Working wonders for employee wellbeing

Paul Avis

Paul Avis

It is common knowledge that good employee wellbeing is key to minimising sickness absence and promoting a happy, healthy – and above all, productive – workplace.

But how can organisations achieve this when there are so many wellbeing issues and opportunities facing employers?

From mental health concerns, with over half of employees experiencing a mental health problem while in employment, to physical health and personal issues, there are plenty of potential topics that employers need to be aware of.

Employers can’t influence events beyond the workplace, but they can certainly take steps to provide their employees with a supportive environment and tangible solutions to address their wellbeing concerns.

Paul Avis, marketing director of Canada Life Group Insurance, explains how positive employer communications, effective absence management and use of services like Employee Assistance Programmes and vocational rehabilitation can prevent and resolve wellbeing problems.

Employee wellbeing is now high on many businesses’ agendas rather than merely an afterthought when addressing sickness absence. There is an obvious link between having a happy, healthy workforce and improved productivity and the government has acknowledged it believes improvements in employees wellbeing may be conducive to economic growth.’

But how can organisations effectively enhance employee wellbeing, prevent potential issues and provide effective solutions when faced with wellbeing challenges?

It is incumbent upon employers to understand the key issues affecting employee wellbeing. The Health and Safety Act of 1974 makes this is a legal obligation.

Mental health is one area that has attracted growing attention in recent years, not least because stress and mental ill-health are among the top four causes of long-term absence. Stress is the leading cause of absence for non-manual workers. Over half of UK employees have suffered from mental health problems while in employment, with stress and depression the most commonly experienced issues .

The causes of mental health problems are rarely clear-cut, but sometimes it’s the workplace itself that leads to these kinds of illnesses. One in five (19 per cent) of employees we surveyed said their workplace has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Having a high pressure or stressful role, an unsustainable workload, excessive working hours and unpleasant interactions with colleagues can all lead to issues with mental health.

Stress is one of the areas of mental health most commonly talked about in the context of employee wellbeing, but depression is also quickly becoming a growing issue.

An analysis of calls made to EmployeeCare (Canada Life Group’s Employee Assistance Programme) showed calls seeking help for depression increased 40 per cent in Q1 2015 compared to the same quarter in 2014.

Calls about stress increased 9 per cent over the previous 12 months. Depression might not attract the same attention as stress, but employers need to be aware this is a significant problem and must be taken seriously.

The workplace also has a bearing on our physical health. The type of environments we work in can easily encourage or dissuade healthy lifestyles. How many times have you found yourself indulging in office snacks, or hurriedly eating lunch at your desk?