It will soon be that time of year when many of us will turn our attention to making New Year’s resolutions which are so often centered around improved health and wellness.
Thankfully as employers evolve and see it benefits all involved, workplace health and wellness is moving up the corporate agenda.
Forward thinking employers now appreciate the many tangible benefits of looking after their employees, which they now recognise as their most valuable asset.
A business that prioritises their employees’ health and wellness reap not only the payback of increased productivity, business performance, employee engagement and lower absence figures, but can also see themselves become an employer of choice where they can easily retain their current employees.
Plus, by putting their employees’ needs first they become a renowned and highly desirable place to work, making it simple and inexpensive to quickly attract the very best talent.
With such clear benefits it is easy to see why fostering sound health and wellness strategies should be a New Year resolution for all employers, but where do you start?
To help decide, here are some of the latest workplace health and wellness strategies achieving success in various workplaces.
Offering mental health days
There have over recent years been great strides in reducing the stigma of mental health issues and many more workplaces are placing their workforce’s mental health as a priority.
There is certainly a clear business benefit of doing so, as stress and mental health is one of the leading causes for workplace absence; over 15 million days are lost at work every year due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety according to the latest report by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
Significantly, however, half of workers who need to take absence due to their mental health make up another excuse as they have the perception that poor mental health is not a genuine reason for absence.
“Introducing and incentivising the use of mental health days could help to prevent stress escalating and turning into longer-term sickness absence, by encouraging self-care,” the HSE report states.
Certainly, the idea of mental health days, in which an employee takes a day off from work for reasons other than physical illness, is a relatively new concept. However, by allowing employees to feel more comfortable being honest and discussing their mental health and being able to ask for time off to focus on their mental health, allows an employer to keep a close eye on the health and wellness of their workforce and the impact on performance and make provision accordingly.
Establish a remote access policy for all employees
Almost a third of UK workers (32%) feel that having remote access to the workplace means they can’t switch off in their personal time according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The same report highlighted that two-fifths of workers said they checked their emails outside of working hours, at least five times a day.
Being constantly connected to smartphones, laptops and tablets after work can leave people susceptible to digital burnout and more susceptible to depression, anxiety and other health issues due to emotional exhaustion.
In an attempt to prevent stress levels caused by employees feeling the need to constantly be available, more and more businesses are establishing a remote access policy for employees.
Supermarket chain Lidl earlier this year announced their HQ staff would not be able to send emails between 6 pm and 7 am in an attempt to reduce the stress of their staff after employees said they felt a responsibility to be contactable around the clock.
This follows the French government’s bold move in January 2017 to introduce a new law, dubbed the "right to disconnect", giving employees of organisations with more than 50 employees the legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours.
Additionally, other key employers such as German car-makers Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW have also implemented limits on out of hours emails.
Provide standing desk areas
Research has shown that sitting for long periods of time damages your health, even if you get plenty of exercise when you aren’t sitting.
Lengthy levels of sedentary behaviour can have serious downsides to an employee’s health and has been associated with various physical and mental conditions including obesity and depression. To counteract this, standing desks can be effective in reducing the amount of time that staff sit down.
Offer a four-day working week
A New Zealand company recently completed a four-day working week trail which was studied by academics who collected qualitative and quantitative data before, during and after its implementation. The findings were extremely positive with 78% of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance, plus employees stated that it helped them focus on business better when in the office and manage their outside work commitments better on their extra day off.
Additionally, when Advice Direct Scotland, Scotland’s largest not for profit helpline, introduced a four-day working week combined with an increase of daily hours by one hour, they saw immediate positive results including a boost in staff morale, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.
There is certainly growing evidence to argue that the traditional nine to five, five days a week approach to work is no longer fit for purpose in the modern world.
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady believes that technology available today allows employees to work away from their desks without it impacting employers, but with the massive benefit of providing a better work/life balance for employees.