Bupa Health Clinics Medical Director Dr Petra Simic reveals how businesses can take hold of employee health. Top health issues costing businesses include mental health and musculoskeletal problems. Helping employees live a healthier lifestyle can boost productivity and reduce absenteeism.
Missing health appointments, postponing workouts and suffering a prolonged illness are all too common amongst today’s UK workforce. This poor approach to health could be drastically helped by employers by taking a lead on their employees’ health and wellbeing.
Over 26 million working days were lost last year due to work related ill health. Mental health accounted for the majority, with 26 days lost per person suffering from stress, depression or anxiety2, with other common issues including general ill health and musculoskeletal disorders.
According to Bupa, almost two thirds (57 per cent) of Britons say they would visit an onsite GP at work if they had the option and, based on the customers that had a Bupa health assessment last year, 59 per cent reported that they had felt stress or strain in the past month. This equates to almost 28,000 people putting their health at risk and potentially needing time away from work.
Dr Petra Simic, Medical Director for Bupa Health Clinics, says it makes business sense for employers to tackle these problems head on by having the right employee support in place. She said,
More employees are experiencing work-related health problems, which is ultimately impacting business productivity. The key to better health is prevention, early diagnosis and intervention, so it’s important to take a proactive approach when it comes to employee health. While sometimes employees needing time off work is unavoidable, employers can play an important role to engage with and understand their team’s health concerns and help them where they can.
Dr Petra Simic, Medical Director for Bupa Health Clinics, shares five ways an employer can support everyone’s health and wellbeing at work:
1. Ban presenteeism
Presenteeism is driven by many things, including fears over job security and worries about how being off sick is perceived within the business. However taking off the time needed is better than soldiering on. It’s important that employers encourage unwell employees to go home and rest up. Not resting during a period of sickness can worsen health problems and, if it’s a viral illness, there’s a chance it will spread within the workplace.
2. Encourage a health MOT
Almost half of businesses say they don’t offer flexibility to take time off for medical appointments, this suggests that some businesses don’t see the clear benefits of looking after the health of their workforce. Allowing flexibility to attend appointments during working hours and providing the opportunity to have regular health asessments will help them to make the right lifestyle choices and be healthier in the long term. In turn, this will undoubtedly increase productivity and improve retention levels. Having a proactive approach to workplace wellbeing can also help attract new talent.
3. Operate an open door policy
Encourage colleagues at all levels, from leaders through to entry level, to be open about any health issues they might be experiencing. This open culture will help encourage people to feel comfortable to share what they’re going through and in turn, hopefully receive some helpful advice from within the workplace.
4. Put health on the agenda
In a report by Bupa UK 87 per cent of respondents said they expect employers to do all they can to support their health and wellbeing, so it’s important to implement a wellness plan that promotes good health and offers support. This could include inviting mental health experts into the office to offer guidance and support, or inviting a specialist for consultations during awareness periods such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You could also set up sessions on behaviour change to empower employees to reduce or curb unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking or something else. Make it inclusive and part of weekly team meetings to talk about what you can do to help.
5. Lead by example
The link between work-life balance and health is strong. Employers should encourage employees to leave on time, leading by example and making sure they know it’s okay to disconnect once they leave the office – that means no expectation to check and respond to emails. Leaving on time and disconnecting from work could mean someone getting home an hour earlier, making the school pick up on time or making it to the gym class they promised themselves they’d go to. These small differences can have a huge impact on someone’s physical and mental wellbeing and in turn help them to feel more refreshed and motivated when they’re back at work the next day.