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The path to a wellbeing culture and a healthier return

Dr. Mark Winwood
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The consequences of ill health can be significant for a business, with considerable direct and indirect costs arising from sickness absence. In 2016, it was estimated by the CIPD that sickness absence costs UK employers £522 per employee per year. Contributor Dr. Mark Winwood, Director of psychological services – AXA PPP healthcare.

To a small business owner, every person within the business matters so absence due to ill health can be detrimental to a small business when compared to other businesses. However, it is possible to reduce the risk of long absences due to ill health by actively promoting a culture of wellbeing and open dialogue with your team.

Managing Sickness Absence
It’s important to manage ill health absence effectively. Equally – if not more – important, is prevention. A good place to start is building and sustaining a positive, supportive workplace culture where employees are encouraged to lead healthy, active lives and have a good work/life balance. And, of course, if they become ill or injured, ensure they are supported by encouraging them to take time off when necessary for check-ups and medical appointments.

But it doesn’t end there. Presenteeism – where employees attend work when unwell and perform below par – also comes at a cost. A Health at Work report highlighted that some 89 percent of workers who turned up for work unwell admit they are less productive. It is important to encourage staff to stay at home when they are unwell to ensure that they allow themselves time to rest and recuperate.

Mental Health in the Workplace
Alongside promoting the importance of a physically active lifestyle to your team, it is also crucial to encourage everyone to look after their mental health and wellbeing. Evidence suggests that in 2016/17, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. If an employer works to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, then it can be a great start in encouraging a culture of open dialogue. This could mean that employees feel comfortable in openly discussing mental health at work. Promoting a healthy work/life balance and a wellbeing culture at work can also contribute to a positive working environment. This can be encouraged by:

Ensuring that your staff take all of their annual leave allowance
Promoting that time off is, indeed, time off by discouraging weekend and out of hours work. Encouraging employees to make full use of their lunch break and go for a walk or take part in an activity class.

Nutrition and Exercise
When it comes to tackling the subject of lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise in your business, understandably, this may feel a little awkward. But these elements of our lives can significantly affect both physical and psychological health. Poor physical health can be bad news for your mood, self-esteem, energy levels and resilience. But even simple measures and subtle changes such as encouraging a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise can help to improve physical and mental health. As a small business, you can prompt your workforce to make positive fitness and nutrition choices by:

Replacing the office biscuit tin with a fresh fruit delivery
Offering a cycle to work incentive scheme to encourage car commutes to be replaced with a bike ride. Offering discounted gym memberships for staff (our Business Health Select healthcare cover includes 50 percent off an annual membership at PureGym* for employees covered on the policy).

A healthy, confident team is an asset to any small business and prevention, early intervention and allowing employees sufficient time to recover from ill health or injury are all key to positive attendance management. By actively engaging with your workforce to support their health and wellbeing – and not forgetting your own – you can go a long way to creating a workplace culture that optimises performance and productivity.

Workplace Wellbeing Survey
If you’re struggling to identify ways in which you can improve the wellbeing culture within your business, it could be beneficial to conduct a wellbeing survey among your workforce. Directly asking employees for ideas on how to improve the culture within your business may identify solutions and benefits that could increase their sense of satisfaction and happiness at work.


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