Matthew Raybould: Why focusing on ‘health’ is just as important as ‘safety’

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As research is released suggesting that almost half (44 per cent) of UK workers know somebody who has given badge-links-to-all-articlesup work because of stress, Matthew Raybould, operations director in the South Midlands at construction company Willmott Dixon, explores what companies can do to ensure staff wellbeing remains at a high.

Any responsible employer will understand the importance of employee wellbeing, as not only does it ensure a healthy and happy workforce, it reduces the time and finance expended on staff turnover and extended periods of leave due to mental or physical ill-health.

According to figures released from Oxford Economics in 2014, replacing a member of staff costs an average of £30,000 and it can take 28 weeks for a new employee to reach optimum productivity. In an increasingly competitive market this is a significant financial output, it can impact on the business’ appeal and, most importantly, is often easily avoided.

For a construction company such as ourselves, the maintenance of health and safety remains a principal focus, confirming we are able to ensure our staff work in a safe and considered environment. It goes almost without saying that working on a construction site presents a certain level of inevitable risk, so with this in mind, it is often easy to fall into the trap of prioritising the ‘safety’ over the ‘health’ of our teams.

Although they are often seen as one and the same, health actually presents a greater impact to workplace absence than safety. The HSE suggests that five times more days are lost annually for work-related ill health compared to workplace injuries, with stress, depression and anxiety accounting for the majority of absences. As such, it is our duty as employers to support those who are on a leave of absence to safely return to work, as well as put procedures and practices in place to ensure our people are not put in a position where they have no other option but to go on leave due to work-related ailments.

With this in mind, awe have begun to trial ways to improve employee wellbeing across the company for our employees. Across the business, we offer health incentives such as bi-annual BUPA health screenings and the Bike4Work scheme, but a real standout success took place on-site at the University of Warwick earlier this year.

As part of our ongoing relationship with the university, in August 2016 we completed a sixteen month project to build a brand new teaching and learning facility, marking the start of a comprehensive redevelopment of the university’s central campus delivered to mark its 50th anniversary. Throughout the build, our on-site project team took part in a wellbeing initiative, aiming to bring the ‘health’ up to par with the ‘safety’ for our people.

Delivered in association with Motus, employees met with consultants on-site for coaching on nutrition, fitness and lifestyle, as well as career and personal performance coaching. At the beginning of the programme, an in-depth bio-signature was taken which measured physical state, such as body fat percentage, as well as indicators of sleep quality and toxicity within the body. Based on these findings, each member of staff received a personalised diet and exercise programme developed for them to follow throughout the construction process. They also met with a counsellor regularly to discuss their personal and career development.

The results we achieved from this programme were astounding and significantly improved both the productivity and overall wellbeing of our site team. We had no employee turnover or days of absence reported, saving the business almost £52,000 in comparison to a similar project from the previous year. Stress levels for our staff had also reduced by almost 20%, indicated via both physical measurements and qualitative feedback from employees, as well as their resilience to stress increasing by 25%.

On a more personal level, the improvement in the atmosphere on-site was unmistakable: members of the team often had light-hearted health and fitness competitions between one another, while the way they interacted with each other and the senior team really boosted overall morale and productivity.

Not only did the scheme offer our employees the chance to better themselves, it also gave the senior team a chance to hear honest and constructive feedback on areas team members felt the business could be improved. This open dialogue allowed us to positively develop as an organisation and demonstrate our commitment to our employees showing their voices are heard.

As a nation, we are now battling with heavier workloads and longer working hours, resulting in a poor work/life balance for many people. On the whole, subjecting employees to high levels of stress not only impacts negatively on productivity, but often increases the likelihood they will look for better career opportunities elsewhere. By offering financial and personal incentives and support, the long-term benefits to you, your staff and your business should not be undervalued.

About Matthew Raybould

Matthew Raybould is operations director in the South Midlands for Willmott Dixon, one of the UK’s largest privately owned companies specialising in construction, development and support services. To find out more about Willmott Dixon, visit www.willmottdixon.co.uk.
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