happy workplace

It’s no secret that employee health and well-being is a critical factor in the success of a business. Sick leave costs the UK over £12 billion a year, and employers an average of £495, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Even if you happen to recruit a self-employed workforce, ensuring the health and well-being of the people who work for you is a good way of keeping both sick days and costs down to a minimum.

What workplace factors can impact employee health?

There are a range of things that can affect a person’s general health in the workplace. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of them are common and most can be avoided. Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Overtime and hours worked
  • Social support provisions
  • Conflict between work and outside life
  • Perceived fairness and justice
  • Economic security and layoffs

Aside from the above, it has also been found that factors such as office design and building architecture can affect the health, well-being, and productivity of staff.

In 2014, the World Green Building Council (WGBC) convened 60 experts from 40 businesses across 20 countries to find that there is a great body of evidence to demonstrate that the physical work environment can affect the health and productivity of an office employee.

The report, released by the WGBC, found that indoor air quality, thermal comfort, good views, daylight, and pleasant acoustics played crucial roles in creating a healthy workplace.

Interestingly, neuroscientists have suggested that workers with offices that have windows receive 173% more white light exposure, and on average, sleep 46 minutes more per night than those who do not.

But not everyone has the opportunity to change the style or layout of their offices. So what else can an employer do to maintain staff health?

office people talking

Break the mental health taboo

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four of us will be affected by mental illness during our lives, and it is important that this is understood in the workplace, as research shows that 90 per cent of people with mental health problems will experience some form of stigma.

The Department of Health states that:

“From a business perspective, proactive management of employees’ mental and physical health can produce a range of benefits, including reduction of sickness absence, greater staff engagement and productivity, and reduced staff turnover, recruitment and costs.

“Making a few small adjustments to enable a member of staff to continue doing their job is far less expensive than the costs incurred through recruiting and training a new employee.”

The NHS is currently running a Mindful Employer initiative, and you can find out more information about mental illness in the workplace, here.

Take notice and be active

A paper released in 2003 by Let’s Make Scotland More Active highlighted the fact that “workplaces are an ideal setting to reach a large section of the adult population”, and that the pressure of work is one of the most common barriers to increasing physical activity.

Evidence suggests that businesses that encourage physical activity report less illness, experience less work absences (down by 27 per cent), and find their staff more productive.

The paper suggested walking, cycling, games, planned exercise, weight lifting, and team fitness activities (such as five-a-side football) as a way to promote well-being.

fruit on desk

Offer healthy alternatives to biscuits and cakes

A study carried out by health and well-being consultancy, vielife, found that a healthy employee is up to 20 per cent more productive than an unhealthy one.

It is an idea therefore, to try and offer healthy eating incentives in the office. Many workplaces have introduced free fruit baskets for staff.

In a separate survey, 79 per cent of staff found that fruit made them feel more valued as employees, and 81 per cent thought that having fresh fruit available at their desk had actually, “improved their quality of life at work.”

What’s more, 45 per cent found that they ate fewer unhealthy snacks when fruit was provided.

Communicate company benefits

Quite often a company will promote benefit packages when they are introduced, and then assume that new starters and part-timers will be aware of them later on down the line.

If you offer reduced gym membership or free eye tests for example, make sure your employees are aware of them. This can be done via social media, staff notices and included in handbooks.

According to a report by Cass Business School, failing to effectively tell staff about employee benefits costs UK businesses around £2.7 billion every year through increased staff turnover and sickness absence.

Gym membership


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