by Melanie Astbury, HR Manager at officekitten.co.uk
There are multiple reasons why looking after the health of your staff is a good thing.
But crucially, aside from the moral and ethical implications, it impacts on your bottom line:
1. Why a healthy workforce = a healthy bottom line.
In today’s working world more people are working longer hours to fulfil the workload previously shared between more employees. It’s the reality of today’s economy. But the only way that workers can sustain that level of productivity, is if you look after their health.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 131 million days were lost to sickness in the UK in 2013. The top three reasons were neck and back pain (31 million days), minor illnesses such as coughs and colds (27 million days) and stress, anxiety and depression (15 million days).
Companies that focus on preventing these types of illness put themselves in the strongest position to reduce absenteeism.
2. It needn’t be expensive.
As you know with most things in life, prevention is cheaper than a cure. If we look at the top reasons for sick leave, most can be prevented. With the right chairs and desks, staff can reduce injures caused by bad posture. With initiatives that encourage a healthy lifestyle, for example providing fruit in the office and making it possible for staff to go to the gym before, after or during work by implementing flexible hours, we can help ward off minor illnesses. With a supportive environment and a more realistic approach to work-life balance we can alleviate the pressure that can cause stress and anxiety.
3. It can be financially beneficial.
The cycle to work scheme is a good example. Yes, you do have to cover the initial cost of a bike upfront. But then, not only do you get that money back in full, in instalments through salaries, but you are also exempt from paying Employers National Insurance on that deduction. For a company of 10, this equates to a saving of around £35. However when you include the employee’s benefits such as a tax-free bike, and the associated health and environmental benefits, it’s a no-brainer.
4. Invest in what matters.
Certain conditions are exacerbated by extended periods of sitting. They include obesity, certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. A recent study even found that if the average American reduced his or her sitting time to three hours per day, life expectancy would climb by two years.
As a result, one of our suppliers recently invested in standing desks. Now, they’re not cheap and it meant taking money from the fund they use for annual bonuses. However they prioritised increased life expectancy above a one-off financial reward.
With that in mind it’s worth prioritising where money for staff perks is spent. Would a regular Friday night tab behind the local pub be better replaced with a free healthy breakfast on a Monday morning?
It’s important that staff perceive a culture that is supportive of well-being. It’s one thing to advocate for a healthy approach to life. It’s another to be seen as encouraging one. Actions are better than words. Promote the initiatives you are implementing in staff rooms, in staff newsletters, in pay slips. Whether it’s a cycle to work scheme or flexible hours, ensure that staff feel that you want them to take up these benefits. To that end, don’t make employees feel guilty if they want to leave on time to make a gym class, or take their full lunch entitlement to go for a run.
6. Recognising mental health.
We all say that we are stressed. However it’s important to recognise that for some it’s a medical issue that can be exacerbated by work. Providing an environment in which work stress can be minimised and issues can be freely discussed is important. Mental healthcare provision in the office can take many forms: I know some blue chips offer counselling and access to life coaches. For SMEs this is an unrealistic provision. However being approachable so that employees know they can come to you if they are anxious about their workload, or if they recognise the onset of recurring mental health problems is invaluable.
Melanie Astbury is the HR Manager of officekitten.co.uk, supplier of office stationery and office supplies.