Employee health: why it matters and how you can support it

The mental and physical health of your employees – let’s call it employee wellbeing – has never been more important.

Even as long ago as 2006, the UK Companies Act added more weight to the concept of responsible corporate behaviour into its provisions through the idea of ‘enlightened shareholder value’.  Since then, and with the changes in attitude brought about by the pandemic, society’s expectations of responsible corporate behaviour has sharpened and is pointing squarely in the direction of the regard companies and employers must have for the interests of employees.

Here, we are going to highlight why supporting employee health within your workplace is so vital, and provide you with some actionable tips to implementing wellbeing initiatives in the workplace – whether this is in a home or office environment.

Healthy behaviour adoption

If you want your remote or physical workplace to be healthier for all, a well designed and implemented health programme can help positive behaviour to be adopted, and crucially, maintained.

The alternative is not a viable option – unhealthy behaviours can lead to dangerous health risks, which can in turn cause chronic disease and the health care costs attached to it.

Then there is the productivity aspect. If your employees are present at work, but not producing as much as they should do, there is something you can do about it.

While low productivity could be due to distraction, sub-standard equipment or the wrong training, it can also be attributed to poor health.

From smoking to an unhealthy diet or irregular exercise routine, poor health can lead to poor productivity, and it is your responsibility to point your employees in the right direction.

Now let’s look at the following employee health tips – some of the ways in which you can promote mental, physical and financial wellbeing within your workplace.

Always look for healthy solutions

So your office or employees’ home environment doesn’t have access to a fancy fitness facility – but should that stop your employees from exercising?  Always try and look for healthy solutions, so if there is no gym in your building, how about allocating a room on your site for a company fitness centre?

Better still, educate your workforce into the benefits of exercising at home, and at their office desk.  You might be surprised just how much more productive a fit and firing workforce can be.

Keep desk workers moving

If your line of work typically requires employees to remain seated at a desk for large parts of the day, you should ensure that you give them opportunities to break up their sitting time.

Sitting for long periods (sedentary behaviour) is understood to carry health implications, so encourage standing up and stretching or exercising at regular intervals.

It could be a simple walk around the office, or some leg raises – anything to avoid the long stretches of sitting which may lead to the compromised health of your workforce in years to come.

Simple exercises you can do within a home or office based working environment are a key part of our Keep Fit Eat Fit programme, and one which we regard as essential in helping to maintain overall wellbeing.

Don’t dismiss downtime

Working for as many minutes and hours as possible in the working day doesn’t lead to higher productivity. It is important for teams to take some time out, in order to guard against mental and physical fatigue.

By providing employees with the space and means to relax during the day, you can not only increase employee satisfaction but also encourage a more focused work force.

For office based workers it could be a place to take a nap, eat and socialise, or keep fit; for those working at home, getting them into the habit of taking regular breaks and suggestions on activities to break up the working day are essential. Mindfulness breaks are an ideal way to shift the focus away from work, and taking your eyes away from the task in hand can do wonders for the concentration and resolve.

Preventative care

Do you offer wellness support to your employees? One way to empower employees to make better decisions impacting on their mental and physical health is by providing them with pathways to health and wellness.

It could be sessions to help them stop smoking, counselling opportunities which give them the chance to talk about life issues that are stressing them out, or access to medical appointments arranged in the office or remotely – all of these things can lead to a healthier workforce which accounts for less sick days.

What’s for lunch?

Lunch is the meal of the day which people typically eat at work – so employers have a lot of sway when it comes to what they do and don’t eat.

If you operate a cafe or eatery on-site, how about swapping the unhealthy choices for healthy ones?  It might be a higher cost to find fresher, more nutritious ingredients, but the long-term wellbeing benefits could make it worthwhile.

If you don’t have the means to plan a healthier menu, how about offering discounts at local health food shops and restaurants? Providing a space within your worksite where employees can sit down and eat in comfort is a way of encouraging them to bring healthier food from home, rather than opt for fast food or a take out.

And for remote workers who are now catering for themselves over lunchtime, access to user-friendly nutrition information is vital, and cooking up a healthy meal can transform a working day, boost health and ultimately productivity and contentment.

How does a collection of 400,000 healthy recipes sound, searchable by dietary preference and micro/macro nutrients?  That’s one of the tools your employees get with a Keep Fit Eat Fit subscription.

How are my finances?

This is a crucial area for workers.  We have a certain set amount of time to devote to work and need to be empowered to make the most of our financial capabilities.  This means learning as much as possible about how to manage money, debt, savings, and planning for retirement.

Latest stats show that 94% of UK employees feel that their finances cause some degree of stress, and 31% feel that it controls their lives.  This is not a good prognosis for financial and mental health, and employers are now recognising the benefits of providing hands-on assistance through using pro-active guidance programmes and simple training.

So overall there are some considerations to make when it comes to employee health. And if you have access to resources which address physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing the effectiveness and outcomes will be enhanced compared to the use of programmes that cover only individual elements.

Remember, your employees could be said to be your greatest asset, and getting the benefits of these types of health initiatives means investing directly in them.