Supporting health in the workplace

In our last article we examined the challenges facing the baby boomer generation and the way in which employers can help them to remain in the workplace. Now we are moving on to look at some of the ways in which employers can help all employees to stay on top of their game.

Our article has been prompted by a workplace mental health review which has recently been launched by Prime Minister Theresa May. The review which is to be led by Lord Dennis Stevenson, formerly chair of HBOS, and Paul Farmer who is the Chief Executive of Mind aims to promote best practice concerning mental health issues within the workplace, reduce discrimination, and work with industry to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

The workplace review is part of a wider package of measures which also aims to improve mental health provision for young people within schools and colleges as well as improving the way in which mental health issues are approached within the NHS. Facing up to mental health problems within the workforce is vital if we are to remove stigma and help people to receive the treatment and support which they need. As the Prime Minister commented “mental well-being doesn’t just improve the health of employees, it improves their motivation, reduces their absence and drives better productivity too.”

But mental health is only one area in which employers can better support employees. Health and safety regulations may require employers to ensure the safe provision of equipment, including desks and chairs, but there are plenty of other ways in which employers can help employees to stay fit and healthy.

For example, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has recently highlighted a January fitness programme launched by physios at the South Warwickshire NHS trust. Following on from an earlier initiative in which they produced a thirty minute workout which staff working at the trust could use to boost their fitness over the period of one month, the new Workout at Work programme aims to help staff to stay fit through the busy winter period.

Of course the South Warwickshire NHS trust has the benefit of physiotherapists on the premises but other organisations could follow their lead by organising a staff fitness program in conjunction with a local physiotherapist or fitness trainer. Other options could include the provision of a chiropractor for those staff who are on their feet for lengthy periods of time or even simply providing staff with access to a health nutritionist who could provide guidance on the link between nutrition and physical and mental well-being.

Finally, never underestimate the importance of basic hygiene practices such as sanitising shared equipment and deep cleaning restrooms and kitchens on a regular basis. This, taken alongside the policy of ensuring that staff who are sick stay at home to avoid infecting others can make a measurable difference to the overall health of the workforce.

It’s only January and already we’ve had reports of health resources being stretched well beyond capacity with the government looking at removing the four hour A&E treatment limit for non-urgent cases. Supporting health in the workplace is one way in which employers can play their part in helping to improve the overall health of the nation and reduce the strain on the health system.