Workplace wellbeing is no longer a nice-to-have; it is an essential ingredient for creating thriving workplaces and productive organisations. More and more, we are seeing employers of all sizes investing in the health and wellbeing of their employees and looking at how to build happier and healthier workplaces.
We seem to use the term ‘wellbeing’ to describe physical and mental health and this is understandable and logical in terms of health and safety. Last year, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s Key figures for Great Britain 2016-2017, we lost 31.2 million working days to work-related illness and workplace injury, while a further 1.3 million working people suffered from a work-related illness. Wellbeing is a much broader concept than how healthy our employees feel or how happy an employee feels at a particular time.
Many forward-thinking organisations are beginning to integrate health and wellbeing programmes into their health and safety practices, understanding that this can positively impact the productivity of their employees and reduce potential costs incurred by the organisation.
For example, by law an assessment is required for all staff who use computers as part of their working day. The assessment identifies how the computer workstation should be set up for the individual. This allows the employer to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries. There is also a need to take breaks away from the computer.
Introducing wellbeing initiatives at break times, such as walking lunches, yoga sessions and music groups encourages employees to move away from their desks and become more active during their working day. This reduces the risk of injury, can reduce absence and can increase productivity.
Integrating wellbeing programmes into health and safety can fulfil employers’ legal responsibility and improve the health and wellbeing of their workforces. This is where all employers should look to start.
Kevin Yip DipOSH CMIOSH is a senior consultant at Health@Work