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Workforce wellness on a shoestring: keeping your team healthy and happy

Each year in the UK, an estimated 70 million days are lost through stress, depression and anxiety. What’s more, apart from the common cold and infections, musculoskeletal problems (joint and back pain) are the most significant cause of workplace absences.

For small businesses especially, employee health problems and absenteeism can have a major impact in all kinds of areas. On a practical level, if one of your staff members phone in sick, you’ll have to try and find another employee to cover their work. This could potentially disrupting the smooth running of your organisation. Ill, stressed employees can also be bad for business; they are less productive, more likely to miss deadlines, poorly equipped to deliver the best possible service to customers, and could make more mistakes.

Smart businesses of all sizes are realising that illness and absenteeism shouldn’t be accepted as a fact of life. The best way to get proactive is to focus on prevention. As an employer you are well-placed to influence many aspects of physical and psychosocial wellbeing — and there’s a strong business case for taking action.

So, where to start? Firstly, the good news for cash-strapped businesses: promoting wellness doesn’t necessarily have to mean rolling out expensive perks such as free gym memberships and private health insurance. A healthy and happy workforce is within reach without breaking the bank.

Adjust your office layout to maximise wellbeing

Our immediate environment can have a huge impact not just on our physical health, but our mood, too. Given that such a big chunk of our time is spent in the workplace, it’s worth taking a careful look at that environment to see whether it helps or hinders your team’s well being.

Most of us know the feeling of getting up from our desks feeling a little stiff. If this is a regular occurrence for employees, they are storing up potentially significant back and joint problems for the future. Relatively simple steps can help with this. These include providing advice on posture and ensuring monitors and chairs are positioned correctly.

In a chaotic office, where there is barely enough room to work, it’s harder for staff to get their work done. It’s frustrating, bad for morale, and a recipe for stress. Taking simple steps toward organising your workplace better can make a real impact on efficiency and stress levels, so think about how you can improve it by providing filing space or putting systems in place for shredding documents when they are no longer needed.

Make wellbeing a priority when choosing a workplace

For many businesses, expansion means moving to bigger premises. But before you make the move, consider this: are your employees going to thrive in their new office? When weighing up property options, be sure to factor in workforce wellness. Obviously along with factors such as price and location.

Serviced workplaces make sense for many new businesses. They tend to come pre-equipped with the facilities you need, often with rolling month-to-month contracts to help keep costs manageable. The best-serviced offerings are also designed around employee wellbeing. If the space you are looking at includes features like zones for de-stressing it’s the type of environment where wellness is nurtured.

Healthy initiatives on a budget

Too often, employees find themselves sitting at their desks all day. Then, when it’s time for a break, calorie-rich and nutritionally poor snacks are what they reach for. The combination of a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are some of the biggest drivers of heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes. Work can often play a huge part in this problem.

A couple of options…

The perks offered by some employers can benefit the business on two fronts. Firstly, these benefits help to attract top talent. Secondly, they ensure you have a healthier, happier workforce. But if a fully-subsidised gym membership will be too costly for your business, what are the alternatives? It’s worth making enquiries with local gyms to see what deals are possible. For instance, you might be able to negotiate group rates substantially lower than standard individual membership fees. Staff will still be paying for it themselves, but at an attractive discount.

Something as simple as an on-site shower could encourage employees to start jogging or cycling to work. Why not speak to them about whether it’s something they would use? If there are people in your team who are interested in cycling, consider installing an on-site bike rack or checking out the Cycle to Work Scheme. This annual tax exemption allows employers to effectively loan bikes and bike equipment to staff as a tax-free benefit.   

Treat your staff

Usually, it’s treats like cake and alcohol that feature heavily when it comes to work-related perks and social events. They needn’t be taken off the menu completely, but you might want to try mixing things up a little. Why not try a selection of tasty dips and vegetables at team meetings for a change?

Instead of, or perhaps alongside pizza Friday, could you try a pedometer challenge? A free smartphone app and a willingness to get involved is all that’s required. Five-a-side, go-karting, or even a game of rounders in the park can all make a refreshing change to the pub.

For more info…

our guide to work-life balance has a number of options which can help you create an environment where work doesn’t have a negative impact on employee health. For lots of further information on getting the very best out of your team and growing your business, head over to our help centre.

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