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Are you sitting comfortably? Managing well-being in the workplace

18 Aug 2016

Taking steps to ensure the health and safety of your workforce is not only a legal requirement: effectively managing employees’ well-being can also have a positive impact on morale and productivity, boosting concentration and motivation levels, and helping to attract and retain skilled members of staff.

A recent report outlined the need for employers to address a ‘well-being vacuum’ that has evolved within modern workplaces, with many businesses taking a reactive rather than a proactive approach. Here we consider some strategies to help encourage employee well-being in your workplace.

A healthy workplace

As an important first step, you should ensure that the working environment is clean, comfortable and free of potential hazards. As well as helping to minimise the risk of an employee falling ill or an accident occurring, putting such measures in place will help to ensure well-being and boost productivity.

You should consider all aspects of the working environment, from the layout of the office, to the noise and heat levels generated by equipment such as printers and radiators, potential hazards such as computer or telephone cables, and individual employees’ seating arrangements. Conducting a risk assessment will help to highlight any areas of the business where things could be improved.

Mental health in the workplace

Beyond the immediate physical environment, effective stress management has become an important part of maintaining a healthy and efficient workforce. Mental health issues such as stress and anxiety are becoming increasingly recognised by businesses, and can significantly impact on employees’ physical health. Work-related stress accounts for millions of lost working days in the UK every year. Managing stress in the workplace should be part of your business strategy, and staff should be encouraged and supported in minimising their stress levels with some simple steps, for example:

  •  Effectively managing time – Creating a balanced work schedule, which accounts for all tasks and responsibilities, can significantly reduce stress levels
  •  Taking regular breaks – As well as reducing physical stresses on the body, taking regular breaks from a computer or workstation can help to refocus the mind
  • Prioritising the workload – Particularly helpful in times of pressure, creating a priority list can help to ensure that you complete the essential tasks first
  • Being open to compromise – Be open and willing to alter the way in which you contribute to a particular task or work towards a deadline, including delegating work to others where appropriate.

Dealing with staff sickness

Employee sickness can be detrimental to all parties, having a knock-on effect on other members of staff and the business as a whole. As well as putting in place a sickness policy outlining the procedures an employee should follow if they are unwell, you should have contingency plans to cover any work in their absence. For cases of long-term sickness, businesses should consider measures to help support the individual back to work, such as reduced hours, amended duties or remote working. To help keep sickness levels to a minimum, you might also consider offering the flu vaccine to employees.

Your well-being strategy checklist

  • Creature comforts: is the working environment comfortable, with noise, lighting and temperatures set at appropriate levels?
  • Shipshape: are workstations and other areas clean, tidy and hazard-free?
  • Healthy eating: a good diet can help to boost well-being. If you provide your staff with a canteen or other eating facilities, you might consider including healthy snack options
  • Have a break: are staff able to take regular breaks, away from their workstations?
  • An open policy: do staff feel able to approach managers regarding their well-being?
  • Posing the question: consider asking staff to report on their health and satisfaction levels
  • Time for fun? Arrange a communications day with some fun activities to help staff to relax and to improve team bonding.

Sickness is an inevitable and often uncontrollable part of life. However, by ensuring that you monitor your workplace well-being strategy, and by working with your employees, you can help to minimise the long-term effects on both your staff and your business.

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