to buy bicycles to encourage cycling to work, and making counselling services readily available to employees. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Some companies offer these things to their staff already.

Ensuring your employees are as physically and mentally healthy as possible obviously has myriad benefits for the individuals, but also for your company as a whole.  Sickness costs British businesses £77 billion per year in lost productivity. And this is not just for days off sick – it also includes “underperformance in the office as a result of ill-health.”. I’m sure we’ve all had days like that when we decide to come to work despite feeling awful and just can’t concentrate properly or get much done.

So how can avoid this? As well as the aforementioned free fruit, cycle to work schemes and counselling services, there are many things you as an employer can and should be doing to improve the health of your employees. Here are some ideas:

  1. Encourage your employees to get a flu jab. You could do this by subsidising the cost, or even arranging an onsite vaccination day at work. A report revealed that “up to £28,902,536 in sick day costs could have been saved by the flu vaccination” in 2017, so the initial outlay of money would likely pay off in the long run. 
  2. It’s one thing to have a cycle to work scheme, but what do they do when they get to work? Make sure you have bike racks in your carpark and showers so that people can freshen up when they arrive. If you don’t provide these amenities then it’s likely that people won’t want the hassle of cycling in. 
  3. Subsidise gym memberships. 
  4. Implement an HR software system that both management and staff can access to record absences, sickness information, accidents and grievances. These can all indicate employee welfare, as not only physical illness and injury impacts on productivity – if a person raises (or even regularly raises) grievances, this is a red flag and may correlate with lower productivity and time off of work. 
  5. Regularly survey employees to get their feedback on their experiences at work. It’s a useful way of monitoring morale and the general mental health of your workforce. 
  6. Offer workshops on managing stress, time management and prioritising a health work-life balance. 
  7. Introduce the option of standing desks to reduce the amount of time your employees spend sitting every day. The Lancet conducted a study on “The economic burden of physical inactivity: a global analysis of major non-communicable diseases” and this indicated that sitting too much cost the world $67.5 billion in 2013. So being less sedentary is not just good for every one of us, but it will also pay dividends to your business!

The next few months present the peak time for people to be unwell, as flu and other winter bugs are rife. It’s not too late even now to put measures into place to make the knock on effects on your staff and your business as minimal as possible. There’s no need to wait until Matt Hancock’s new initiative  to launch to start improving the health of your employees.