Nice urges employers to promote healthy working environments

Healthcare watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has published guidelines urging employers to do more to address the effect that poor working environments can have on employees’ lives

According to the guidance, promoting a healthy working environment improves employees’ health and productivity and it is good management practice to promote a culture to improve health and wellbeing.

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The reasons for poor workplace health include long irregular hours, lack of control over work and discriminatory practices.

In terms of mental wellbeing, the guidance states that all those with a remit for workplace health should develop policies that support workplace culture such as ensuring respect for work-life balance, for example, being flexible about work scheduling.

It also suggests that line managers should be given training to improve their awareness of health and wellbeing issues.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of Nice, said: “Every workplace is different and the relationship between management and employee wellbeing is a complex one, dependent on numerous factors including occupation, sector and so on.

”However, there are some basic principles that should be applied by all employers, directors and line managers, [which] include ensuring the right policies and managements practices are in place.

“Recommendations include encouraging new ideas and exploring new ways of doing things and opportunities to learn, recognising the contribution of each employee and, if possible, a flexible approach to work scheduling, giving employees more control and flexibility over their own time.”

Dame Carol Black, the Department of Health’s expert adviser on improving the welfare of working people, added: “When its influence eventually comes to be measured, in terms of the quality of service and product, workplace efficiency and productivity, and staff morale, this new guidance from Nice might well prove to be the most significant ever.

“There is abundant evidence that the health, especially the mental health, and overall wellbeing of employees depends greatly on their relationships at work. That means their relationships with each other but particularly their relationships with employers, from line manager to the most senior executive and board member. 

“These relationships are encapsulated in the concept and practice of engagement, a concept that reflects the culture of an organisation.

“The precepts contained in this guidance are simple and plainly put. They are already observed in exemplary organisations. It should not be difficult to translate them into practice in all.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Health-promoting workplaces are obviously good for millions of employees and ultimately for taxpayers too, so the time is right for all employers, including the NHS, to raise our game.”