Employee Benefits Summit 2008: Employers urged to take responsibility for staff health

Employers are being urged to take on responsibility for the health of their employees by implementing wellbeing initiatives and accurately measuring sickness absence and staff turnover in the workplace.

Speaking in the opening conference session at the Employee Benefits Summit 2008 in Jerez, Financial Times’ columnist Richard Donkin told HR and benefits professionals that there was a business need for employers to monitor the health and wellbeing of staff as it had a direct impact on productivity.

He said there “was a need for metrics” around staff health and wellbeing, and suggested employers could take steps to measure sickness absence, turnover, and retention and engagement levels through staff surveys.

Workplace and societal changes over the years, he said, have led to employees leading less active lifestyles resulting in a negative impact on their health and wellbeing and, in turn, productivity.

“I think we are struggling with these changes and one of the problems is that it is creating sedentary lifestyles,” said Donkin.

He added: “I don’t think employers are innocent in this, people are voluntarily working longer hours and this phenomena of presenteeism has emerged which I don’t think is always productive.”

Donkin urged employers to consider allowing staff more flexibility to work from home so that they are able to maximise productivity and achieve a work-life balance. He also suggested initiatives such as installing workplace showers and gyms, bicycle racks and encouraging fitness activities.

“One of the benefits of health benefits is that they attract more people,” he added.