The trouble with being human
The trouble with being human is that we are unreliable! We suffer from a host of ailments that can decrease our productivity, and impact our mental health and our physical health. Minor illnesses remain the most common cause of short-term absence, followed by stress.
Stress, acute medical conditions and mental ill health continue to be the most common causes of long-term absence (4 weeks +) followed by musculoskeletal injuries and back pain. Nearly a fifth include home/family/carer responsibilities among their top five causes of long-term absence. (CIPD 2016 annual report). According to UK Health & Safety Executive: Almost 600,000 (595,000) workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2017/18.
This translates into 15.4 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18 (Labour Force Survey). We are all susceptible to these ailments and no one is exempt, but our work can impact our home life, and our home life can also impact our work lives. Being human can cause problems for employees and employers alike!
Reflecting on the mental health data independently, in 26 countries, depression was the primary driver of disability. Depression is estimated by the WHO to be the leading cause behind years of lost life by 2030. Research by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), shows that rates of moderate to extreme anxiety and depression among employees have soared by 30.5 per cent since records began in 2013. Of course, some of the impacts on these figures is down to increased awareness and engagement in reporting, but trends common across developed societies.
Stress is one of the most common issues raised by employees, and even this has some significant knock-on effects for health behaviours. For example, 46% of employees reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.
Results of the Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 study found that 74% of people have been so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. The study was an online poll undertaken by YouGov and had a sample size of 4,619 respondents.
Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self-harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year.
Challenges for Employers
Absenteeism – These ailments we spoke of, create absenteeism. Of course, having zero absenteeism would be ideal, but not always achievable. However, employers can positively contribute to some of the more preventable issues.
Presenteeism – According to the data from the Health & Wellbeing at Work survey in 2018, 86% of HR professionals experienced presenteeism in the workplace. This is when people are sick but still come into work.
Responsibility to employees – Employers have a responsibility to look after their employees, and not to create a psychosocial environment that demotes health, as well as managing things like workflow, management and working hours.
Recruitment and retention – Often, having a positive and healthy workplace culture can be an incentive for recruitment, as well as an incentive to retain staff.
Senior Leaders buying in and budget – Change comes from the top down, and having the backing of the senior leaders within in the business can be difficult, as well as the cost associated with implementing health and wellness into the organisation.
Importance of Health and Wellness
As mentioned already, there are certain things that can be prevented or improved from an organisational point of view to prevent the psycho-social environment having an impact on their employees. Part of this is increasing the employee’s autonomy to cope with adversity, to build resilience, promote self-management when appropriate and to recognise the signs that further support might be necessary. This process both educates and empowers employees to make changes!
There are also reactive measures that are important to the health and wellness of the company. As mentioned, sometimes there’s nothing we can do to prevent a sudden onset of a health-related issue.
Then you have the social care side, the things that bring up company morale by giving people perks and treats associated with the job. These things can be funding a 5 a side football team, a day of employee massages, or having a pop-up barbershop. These things can really bring people together and create a positive atmosphere.
Barriers to Engagement
So how can you implement these health and wellness offerings, and get people to engage so the organisation and the employees get maximum return?
Time – Individuals who struggle to carve out the time to address a problem, often don’t prioritise it until it becomes such a problem that it impacts their lives.
Cost – If an individual can’t afford the financial cost of addressing a problem, it could exacerbate the issue and could certainly impact on their work and personal life.
Data driven – Sometimes it can seem like the Return on Investment isn’t sufficient, because the delivery of services isn’t of high quality. With data-driven health and wellness, you have an evidence base as well as user feedback, benchmarks of similar cohorts for comparison purposes and prevalence data. You also have organisational specific feedback to adapt your health and wellness services for your own employees!
The blended model that Spectrum.Life uses allows the most cost-effective strategies, time efficient and evidence-based practice, which in turn leads to the best ROI for the company such as the delivered services, productivity and sick leave. This system also breaks down barriers to accessibility, such as time, and for issues such as mental health, stigma and embarrassment related to seeking treatment. Employees can access eLearning pathways and support through Employee Assistance Programmes, at any point in the day, so the wellbeing journey doesn’t start and end at work and employees can engage in services in the privacy of their own home if that is their preference.
Importance of the Human Element
Some important services just are not feasible to deliver through digital. For example, massage, physiotherapy and on-site workshops. What the human element offers is the user experience, the ability to respond to a given audiences needs and the organic exploration of a topic. According to research by Oxford University in 2013, up to 47% of US jobs are at risk of being computerised. However, allied healthcare professionals were in the top 20 who were least at risk. Why? Well, because there are some things a computer can’t do right now, believe it or not!
The blended solution
The blended solution that Spectrum.Life offers can address employee wellness through a comprehensive delivery that leverages the best of both worlds. Through online delivery of specific services, we break down barriers to accessibility, allowing employees to engage at locations and times that suit them, empowering employees to take charge of their own health and wellbeing. It also allows the necessary in-person services to be booked with minimal cost and minimal fuss for the employer.
From an employer and employee perspective, there are often multiple channels of communication, a lot of clutter, having to log in to different apps and engage through different methods, and this can diminish engagement and return. As well as that, we can gather data on engagement and outcomes through the app, so you can measure the return and the overall health of your company. Engagement is incentivised through rewards and gamification, which has been shown to drive engagement in these services! Not only is it a measure of outcomes, but it a resource for your business. This way, your services can be specific to your company’s needs, and use this to drive productivity, engagement and retention as well as securing a healthy and happy workforce for your company’s future.