Carl Laidler: Employee health and wellbeing is pivotal to business sustainability

It has been reported that more active management of sick leave could save the UK economy Ā£56 billion each year in lost time and productivity. Indeed, the usual symptoms of illness, including feeling burnt out and disengaged, massively impact productivity levels.

However, it is not just the individual who is less productive. Often, the impact of sick staff can impact a whole teamā€™s performance, due to having to share the workload of those who are absent. Delegating additional workloads to compensate for absent employees inevitably has a detrimental effect on the quality of the output.

Healthy staff

The importance of keeping staff in the best of health both mentally and physically is critical to a businessā€™ sustainability. Employers have a duty of care to their employees to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety, health and wellbeing. If this falls lower down on the priority list, businesses will see a negative impact, one of the biggest consequences being an increase in absenteeism.

In fact, the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) report,Ā Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2018, found that an estimated 141.4 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK, causing an impact on individualsā€™ productivity, team performance and profits.

The gap in perception

In October 2019, Health Shield commissioned research from Opinium that found employers rate their health and wellbeing support, and its effectiveness, higher than their employees do, with employers tending to feel they have effective support for both physical and mental health issues.

A key factor in this is knowledge and promotion around what support is available to staff, with more than four in 10 employees not knowing where to go for support.

Offering health and wellbeing services dedicated to supporting employees, and with clear signposts to how and where to access it, encourages them to get help when they feel they need it. Any worries or concerns that an employee may have can be addressed quickly, preventing the issue from escalating and causing time off.

Often, however, employers underestimate the importance of a healthy workforce and, therefore, are reluctant to make the investment in supporting their health and wellbeing.

Preventative measures

Our research found that nearly half of employers say that wider wellbeing strategies are not implemented due to cost. Occupational health is a great place to start when thinking about implementing health and wellbeing strategies.

In fact, employers may already be supporting occupational health by ensuring all new employees complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment, reducing the risk of long-term aches, pains and eye strain without any additional cost.

Occupational health solutions support employers in reducing levels of absenteeism by educating staff on how to look after their health and wellbeing. Other prevention techniques that employers can adopt include assessment days and health screenings. These check general health and fitness and discuss lifestyle changes and recommendations to help identify any health risks, enabling staff to act sooner rather than later.

Working with the employee

Other occupational health solutions, such as absence management referrals, are set up to work alongside the absent employee to help accelerate their return to work. Employees can choose from face-to-face or digital referrals and receive advice and support to ensure they are fit and ready.

Stress interventions are specifically focused on employees who have had time off due to work-related stress. These interventions will support the employee to manage stress levels and improve general wellbeing.

Services such as occupational health questionnaires are designed to detect potential health risks within the business, while on-site risk assessments identify potential hazards within the workplace to prevent work-related illness and injury.

Are you ready to give your employees the foundation they need to lead healthier, happier, more productive lives? Implementing occupational health solutions can be the way forward. The statistics say it all: investing the time and money into employee wellbeing can only produce positive impacts to a business, reducing absenteeism, increasing productivity and overall results.

Carl Laidler is director of wellbeing at Health Shield