February 15, 2013
The best way of tackling ill health is to stop workers from getting ill in the first place, suggests new guidance from the TUC. It may seem as if the union is stating the obvious, until you reflect on the news, reported exclusively by HR magazine earlier this week that the UK was among the 10 worst performing countries for employee wellbeing last year, according to the Workforce Quality of Life Index (WQLI) report by Kenex, which measures wellbeing from the employee’s perspective. Now the TUC report, Work and well-being, provides evidence that employers who create healthy workplaces can reduce employee absence and boost productivity.
Every year around 170 million working days are lost because people are too ill to go into work – 23 million of these are down to work-related ill health and 4 million as a result of injuries suffered at work. Said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady: ” “Healthier lifestyles are something we should all be aspiring to, and given the amount of time we spend at work, the workplace is a good place to start.
‘Work can create a lot of health issues such as back problems, and it can also be a cause of stress which is linked to the increased use of tobacco and alcohol. Far too many days a year are being lost through ill health. Sensible employers who are able to identify problems at an early stage, and who introduce changes to prevent ill health and promote well-being will reduce sickness absence and increase productivity.”
Work and well-being says that the best method for improving the general well-being of a workforce is to change the way that work is organised and managed. For example, reducing workplace stress is far more useful than providing on-site massage for stressed workers.
Work and well-being suggests a number of ways that employers and unions might try to encourage a healthier attitude amongst employees, including:
- Providing an on-site gym or subsidised membership of a local fitness centre
- Encouraging employees to cycle to work by providing a secure storage place for bikes, introducing schemes where staff can get discounted bikes and cycling accessories and having workplace shower facilities
- Offering healthy options in the canteen, encouraging staff not to eat lunch at their desks, or by providing a regular supply of free fruit to encourage employees to pick the occasional apple over their regular chocolate bar
- Giving staff the chance to access employee assistance programmes which can help them cope with personal problems that could have an impact on their performance at work, or offer advice with financial concerns, or on problems they may be having with colleagues.
Click here to read the full report.