Improving Employee Health and Wellbeing: A How-To Guide

Dec 1, 2016Culture, Human Resources, Leadership, Motivation, Uncategorized

Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and visualise the healthiest workplace you can imagine. What do you see?

Maybe it’s people in workout clothes who have just left the office gym facilities. Maybe it’s fresh-faced and smiling employees who are walking around with juices in their hands.

It could be that all you imagined was the Google logo or people playing table tennis. Or maybe it was a combination of these.

A wild guess tells me that you probably didn’t picture people looking exhausted and stressed.

There has been a well-needed drive in recent years towards employee health and wellbeing at work. We’re realising that healthy and happy employees are more productive and engaged. While not every company can compete with Google’s free healthy canteen lunches, even small steps in the right direction can help improve the health of your employees.



What’s driving the need for an employee health and wellbeing agenda?


Ignoring employee health could be a very expensive mistake. According to CIPD, poor mental and physical health costs organisations £14 billion a year in sickness costs in the UK. That’s £554 per worker!

People are living longer and working until a later age. We need an employee health and wellbeing agenda to address these changes and the changes that are yet to confront our workforce. The onus is on organisations to help employees improve their health and wellbeing.

While physical health is important, there is a lot to be said about looking after your mental health and managing stress levels. While more technology makes life easier and more convenient, it can also cause us to speed up. Many of us never shut off completely, and this can lead to greater stress and reduced focus. It tires us out, and this is the exact opposite of what organisations hope to achieve.

In many organisations, stress has reached epidemic proportions. CIPD report that it costs organisations as much as $300 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses every year. TTI Research has shown that stress can remain in the body for much longer than we may think. A long commute to work can impact an employee’s health and productivity for up to four hours of the workday. A conflict with a colleague can affect productivity for whole day. It could even negatively affect sleep, thus impacting performance the following day!

By failing to address employee health and wellbeing, organisations face higher absenteeism, poor performance from their workers, and higher costs. Clearly there is a cause for change.



How can I implement an employee health and wellbeing agenda?

As Rise reminds us, a new health or fitness habit can take anywhere between 21-66 days to form. Make things easier for your employees by adopting an employee health and wellbeing agenda in your organisation. There are lots of little things that can help.


Step One: Start by asking your employees about their needs

Ask your employees for ideas. What would they like to work on, and would their needs fit in with the employer’s goals? Be realistic about what can be achieved. Take the organisation’s resources into consideration.


Step Two: Create a plan and implement it

Is it workshops and talks that would most benefit your employees? How about gym membership or fitness classes? Lay out the plan and communicate it with employees. Some ideas might include:


Healthy lunches

Make sure your organisation has water coolers nearby to keep employees hydrated. Fast food lunches may be the order of the day for busy employees. Aim to curb this trend by keeping healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts to hand, and throw out the biscuits. Consider implementing a longer lunch break on Fridays so that employees can take a walk together – an initiative that would also promote collaboration and inclusion.


Implement a bike-to-work scheme

Encourage your employees to ditch the car and walk, run, skip or cycle to work instead! Follow the example of Facebook’s bike-sharing programme. On their campus in Palo Alto, they encourage healthy living with an ample supply of bikes, shower facilities, lockers and bike locks. This encourages employees to cycle around campus instead of driving.



Why not offer your employees yoga classes? Mobify, a startup in Vancouver, offers their employees yoga classes twice a week. Yoga and meditation can be very successful at relieving stress.



What are the benefits of a successful employee health and wellbeing agenda?

Ben Jones from Employee Benefits reports on the brilliant success of a Unilever health programme. The Fit Business initiative provided employees with check-ups and nutritional information in staff restaurants. This resulted in a 26% decrease in the weight of factory workers and a 9% decrease in office workers who were overweight or obese. At the same time, 13% fewer factory workers and 12% fewer office workers finished the scheme with an ‘at risk’ body fat level.

In any organisation, an effective employee health and wellbeing policy can bring many benefits, including positive relationships, a good working environment, a healthy management style and opportunities for career development.


Final thoughts…

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor discusses how being happy at work can improve performance. His research found that your brain in a positive state is 31% more productive than your brain in negative, neutral or stressed state. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19% faster and more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.

Exercise and a healthy diet can significantly improve levels of happiness and positivity, and can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The question moves from ‘can organisations afford to focus on health?’ to ‘how can they not?’. The right talent – employees who are healthy and engaged in their work – is fundamental to business performance. So, make the investment for increased staff resilience, innovation and productivity.


This is the complete guide to get you and your HR department on track in 2017. For a limited time only we are giving this away as a free download.

Do you want 2017 to be a great year for your and your organisation?

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