The healthy workplace is now a matter of public policy in the UK

news landing office worker_1Promoting a culture that improves the health and wellbeing of employees is good management practice and leads to a healthy and productive workplace, according to the Governmental body charged with shaping policy and offering advice on health related matters in the UK. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), part of the Department of Health, has published a new set of guidelines on the issue and called on employers to do more to address the challenge of creating a productive and healthy workplace. According to NICE, workplace health is a significant public health issue with more than a million working people in the UK experiencing a work-related illness each year, leading to around 27 million lost working days and costing the economy an estimated £13.4 billion.

The new guidance claims that the reasons for poor workplace health are widespread and include long irregular hours, lack of control over work and discriminatory practices. It is aimed at employers, managers and employees and covers a range of areas from organisational commitment to the leadership style of line managers.


Respect work-life balance, encourage creativity

Mental wellbeing at work is among the topics highlighted. The guidance says that all those with a remit for workplace health should develop policies that support workplace culture such as ensuring respect for work-life balance.

The guidance recommends that line managers if possible and within the needs of the organisation, should be flexible about work scheduling, giving employees control and flexibility over their own time.

Senior leaders should act as role models for leadership, and proactively challenge behaviour and actions that may adversely affect employee health and wellbeing. Line managers should receive training to improve their awareness of health and wellbeing issues.

The guidance also calls for managers to adopt a positive style of management encouraging workers to be creative and explore new opportunities that may come their way.


Potential for “most significant” impact on workplace efficiency

Dame Carol Black, the Department of Health’s Expert Advisor on improving the welfare of working people, said: “When its influence eventually comes to be measured – in terms of the quality of service and product, workplace efficiency and productivity, and staff morale – this new guidance from NICE might well prove to be the most significant ever.

“There is abundant evidence that the health, especially the mental health, and overall wellbeing of employees depends greatly on their relationships at work.  That means their relationships with each other but particularly their relationships with employers, from line manager to the most senior executive and board member.  These relationships are encapsulated in the concept and practice of engagement – a concept that reflects the culture of an organisation.

“The precepts contained in this guidance are simple and plainly put.  They are already observed in exemplary organisations.  It should not be difficult to translate them into practice in all.”

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “Health-promoting workplaces are obviously good for millions of employees and ultimately for taxpayers too, so the time is right for all employers – including the NHS – to raise our game.”

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Health and Social Care Director said: “Every workplace is different and the relationship between management and employee wellbeing is a complex one, dependent on numerous factors including occupation, sector and so on. However, there are some basic principles that should be applied by all employers, directors and line managers – these include ensuring the right policies and managements practices are in place.

“Recommendations include encouraging new ideas and exploring new ways of doing things and opportunities to learn, recognising the contribution of each employee and if possible a flexible approach to work scheduling, giving employees more control and flexibility over their own time.”