Sally Wilson: Simple nudges can encourage employees to look after their own health and wellbeing

sally wilson

There are several relatively simple steps employers can take to address wellbeing at work with the potential to reduce claims related to ill health.

For musculoskeletal (MSK) health, getting the basics right is essential and display screen equipment (DSE) assessment is an important example of this. Flexible working requires a re-think around traditional risk assessment approaches, and particular attention needs to be paid to hot-desking and homeworking. Employers providing laptops for homeworking should provide guidance to those potentially at risk of hunching over a kitchen worktop or coffee table.

Mental wellbeing can be positively influenced by ensuring people work in a collegiate and supportive environment. At the heart of this is effective line management, and in its Mental wellbeing at work guidance, published in November 2009, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends “ensuring that managers are able to identify and respond with sensitivity to employees’ emotional concerns, and symptoms of mental health problems”. All employers should also understand of how management style can impact on stress levels; familiarity with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) management standards is a good place to start.

Positive lifestyle choices have a bearing on health and nudges to encourage workers to look after themselves can be effective. Publicising national initiatives such as Cycle to Work Day, No Smoking Day and Dryathlon can raise awareness without making individuals feel targeted. Raising money for health-related charities can remind people to take care of their own health as well as supporting a good cause. National benchmarking schemes such as the Workplace Wellbeing Charter and Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index can help organisations manage workplace wellbeing strategically and share expertise.

Naturally there are no guarantees that any single intervention will reduce claims but any initiative that signals to workers that their health is a priority is a win-win for employer and employee alike.

Dr Sally Wilson is senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)