Ita Waller: More needs to be done to support the long-term health of employees

Ita Waller: How to support the long-term health of employees

Last year fundamentally challenged long-established certainties about what we think is safe and what we believe to be healthy.

The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic brought many changes and challenges to our working lives that we neither predicted nor planned, and people who experienced health conditions before found their feelings were intensified.

The health and wellbeing of employees should always be a priority. Yes, we have seen short-term strategies such as telling staff to ‘take more breaks’ or ‘call a helpline’ but, in my view, not enough has been done to protect employee’s health for the long term.

So how can employers support the long-term health of employees?

Think about mental and physical health as being inextricably linked: looking after mental health can help combat or prevent health problems that can be linked to physical illnesses. By having a long-term vision of supporting the health of employees, it can actually prevent the onset or relapse of a physical or mental illness. For example, managing stress levels can have a positive impact on heart disease.

Encourage conversations about mental health in the workplace: conversations about mental health are still not normal day-to-day exchanges and by making them part of the everyday culture ensures everyone is comfortable with sharing their thoughts and feelings, to feel supported.

Invest in employees for their long term: our business proposition is based around human understanding and we apply the same approach when it comes to looking after staff. By investing in health training, it is a skill they will have for life and equips them with practical tools to intervene if employees are showing, often complex, signs they might be struggling.

Awareness of non-work environments: everyone’s home environments are different and with the majority of us working from home, it is vital employers are aware of stress and health issues within households, which right now is something very real as we are all coming to terms with a huge change to normal human behaviours and lifestyles. Prevention is better than cure and intervention can sometimes save lives.

Ultimately, we are passionate about ensuring we all are in this together and must look out for each other. If we can support the health of employees within our culture and operational model, we should see a positive reaction to health issues and ensure preventative measures and interventions are taken to avoid long-term issues.

Ita Waller is HR director at Unlimited