We spend a vast proportion of our waking hours at work. The average worker will clock up the equivalent of 10.3 continuous years working during their lifetime – compared to just 115 days laughing. No wonder that workplaces can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing.
Nearly 1-in-3 people of working age suffer a long-term health condition, and up to five million workers are coping with a mental health condition according to the 2018 CBI report Front of Mind. The CBI found that UK productivity lags behind France and the US by around 30% – with much of the gap down to poor employee health and wellbeing.
Why enhance employee wellbeing?
Employee wellbeing has become a major trend in the UK. According to the 2018 Health And Well-being At Work Survey published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, businesses with health and wellbeing programmes felt they have better employee engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture, and lower levels of sick leave.
The CBI found that businesses that focused on delivering health and wellbeing benefits increased their financial performance by as much as 10%. Three-fifths of employees view managing their health as a priority, with 56% believing their employer has a role to play in helping them live healthier lives.
Health and fitness activities to improve employee wellbeing
Helping staff keep physically active can have a huge impact on employee wellbeing. From organising free eye checks and lunchtime walks to providing relaxation and exercise classes, there are solutions for all sizes of business.
Healthy lifestyle support – This covers a range of activities to help educate and support employees in improving their overall health. This can include replacing office snacks with healthier alternatives and helping employees to quit smoking.
Exercise and fitness – Programmes that improve fitness, from lunchtime strolls and walking meetings where 1-2-1s are held while on foot rather than at a desk, are cheap to implement. Alternatively, gym membership costs from around £10 to £100 per month per employee depending on the gym chain you choose.
Health screening – Free eye tests, health screening and flu vaccinations are a great way to keep employees in tip-top shape. Free eye checks are a must if work involves screen use, while flu vaccinations can reduce the number of sick days taken in winter.
Staff support to improve employee wellbeing
Factors affecting employee wellbeing aren’t limited to physical health. Actively develop a workplace culture that is mental-health positive, encouraging staff to raise mental health, stress and anxiety issues. Public Health England has a helpful series of toolkits to help ensure good working practices to reduce stress, as well as mental and physical tiredness.
Counselling services – Counselling services are usually phone-based services that are free and anonymous for staff to call. Staff can discuss problems and worries in confidence and get advice from trained counsellors.
Relaxation and physiotherapy – Relaxation classes such as yoga and meditation sessions have been gaining in popularity, with practitioners visiting offices and offering group sessions during lunch or after office hours.
Use HSE stress management standards – The Health and Safety Executive has a number of templates and guidelines for assessing your workplace and creating a plan to address work-related stress. Downloads include the HSE Tackling Stress workbook and guides on how to have practical, positive conversations with staff.
Insurance policies for employee wellbeing
Financial and health worries can pile on stress. Consider introducing employee benefits such as private medical insurance and income protection. Not only can they help unwell staff make a speedier recovery, but they give staff peace of mind in case they are unable to work for a while. According to the CBI’s Front of Mind report, 89% of businesses say that offering private health insurance is a popular policy.
Private medical insurance – Private medical insurance costs around £45 per employee per month according to Payment Sense. Some policies can be extended to cover family members, and many don’t require a medical before staff are accepted onto the scheme.
Group income protection – Provides a percentage of income if an employee is signed off unwell for an extended period. It provides peace of mind for employees, especially those with dependents.
Company culture for employee wellbeing
Actively supporting employee wellbeing plays a vital role in boosting staff health. Small touches, such as encouraging employees to take regular breaks and taking time to have a proper lunch break, can help productivity and reduce workplace stress.
Adopt an open-door policy – Encourage staff to speak up if they’re feeling stressed. Make employees aware of any health and wellbeing benefits the business offers such as counselling services.
Flexible working hours – From ad hoc work from home days to simply allowing staff to take emergency days without losing holiday helps develop a positive working environment. Flexible working hours can help achieve a better work-life balance.
Praise and recognition – The easiest and simplest way to boost staff morale and employee wellbeing is to be generous with praise for a job well done. Regularly recognise employees, say thank you for a good effort, and give out small rewards.