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The importance of encouraging health and well-being in a workforce

health and wellbeing

There has been a surge of positive attitude about health and well-being in the workplace in the last few years, including a drive from the chief medical officer for the UK Government, Professor Dame Sally Davies. Yet many companies are slow to actually make changes and take action.

Understanding how to encourage health and well-being in your workplace could give your company the edge that it needs. It doesn’t need to be expensive, even small changes can make a big difference.

Why should you invest in workplace wellness?

  • It increases motivation and energy.
  • It builds morale.
  • It brings people together.
  • It decreases stress.
  • It decreases sick leave.

As an added benefit, research finds that all of this increases productivity.

1. Introduce health initiatives
Dedicated initiatives at work can encourage staff members to take action. The formalised and collective support of the company provides inspiration for employees to make changes.

Stop smoking initiatives
The cost of smoking to the National Health Service in England is estimated to be around £2bn – £6bn. It is worth working with your local NHS Stop Smoking Services to devise an initiative in the workplace to help those who smoke to quit. A survey of 25,000 health workers found that those who smoked are twice as likely to take time off work.

The NHS promotes vaping as a way of giving up smoking with Public Health England also saying smokers should be encouraged to switch to vapes.

There are various ways of implementing this at work:

  • Ask a doctor or health professional to come into the workplace to talk to staff.
  • Provide an area where staff can vape – many MPs are calling for vaping areas to be seperate from smoking areas.
  • Set up small group meetings at work run by professionals.
  • Supply subsidised or free gum, patches or vaping equipment.

Healthy eating initiatives
The office environment tends to encourage bad eating habits. There is usually always an excuse to eat cake and many feel that caffeine gets them through the sluggish moments of the day. People also often feel they are too busy to leave their desk and so grab convenience food to eat while multitasking.

Here are some ideas to encourage a healthier diet:

  •  Provide bowls of fruit in the office for people to snack on.
  •  Provide a healthy lunch for the staff once a month to celebrate payday.
  •  Set up a company healthy eating group on social media to share tips and recipes.
  • If you have a canteen ensure that the food is fresh and healthy.
  •  Include healthy eating lunch vouchers in your company perks.

Exercise and fitness initiatives
Regular exercise keeps workers physically fit and healthy, boosts their immune system and keeps them mentally alert and energised. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, sharpening concentration and making work challenges easier to tackle. It also helps to increase their stamina if a job is physically demanding.

Here are some ways to get staff members motivated to exercise:

  • The cycle to work scheme – this is a tax incentive scheme which encourages employees to cycle to and from work.
  •  On-site pilates or yoga classes can take place in a meeting room or boardroom.
  • Discounted or free gym membership.
  • Company sports teams.

2. Promote work/life balance
The 24/7 working culture that we can experience today with constant access to work via mobile phones and laptops can leave workers feeling stressed and burnt-out with a lowered immune system. Ultimately, happy workers are productive workers. Not only this, but some of the ideas below will help you save on costs.

  • Flexible working hours – allows employees to manage their time more effectively leading to loyalty to the company and job satisfaction.
  • One day a week working from home – companies such as Barclays save huge amounts of money by desk sharing
  • Have a curfew on emails
  • Restrict access to the company server to work hours
  • Don’t let staff members work while on holiday

3. Promote good mental health
How employees are feeling impacts everything they do at work from communication to productivity. Therefore promoting good mental health is vital for any business. Here are some ways in which you can do that in the workplace:

  • Schedule 1-2-1 chats to ask people about work and life.
  • Pay for employees to complete training courses to improve their skills and give them a sense of achievement.
  • Provide an inspirational quote of the week to inspire them.
  • Take part in charity events as a company – helping others can reduce stress.

4. Don’t simply talk the talk – walk the walk
Employees will likely receive little inspiration from handing round leaflets or sending out emails. The best examples for making changes towards a healthier lifestyle come from demonstration. Ultimately, changes in company culture come from actions led by the management team.

  • It is vital that employees are able to relax and recharge out of working hours and the best way to encourage them to do this is if the management team are doing the same.
  • The management team should also participate in company socials. This builds better relationships better colleagues and enables more effective communication at work.
  • When encouraging healthy eating, chat to the staff about what you are finding challenging or tips you have discovered.
  • If you are a smoker and taking up vaping as a way of quitting, make sure that you encourage other smokers to give up by vaping in designated areas at work. This will also allow for conversation, adding to a sociable workplace.

A positive reputation for caring about employees helps you to retain your workforce, but it can also can help entice new candidates to your company – putting you in a positive position over competitors.

There is no set plan for a health and wellbeing programme in the workplace. Ideally, you should take a holistic approach – health and wellbeing must include emotional health as well as physical. However, it is important to be inclusive, so account for different ages, disabilities or health conditions and adapt the programme to suit all needs.