Rut Stefansdottir: How can employers support the government’s obesity strategy and improve employee health?

The UK government’s plan to tackle obesity should be looked at from a wider perspective. Employers should not be focusing on employee weight loss but they should look at the many components that contribute to improving the health, physical and mental wellbeing of their workforce.

The approach we have taken at Charterhouse is to first of all recognise that mental health and physical wellbeing are a priority for us to focus on in order to be able to achieve more productivity, higher engagement levels, and lower absence and employee turnover levels, not to mention a more fulfilled team.

We, therefore, set up a health and wellbeing strategy for 2020, where we started off raising awareness of initiatives that we already have in place, such as flexible-working options and encouraging employees not to work outside their working hours to achieve a work-life balance.

We also set up a campaign raising awareness of our health and wellbeing benefits that focus on mental wellbeing, including face-to-face counselling sessions and an employee assistance programme (EAP).

From here, the next step we took was to work with a nutrition company called SuperWellness. Together, we launched a programme at the start of the lockdown and have been working with it throughout this period to help employees achieve a healthier and more rounded approach to life.

The programme has encouraged the team to change what they do on a daily basis and to look at what they eat and how it affects different aspects of their lives. It covers different topics each month including nutrition habits, stress, sleep, food for the mind and boosting the immune system. It was not designed for weight loss, although some of the team have, but to work towards being healthier overall.

From May 2019 to 2020, we saw a reduction in sickness absence of 2.8%, employee turnover went down by 34.5% and engagement levels rose by 4.2% to 83%.

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Seeing the results we have achieved, we would encourage all employers to take a holistic approach when taking care of their employees, and to remember, there are no quick fixes.

Rut Stefansdottir is HR manager at Charterhouse Accountants