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Jeff Archer

The Tonic

Director

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How healthy staff can lead to a healthy bottom line

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It really is quite simple – the less healthy your employees, the more they will be absent, and the more that will impact on your bottom line. So what can you do about it? Jeff Archer has a few suggestions.

When you walk into an office you've never visited before, you know within minutes what kind of organisation it is. You can tell if it's a positive place and if it's a healthy place.

This isn't about zen energy or anything like that; this is about judging the energy and buzz generated by the people within each business and getting the sense that staff are focused and engaged.

A healthy workplace always has a tangible vibrancy. At the opposite end of the scale, an unhealthy workplace feels deflated, sluggish and slightly tense.

So why should this matter? It's an office after all, not a health club. The fact is that it does matter and more than ever before, businesses are really feeling the repercussions of unhealthy staff on their bottom line. Unhealthy staff means greater absenteeism, and absenteeism is a very costly business.

Piling on the pressure

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) claims that the average level of sickness absence is 9.1 working days per year, and the cost to employers is approximately £588 per employee, per year.

"More than ever before, businesses are really feeling the repercussions of unhealthy staff on their bottom line."

In short, the less healthy your employees, the more likely they are to be away from the office costing businesses money and piling on the pressure as remaining staff struggle to cope with limited manpower. Not to mention the cost to the business of any necessary temporary staff, or the time and money involved in replacing people who decide that working for you is too stressful and choose to move on.

People do get sick sometimes, that can't be helped. What can be tackled is implementing changes in offices to help people deal with stress and other ailments that lead to absenteeism and bring those numbers right down.

A huge proportion of absenteeism is the result of musculo-skeletal complaints and stress from working in highly pressured environments and sometimes dysfunctional atmospheres. This can be addressed in different ways depending on the exact needs of each company but, whatever your business, relatively simple initiatives can make a huge impact if employers engage a little more with their staff and their wellbeing.

Don't ignore the issue

This is a message that more and more companies, both large and small, are tuning in to as they realise they can no longer ignore the issue of the physical and mental health of their staff. It's fine to expect staff to work hard and deliver for you but this can come at great cost in the long-term if they end up feeling burnt out and stressed.

"Most workers don't take time to recharge their batteries and being given permission to do it by their employer pays dividends."

So what should an organisation realistically expect to offer staff without feeling they have to turn their workplaces into a leisure centre? Here are some top tips:

1. Find out what staff would find most useful and most beneficial. There is little point offering subsidised gym memberships if most of your employees prefer running, cycling or outdoor team sports. Reconsider some of your current benefits and perhaps shift some budget into more useful areas. Subsidised on-site back massage; personal training sessions for groups; installing a bike rack and showers to encourage staff to get out of their cars. Offering flexible solutions encourages staff to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and removes any objection that their employer doesn't support them in staying healthy.

2. Introduce sporting events that are inclusive and not just 'all about the boys'. Think beyond soccer tournaments and get mixed teams together. This really brings out the healthy competitive spirit amongst staff, promotes loyalty to the company and energises the workforce. Softball is a great solution as it's new to most people, providing a level playing field for participants from all areas of the business.

3. Supplying a daily fruit bowl in the office is a small thing but it sends out the message that your employee's health is your concern and you want them to eat well and be well and that you're willing to invest in this. Workers tend to eat whatever is supplied for them and swapping biscuits and vending machines for healthier snacks can quickly change the energy levels in any area of a business.

4. Arranging some one-to-one lifestyle consultations is a great bonus for employees and helps get to the root of what each person's situation is beyond the office. Experts can then suggest quick fitness, nutrition and relaxation tips that fit around workers' busy lives rather than dump them with an unrealistic plan that will never work in the long term.

5. Offer yoga or relaxation classes. These have a huge effect on eliminating staff stress and offering them sends the message that you take some of the responsibility of helping staff stay relaxed and focused. Most workers don't take time to recharge their batteries and being given permission to do it by their employer pays dividends.

"The company should embrace and support the healthy changes they introduce and managers should drive these forward."

6. Be authentic. Gimmicks always sounds like gimmicks and employees see right through them. The company should embrace and support the healthy changes they introduce and managers should drive these forward. Be flexible with employees so they can take part in the schemes you set up. Perhaps offer incentives such as public recognition or even some time off to those who participate most or get the best results. With everyone operating more efficiently you'll still be quids in on the productivity stakes while getting streets ahead with the feel-good factor.

7. Test and measure your results. Include information on your wellbeing initiatives in staff satisfaction surveys, key performance indicators and regular financial reporting. This will encourage ownership and participation throughout the business and will allow you to evolve the ideal approach for your organisation over time.

Setting up new health and wellbeing initiatives doesn't require revolutionary thinking but it will have a positive impact on staff attitudes, attendance and productivity.

Fundamentally, workplaces are for working, but without offering an opportunity for staff to take care of themselves, productivity will only ever decline. Look after the staff properly and they'll look after the success of the business. After all, your company is only as fit as your workforce.

Jeff Archer is director of wellbeing company The Tonic.

One Response

  1. Healthy Workplaces
    I’d like to see more and more workplaces and OT departments within larger companies offer routine blood pressure tests. High blood pressure can only be detected by measuring it and therefore regular sessions should be encouraged where trained staff using accurate blood pressure monitors can keep a record of the workforce.

    See http://www.blood-pressure-monitoring.org For more information and a free fact sheet “How to Measure Blood Pressure”

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Jeff Archer

Director

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