Susan Gee from Yorkshire Water talks about the three inter-related components of workplace health and how an agenda should support and underpin these components.

It is recognised that work has a positive impact on health and there is a wealth of scientific evidence that supports the fact that being in work is good for an individual’s physical and mental health, boosting self esteem and quality of life.

Employees who are physically and mentally able will be willing to contribute in the workplace and are more likely to be more engaged at work; this promotes attendance and reduces presentisim.

Wellbeing is more than the avoidance of ill health, the achievement of personal wellbeing involves a number of positive decisions regarding lifestyle.

Wellbeing at work starts with good safety management which promotes a work environment that limits the opportunity of work to cause harm. This, alongside the introduction of wellbeing initiatives that are proactive and work, enables employees to achieve their full potential in terms of their physical, mental and social health.

Workplace health looks at three inter-related components:

1.Individual employees are an organisations key resource andemployee health and wellbeing should be promoted at all times

2. The working environment must be safe and healthy and this is achieved with robust risk assessment and compliance with workplace policy

3. The organisational structure can have a significant effect on morale and on how employees feel about their work. Management style, communication systems, training opportunities and staff development all shape an organisation and therefore its employees

Development of a successful wellbeing plan relies on the organisation as a whole having ownership and responsibility for the promotion of health and safety.

Employees are the most valuable asset in an organisation. Therefore, the desire to develop and promote pro-active wellbeing initiatives to support positive behavioural change that will enhance the health of employees, improve attendance at work, raise and maintain morale and enable employees to support the delivery of our business objectives, is high.

The overall aims of a Wellbeing agenda are to:

  • Ensure the provision of a safe, healthy and fulfilling working environment that will reduce the negative effects of work on health, wellbeing and quality of life of our employees
  • Empower employees to improve their own health and wellbeing and make healthy choices
  • Help and support employees who have been or are experiencing ill health to return to work and remain in employment
  • Utilise the workplace as a setting to promote good health
  • Promote a culture of attendance and reduce presentisim


The Wellbeing agenda is underpinned and supported by:

  • Leadership and good management
  • Robust policies
  • Stakeholder commitment and involvement – Senior Management, Human Resources, Employees, Health & Safety, Occupational Health, Trade Unions


The workplace is an effective location to optimise health. By introducing appropriate health interventions and heath education, employers can have a significant impact on employee health and wellbeing, the benefits of which have a positive impact on the wider community.

Workplace health interventions also offers the opportunity to target those in the working population at risk of ill health and disease who may not readily choose to access health services in the community.

By investing in workplace health employers can play a fundamental role in supporting employees in poor health, preventing future ill health and promoting good health by providing a work environment that is physiologically and psychologically safe.

The introduction of workplace health education and interventions needs to be determined by the health needs of a particular working population. Whilst there will be common health detriments across a business, some employees will be more vulnerable to specific health detriments by virtue of their job role and the particular physical/psychological health risks it exposes them to.

Equally employees will have a view about the type of health issues that may be of concern to them that are not directly linked to the workplace but have the capacity to impact upon their working lives.

Workplace health interventions can be simple and low cost, however, there can be significant financial impact on an organisation in providing workplace health initiatives and as such in order to ensure that any financial investment is appropriate and delivers appropriate health outcomes, it is important to identify the health needs of particular groups of employees.

At Yorkshire Water we introduced Day 1 referral to physiotherapy as we know that muscular skeletal health problems are a cause of absence in our organisation. We asked our physiotherapy provider to undertake an evaluation of the service and its impact in terms of return to work outcomes and cost savings and this is what we found:

  • Between June 2015 and May 2016, 431 referrals were made to our physiotherapy provider, with a face to face initial assessment taking place within an average of 2.6 days from referral. At the point of referral, 17% were absent from work with 26% on modified duties and 57% at work but experiencing pain and therefore working at reduced productivity
  • Of those employees off sick at the point of referral, 87% returned to work following treatment and overall 95% of employees were maintained at or returned to work
  • At discharge, there was also an 88% reduction in the number of employees on restricted duties at work, compared to initial assessment
  • The most common reason for referral was back pain (47%), followed by shoulder (13%) and neck pain (11%). Analysis of referrals by job role highlighted that the majority of employees referred were based in our call centre (24%).
  • In terms of cost saving, it is estimated that the service has saved 2,724 working days. This analysis is based upon referral volumes and demographics at Yorkshire Water, combined with ‘average’ salary data and typical rates of absence being applied. The amount saved is conservatively estimated at £302,554 and was achieved through 1) reduced medium to long term absence, (2) reduced short term absence and (3) reduced presenteeism.


If you’re interested in improving worker health and wellbeing, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Susan Gee speak at HRreviews Health at Work Summit on the 4th May at the Holiday Inn Kensington Hotel.

Susan is a commercially astute, innovative and highly influential Occupational Health Manager with comprehensive experience gained within public and private sector roles. Susan was previously employed for 16 years at Bradford Metropolitan District Council as Head of Occupational Health & Safety. Susan is currently a visiting lecturer at Leeds Beckett University where her specialist subject is Sickness Absence Management and Wellbeing. Susan has a BSc (Hons) in Public Health (OH), an MA in Health Care Law and an MSc in Leadership, Management and Change in Health and Social Care.