Worker's Health Key to Productivity
No matter the sector, the health and well being of your workers is key to their productivity and overall performance, so it’s important that employers’ do their best to encourage good working practices and an overall positive working environment. Whilst this can be affected by many things, its important that we all take responsibility for fostering supportive practices where possible.
Physical Health Problems
Physical health problems should not be a problem in the workplace, but they often are, and not necessarily because an employer is being unsupportive. It may be that a person’s physical health is impacting on their performance because of the medication they are taking, or how they feel as their body is coping with both the health condition and their own job role. Physical health problems can often lead to sick leave, which in turn impacts the business. These situations are often unavoidable but can be eased in part by a supportive employer and working environment; this in turns will aid productivity and performance.
Mental Health Problems
It is not only physical health that affects people; mental health is also a big consideration. We recently reported that over 1,400 construction workers took their own lives in the UK during the 4 year span of 2011-2015; this figure does not even touch those in different sectors who may also have been affected by stress and mental health. According to the Government’s Thriving at Work report (2017), as many as 300,000 employees with a mental health problem lose their job every year, with an additional 15% showing symptoms of a mental health condition. This means that the cost of poor mental health to the economy is between £74 billion and £99 billion per year, with employers footing between £33 billion and £42 billion of that total. These costs come from staff sickness, staff turnover and lack of productivity in the workplace. Of course, no cost is as high to that of human life.
So why is mental health still causing so trouble? Stigma around discussing mental health is high, people don’t want to feel they are being judged, earning a label or being a burden. 85% of workers feel that stigma would be an issue if they tried to discuss their mental health at work. Not a visible problem, mental health is certainly the unseen dragon in the room.
Where do we go from here?
Aside from encouraging compassion and understanding in all employees at all levels, there are options that employers can take to ensure their staff feel supported no matter whether their health problems may be physical or related to their mental state of mind.
- Flexible working – all employees have been able to apply for flexible working since 2014, but employers can – and do – deny the requests (although there are criteria that must be met for a reasonable denial). Whilst not all cases are down to inflexibility, any that are need to be reviewed, as flexible working can really aid workers who may be struggling with set working hours and locations, leading in turn to higher emotions and stress levels.
- Training – ensuring that there are trained members of staff available at any time during work hours to assist with either physical or mental health problems is critical, even if they are just available to spot the warning signs of a crisis and offer support to the individual. A wide range of training courses around first aid and mental health in the workplace are now available, so it’s worth investing in your staff so they in turn can invest their skills in ensuring a happier, healthier workplace.
- Employee benefits – offering employee benefits such as gym passes/discounts, fuel cards, transport options and private healthcare will not only encourage new starters through the door, but also offer support to all staff who may struggle with the costs of some of the services, such as a gym membership or even putting fuel in their car. Over 50% of UK adults admit money worries affect their mental health on a daily basis, so if this can be eased without significant impact to the company, it may be beneficial not only to employees but their overall state of mind in and out of the workplace.
- Working aids – it is a legal requirement that employers make reasonable adjustments for those who need them in order to effectively do their job – for example, modifying equipment or ensuring that information is given in a format best suited to the person receiving it. However, going the extra mile and giving employees above and beyond the bare minimum to support existing health conditions will naturally lead to an increase in productivity and wellbeing. Offering aids to all will also go a long way to preventing more work-related health conditions, such as RSI, from developing.