7 changes to improve employee health and wellbeing
According to statistics from the UK Health & Safety Executive, over 27 million working days were lost to sickness and workplace-related injury in 2014/15. When businesses act to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff, it leads to:
- Increased productivity
- Fewer days off sick
- Less presenteeism
- Happier employees
- Lower long-term healthcare costs
So there is a strong business case for proactivity in this regard. Obviously businesses have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees, but the best companies go much further than basic compliance…….
1. Noise Levels
By law, if you have employees who are regularly exposed to prolonged and loud noise, such as in factory or construction work, you are obliged to assess, reduce or eliminate the risks, such as by providing ear protection and hearing surveillance. Experts such as Hidden Hearing can provide advice and support for any employees who are experiencing difficulties.
2. Encourage Exercise
Point your employees in the right direction by enabling them to stay fit. Install a bike rack at the workplace, and incentivise anyone who currently uses public transport or car to get to work to switch to their feet or a bike. Some companies partner up with local gyms for discounted employee memberships. Management can set a great example by using the stairs instead of the lift.
If your company provides food for staff, such as in the canteen, then try to include as many healthy options as possible to menus or vending machines. If not, then you can for limited expenditure place a supply of healthy snacks such as fruit, juice or crackers, around the workplace.
4. Mental Health
The number of UK employees coming forward about mental health problems is on the rise, but this should not be a barrier to employment if well managed. Keep an eye out for signs of stress or anxiety among your employees and encourage them to talk about it, possibly with a volunteer on the staff, or if the circumstances dictate a professional. Stress can be alleviated by taking a short walk several times a day for some fresh air, not working too much overtime, and not trying to handle too much, so management has a responsibility to ensure their workforce are not being pushed to the limit.
5. Prevent Spread of Infection
If an employee is clearly ill with something potentially infectious such as coughs, colds and flu but still struggling to come into work, you should insist that they remain at home until they are completely better, or it will not only take them longer for them to recover but they are likely spread the infection through the workplace – as well as anyone unfortunate enough to sit next to them on the bus or train. Installing disinfecting hand wash by doors etc. may further limit the spread of germs.
While every year the number of UK smokers falls, many adults still do enjoy a few cigarettes during the working day. If possible, you should have a designated smoking area away from other buildings so that non-smoking employees are not adversely affected. Otherwise, if staff are smoking in the car park or on the pavement outside, the smoke can drift back in through the door or windows, or pose a hazard to passers-by. You might also consider making stop smoking information available and funding hypnotherapy sessions for anyone serious about giving up the smoking habit.
7. Ageing Population
The UK population is ageing. A third of the labour force will be aged over 50 by 2020, which means that employers must adapt in order to comply with age discrimination legislation, which increasingly may include workplace adjustments to accommodate specific age-related issues. For instance, vision begins to deteriorate in many people after around the age of 40, and hearing after 60, so proper lighting in the workplace and noise reduction techniques are advisable. Physical abilities such as strength and reaction times may also deteriorate with age so task-management will need to be considered. All these aspects should be discussed openly during regular staff appraisals without making employees feel uncomfortable. It should be clear that mature employees are valued as experienced members of staff and that these and other similar issues can easily be accommodated.
Article by Patrick Vernon on behalf of Hidden Hearing.