By Dr Josh Cullimore from Bluecrest Health Screening, one of the UK’s leading health check providers
The average worker will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, so it’s never been more important that our time spent in work is a happy one. Research shows that happy workers are more productive, less stressed and more loyal to their employer.
International Happiness at Work Week strives to make happiness in work the rule and not the exception. Thankfully as a nation we’re beginning to follow the notion that working all hours, being available to respond to emails immediately and sacrificing ‘me time’ for work is not the key to workplace happiness nor productivity.
Work related stress is known to cause both anxiety and depression in workers and found to be the most common causes for mental ill health. Poor mental health amongst workers cost the UK economy £94bn a year, while the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that 12.7% of all sickness days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.
This demonstrates that work related stress has a destructive effect not only on the UK workforce but also on the UK economy. Health and wellbeing in the workplace is now getting the attention it deserves from senior business leaders who are striving to create a positive working environment, which has been proven to increase productivity levels by as much as 12%.
UK workers are also calling out for mental health support as 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being.
It’s clear from these findings that a happy workforce is an important cornerstone of any business and that happy employees have a huge advantage to business profit, productivity and success over unhappy workers.
While regular pay reviews and cash bonuses are a sure bet to help increase workplace happiness, this is not always a feasible option for UK businesses. There are a range of simple, yet effective steps business leaders can take to boost employee happiness by promoting positive health and wellbeing amongst workers:
- Encouraging employees to step away from their desks – working through lunch breaks can leave employees feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated, resulting in burnout. Powering through over lunch may initially seem like a more productive option but isn’t sustainable and will in turn contribute to higher stress levels and fatigue. Managers and business leaders should lead by example – leaving their desks over lunch and break times. This will encourage employees to down tools, take time away from their workstation and eat away from their desks.
- Getting active on lunch breaks – this can be something as simple as taking a walk or sitting outside during lunch. Getting outdoors gives workers a chance to stretch their legs and if the weather permits some much needed vitamin D. Another option for bosses could be to offer fitness classes or activities to encourage staff to get active, this could be in the form of a ping pong table or hire an instructor to host 30 min fitness sessions over lunch.
- Introducing health benefits for your workforce – health benefits can vary from fitness classes and gym membership to private health care and health screenings. By offering health benefits to employees, this will assist workers to proactively manage their health and wellbeing, helping them stay healthy and happy at work. If workers have access to private healthcare, they can quickly seek medical attention when unwell and help reduce time taken off. Equally, access to private healthcare can help employees better manage their health and risk factors for diseases and conditions through screening tests – such as those offered by Bluecrest Health, who provide customers with a clear knowledge about their current health status which aims to inspire and motivate them to make proactive decisions in order to live healthier, happier and longer lives.
- Promoting healthy eating habits – providing and promoting healthy eating habits and food options in the workplace reinforces that their employer cares about their employees’ health and wellbeing, making them feel valued. This could be a small token such as providing fruit and healthy snacks in the office, arranging cookery lessons for teams or offering access to a nutritionist.
- Encouraging a healthy work life balance – the best way to encourage a healthy work life balance is to communicate with employees, ensure workers are open about their workload and time constraints and flagging with their senior team if demands placed on them are too great.
It’s important to encourage workers to down tools and step away from work as well as taking regular breaks to destress and relax during the working day. By introducing and promoting healthy eating habits, lifestyle choices and good communication amongst teams, increased levels of wellbeing will naturally follow along with the feeling of a healthy work life balance.
Now is the time to educate employees – and decision makers in businesses – about the importance happiness in the workplace and the positive outcomes that can be accomplished by taking time to asses and manage their health and wellbeing. Better health will not only result in success on a professional level but also in their personal life.