Recent research conducted by Nuffield Health found that half of us are in moderate to severe pain at least once a week – importantly, for three quarters of adults in the UK, it affects their ability to perform their jobs and a third are forced to take time off work. Our research also found that more than half of us are living with pain rather than turning to a qualified medical professional, like a physiotherapist for help.
Employee wellbeing can be a complex topic, Dr. Andrew Jones, Managing Director Wellbeing, Nuffield Health outlines the most common pain complaints of employees, and how best, as their employer, you can help them to tackle these.
“My back aches when I’m at my desk “
Health problems such as joint aches in the wrist, neck, spine, lower back and knees have become a regular occurrence in office life. This is often caused by a lack of physical activity for those within the office environment – many of us spend long hours, in a certain posture. Put aside time this month to assess each employees’ desk layout. Often you will only need to suggest small alterations to make significant changes to how they are feeling. Is their chair at the correct angle? Do they need a lumber support? Would they benefit from a foot rest to raise their legs? Ensure you swiftly order in the appropriate kit to get them comfortable at their desk, and back on track.
“My eyesight is very blurry”
With many of us spending hours on end gazing at our computer monitor, eye sight issues are a common complaint. An eye test may not seem like the most interesting benefit that you could offer, but it is an important one. Not only can it be a legal requirement to provide employees in certain circumstances with an eye test, but the benefit can also be crucial in detecting wider issues that could impact staff health and ultimately, performance. Are you able to offer your staff a healthcare plan that provides them with access to eye care too? If they can afford optical visits more frequently, this can also reduce sickness leave – opticians not only can detect basic sight issues but also can detect other serious problems such as glaucoma, and help to reduce common elated problems such as migraines.
“I feel like I’ve gained a stone since working”
Weight gain and the unhealthy factors that come along with it (such as excessive BMIs and high cholesterol levels) are often, unfortunately, a common side effect of working in an office due to the regular availability of unhealthy treats and lack of daily physical activity. If your employees are overweight, this can cause them to suffer from myriad health problems as a result and often issues with their joints too. As their employer, try to encourage a healthy culture (could you offer free fruit baskets or pull together an office sports team for example?) to ensure your workforce stays in fighting fit shape. This will not only have a positive impact on how they feel on a daily basis but will improve your workplace’s morale too.
“I’m not feeling quite 100% at the moment”
Employee health stretches across both physical and mental wellbeing, so act sensitively if one of your employees raises such an issue. Ensure you take the time to listen to their situation and consider how, as their employer, you can help relieve the strain. Could you offer them the option to work from home, or introduce flexible working hours? Could you delegate work to other employees to lighten the load? Although the issue might be more complex than what you can offer as their employer, and you will need to treat them on a case-by-case basis, it’s important to show how you can help them within the working environment.
Remind those in management roles to also keep an eye out for employees who may be struggling to cope. If they spot something concerning, managers should check they are taking decent breaks at lunchtime, to help both get some fresh air and maintain their work-life balance.
“I think I need to seek professional help”
As an employer, it’s important to recognise when your employee needs to seek professional help. Although based outside of the office environment, a good example of this was Leanne, a gas engineer. Leanne suffered from chronic back pain and after doing a lot of heavy lifting, her pain worsened, leading her to take time off work. She was treating herself with a combination of ibuprofen and deep heat, but it wasn’t until her employer, British Gas, helped her to take both a positive and proactive approach – they arranged for her to see a Nuffield Health physiotherapist as part of their employee benefits scheme and since then, she feels in control of her pain and hasn’t taken a day off sick yet.
A healthier workforce is proven to result in a happier, more productive, workforce, so use January as a reason to reflect on what you can offer your employees and help everyone to get this year off to the best possible start.
Dr. Andrew Jones is managing director of wellbeing at Nuffield Health. For more information visit www.nuffieldhealth.com/corporate-wellbeing