But by developing a sound, practical wellbeing strategy you could take steps to improve performance during the hours employees already spend at work — as well as helping to prevent absence. And by looking after your employees, this in itself can help increase your business' resilience too.
How big is the problem?
According to the government’s Health and Safety Executive, it's estimated that 23.5 million days were lost to work-related ill-health in the 2018/19 financial year 1. But that’s not all, Aviva's Working Lives Report 2 found that, of those surveyed, 7 in 10 people have gone into work when feeling unwell — and this ‘presenteeism’ could be a potential source of poor productivity which can easily be overlooked.
“We’re not big enough to have a wellbeing strategy”
Wellbeing strategies aren’t just for large companies. In fact, there’s an argument that smaller companies are disproportionately affected by absence — if you have hundreds of employees, it’s far easier to find someone to step into the shoes of a staff member who’s off sick.
It needn’t be costly to put together the basis of a strategy to reduce both absences and ‘presenteeism’. As well as factors affecting physical health, employers need to think about countering the effects of issues such as financial worries, or negative life events. These are factors which can lead to poor mental health.
5 cost-effective wellbeing ideas:
1) Introduce some initiatives that cost nothing — such as 5k running clubs, or ‘internet yoga’ (play a yoga video on a big screen and invite employees to follow along).
2) Make the most of what (or who) you’ve got — recruit that person who’s always ready to step up to organise an event. Turn them into a health hero or wellbeing champion and channel their enthusiasm into a worthwhile cause.
3) Source cost-effective wellbeing benefits — these could include healthcare benefits or insurance cover from a financial services provider. In Aviva’s 2018 consumer survey 3 43% of respondents said money issues were the greatest strain on their wellbeing, so employee benefits that focus on financial wellbeing are key. Income protection, critical illness cover and life insurance won’t just help your employees through tough times, they’ll also help to relieve some of the stress that comes from worrying what might happen in future. It’s not just large corporate businesses that offer benefits such as these. Also think about small details, such as free fruit and veg or time off for a child’s first day of school. Giving employees time off for voluntary work provides inexpensive team building opportunities. And as well as improving the wellbeing of your workforce, ideas like these could also underline your reputation as a good employer.
4) Encourage a healthy work/life balance — introducing greater flexibility in working hours needn’t reduce the overall time staff spend at work, but it can help people with out-of-work commitments to reduce stress and feel valued. It’s also important to make sure employees take breaks — some employers provide a ‘phone-free zone’ where staff can take time out to refocus. Clearing the mind and starting again isn’t just a stress-buster — it’s also a great way to gain fresh insight and clear mental blocks… boosting productivity.
5) Develop an open culture — encouraging staff to talk about any difficulties they’re having even if they’re outside the workplace, can release the tensions that lead to bigger problems later. Make sure the issue of mental health isn’t becoming stigmatised.
So, however many (or few) people you employ, developing a wellbeing strategy can do your business a power of good as well as the people within it. Whatever you decide to do, gather feedback and record data to show what works, where absences occur and why, and how much you’re spending on each initiative. In the long run, this could repay itself many times over in terms of reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.