Dr Bridget Juniper: Employers can boost wellbeing and productivity in the winter

Juniper Bridget-Work and Wellbeing-2015The clocks have gone back, nights are drawing in and staff morale has dipped. What practical actions can employers take to support employees’ health and wellbeing so that they remain well and productive during the winter?

The golden rule is to make it relevant to employees and the work they perform. If employers have some data on staff health needs, so much the better. If they don’t, why not ask people what they think is important? Initiatives are most likely to be effective if they are needs-led rather than programme-led.

Worker wellbeing is multi-faceted. As well as elements such as psychological and physical health, areas such as work-life balance, the workspace and managerial support should be considered.

A few seasonal ideas include flu jabs, a light-hearted seminar on handling the excesses of Christmas, such as vitamin boosts, avoiding weight gain and hangover remedies, or offering free or discounted gym membership post-Christmas. Or perhaps introducing an incentivised weight-loss programme for those who have piled on the pounds over the holidays could be effective.

Where appropriate, employers could encourage their employees not to travel in to the office unnecessarily. Remote working helps reduce the number of early starts in the dark and reduces the risk of hazardous journeys on icy roads.

Offer porridge at breakfast and hearty, healthy soups for lunch to fuel employees’ performances; they will appreciate the gesture and it will help sustain concentration levels.

Of course, on their own, these kind of initiatives are not going to change employees’ health status radically; they need to be part of a broad programme where wellbeing is regarded as a strategic driver of performance. The number of people who sign up for a flu jab, attend the seminar and enrol at the gym will tell employers if they are on the right lines.

Dr Bridget Juniper is director at Work and Wellbeing