The key to a strong, resilient work force is ensuring that employees are in the best of health, both mentally and physically. It is no surprise that a healthy workforce performs at a high level, with high productivity and enhanced business outcomes. If your employees are healthy, they will be in work, improving your bottom line.
Calculating the return on investment of well being initiatives can be complex, so leaving those complex calculations aside, lets just look at the common sense approach of what a healthy workforce really means for business.
There has been a steady increase in the inclusion of mental wellbeing support in the workplace in the past few years, with the introduction of such things as resilience training, mental health first aiders and a push for management to be people focused. However did you know that in the CIPD’s 2016 Absence Management Survey, alongside stress, the top cause of long term absence in the workplace was acute medical conditions such as stroke, heart attacks and cancer? So are these diseases, also something that the workplace should be focusing on preventing?
Lifestyle impacts on health
It is common knowledge that poor diet, lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese are all risk factors for stroke, heart attacks and some cancers, as well as other medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. If these are the main reasons for long term absence, then it makes sense for the work place to tackle the causes of these diseases.
Unhealthy lifestyles leading a person to being overweight, are also related to mental health issues such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, which could contribute to lower resilience and increased stress within the workplace.
Another cause of absence from the workplace is musculo-skeletal issues; bad backs and repetitive strain injuries – issues that could possibly be avoided if employees were more physically active with good core strength and were able to maintain a healthy weight.
And then there’s workplace accidents – aside from sick days, they are an enormous administrative burden and potential litigation nightmare. An employee who is more physically active, fit and strong, is less likely to suffer slips, trips and falls, due to being physically stronger, more able and agile.
This therefore raises employee lifestyles as a concern not just personally for the employee, but also for the employer, because your employees lifestyles and the bottom line are inextricably linked.
Barriers to improving lifestyles
Most people know how to live a healthy lifestyle. The crux of the issue is implementing the lifestyle, and accessing the right support to ensure the right methods are used.
Generally speaking, it is fair to say that we lead really busy lives, with work and family commitments, long commutes and hectic social calendars. We often want to change our lifestyles but don’t have the time and energy to go to exercise classes or weight management groups, due to working and commuting patterns in addition to our responsibilities at home. Childcare, pet care, looking after other family members and household chores all get in the way, of achieving personal goals.
A solution is needed that allows people to learn to develop those healthy lifestyles during the working day, to remove the barriers that people experience when trying to change their lifestyle, out of work.
The workplace well-being strategy could be a way to do this. If our work environments and culture encourage us to be the best version of ourselves, not just by performing well in our roles, but also by eating well, participating in regular physical activity, as well as taking care of our mental well-being, those barriers to achieving health and well-being goals are lifted. This translates into a healthy workforce and a healthy bottom line.
Success breeds success
We believe that supporting individuals with personal goal setting and developing plans to achieve those goals, builds skills that are transferable into their work lives. This could be developing a plan to lose a particular amount of weight, or take part in an event, such as a walking a particular distance, participating in a running, swimming or cycling race, or climbing a mountain.
When individuals start to experience personal success, this soon translates into other areas of life. Once a person achieves a personal goal, the confidence this gives them allows them to expand their comfort zones and develop themselves further. Their self-esteem increases which gives them the impetus to try something new, both in their personal and professional life. They become the people that inspire, motivate and lead others. The kinds of people you want in your organisation!
A healthy organisation
A healthy workforce requires commitment from the top-down, with a well being strategy that is fully integrated into the organisation’s core purpose. A strategy that doesn’t just pay lip-service to health and well-being but actually encourages and adopts healthy behaviours throughout all it’s business processes. That might be, encouraging physical activity at breaks and lunch times, healthy eating behaviours, team building events which incorporate healthy eating and physical activity as well as networking, and regular breaks from sedentary roles, encouraging people to get up from their desks and move for a short period. These things don’t have to be complex – in fact far from it – but they do need to be part of the fabric of the organisation.
CIPD recommend that a well-being strategy also takes into account not just the physical and mental well-being of employees but the societal and wider cultural issues within the organisation. This could include something which allows your organisation to give back to the local community, or a local charity, with paid time off or flexible working for employees participating in fundraising or ‘giving back’ events. Something that gives that warm, fuzzy feeling to employees can go a long way to improving someones mental health, and making them feel valued.
When getting down to the specifics of what your well-being strategy will deliver, it is imperative that employees are involved in this – there’s no point forcing an initiative on staff, if it isn’t something they want. Staff suggestion boxes or employee surveys are a great way to gauge opinion on what is wanted and needed by staff. It’s also important to understand that one size doesn’t fit all, as everybody’s abilities and starting points are different. They will all have different journeys to make on their way to the destination of a healthier version of themselves – so to meet that there will have to be varying initiatives to help them on their way.
We’re here to help!
If you think employee lifestyles are your business, and you want to make it part of your ‘business’, have a look at Be Strong’s workplace packages. Be Strong have a strong track record of supporting thousands of people to achieve their goals. Their methods are backed by Liverpool John Moore’s University and Leeds University. We give you everything you need to integrate healthy lifestyles into the fabric of your organisation, to improve the health of your employees, and ultimately your bottom line.
It Might be Time to Rethink your Employee Wellness Strategy?
The trick to a successful employee wellness program – and healthier employees – is empowering your staff to connect to as many components of their wellness as possible. These include physical, emotional and social well-being.
So – if you’re concerned about poor diet, lack of physical activity and related health issues amongst your staff – we have a brilliant and innovative solution!
Check out our ‘Workplace Wellbeing strategy‘ that you can adapt to fit your organisation