Guest Blog by Wendy Merry
Health and wellbeing in the workplace are no longer trendy buzz-words but an essential part of any successful business, explains Wendy Merry, Civica’s Chief People Officer.
Employee wellbeing – are organisations taking it seriously enough? A recent survey by Price Waterhouse Cooper would suggest not, with nearly a quarter of workers suggesting that more attention needs to be paid to mental health in the workplace. The survey of 2,000 UK employees also uncovered that 34% of those who took part reported a health and wellbeing issue, most commonly anxiety, depression and stress. Meanwhile, the European Brain Council recently reported that one in ten working people have taken time off work because of depression, and around 350 million working days are lost in the EU each year due to stress and depression.
It’s now a recognised fact that employee health and wellbeing can have a significant impact on performance within the workplace, affecting concentration levels, interaction with colleagues and productivity. Yet there is still a worrying stigma attached to admitting to mental health issues; a further recent study by Canada Life found that almost a fifth of people would be more likely to go into work if mentally ill than physically ill, and many worried how taking time off for mental issues would be perceived by their manager and colleagues.
A complex issue
So why do issues persist around asking for help around mental health issues? There are out-dated pre-conceptions that if an employee is seen to have a problem, especially with stress and anxiety, it will be permanently on their record. It’s only by continuously promoting and talking about the support available to people that organisations can start to remove the so-called ‘stigma’ in this area.
The emphasis on health and wellbeing in the workplace is a huge growth trend as people, especially so-called Generation Y and Z, strive for more of a work-life balance and health-conscious lifestyle. At the same time, the need for companies to provide more support post-recession has increased significantly as roles have changed and we’ve seen the move towards the ‘always-on’ culture. Employees expect so much more from their employers; the days of just providing a job and salary have fast disappeared. People wish to access support whenever and wherever they need it, including those working in the field or from home.
A healthy, happy workforce
It is important that organisations develop a full programme of health and wellness to improve employees’ mental health and wellbeing, with trained counsellors, leaders and dedicated members ready to provide support whenever and wherever it’s needed.
A healthy, motivated workforce will lead to higher performance and stronger growth. As in any modern businesses where people are striving hard to achieve, organisations must aim to promote a culture where employees are able to balance the pressures of work with their commitments at home, resulting in a healthy mind-set and physical state.
A combined approach to building a healthy work environment ranges from ensuring leaders are confident and well-trained in people management, as well as championing health and wellbeing services which include occupational health, advice on financial issues, specialist counselling services and flexible working, to name just a few.
By taking a pro-active approach, organisations will stay ahead of issues such as anxiety, stress and long-term absence from the workplace. A further survey from charity CABA found that a third of senior HR employees don’t think their company considers employee wellbeing an essential part of good business strategy, so it’s time for the business community at large to start tackling these issues head on.