In today’s Spring Budget (Wednesday, March 15), Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce a series of measures to try to tackle current long term sickness rates in the UK.
In the lead-up, the Mail Online suggested that organisations could receive Government subsidies to provide employees with ‘health appraisals’ while HR Grapevine speculated that GPs could be discouraged from issuing sick notes in favour of suggesting reasonable adjustments to get people back to work, in the hope of reducing the numbers of economically inactive.
Whether these measures are introduced or not its bringing the conversation around health, wellbeing and employee resilience to the top of the agenda for the UK Government and employers in a way I can’t remember witnessing before.
As a HR professional with a long term health condition I can see all sides of the discussion and I don’t intend to go in to my thoughts on the impact such measures could have on employees and the long term sick if implemented.
Instead, what’s caught my attention is the residual debate these headline grabbing statements and statistics have sparked – what can employers do to really improve the working environments for their employees and what preventative measures can we (and should we) put in place to stop our people becoming unwell, where possible, and unable to work for long periods of time?
Of the 1.8 million workers suffering from work related ill health in 2021/22, 51% of cases are due to stress, depression or anxiety, according to the Health and Safety Executive. That’s a staggering number of people suffering with conditions due to the work they carry out or the environments in which they work.
Some cases can also be attributable to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living crisis. Nonetheless, that’s a lot of people that, in the words of the Health and Safety Executive, are suffering from the impact work can have on their mental health.
This topic is of greater concern to me. Having witnessed people very close to me reach burn out and breaking point due to the nature of their occupations and lack of an effective wellbeing strategy in place to support them, I feel compelled to promote the importance of wellbeing strategies in the workplace.
In the words of 15th century Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, the “prevention is better than cure”. Implementing measurable and effective wellbeing strategies that support employees should be the take away for employers in the wake of current headlines.
So, how do we effectively support our people to find purpose in their work and to build resilience skills and to live healthy lives? Personally, I’m not a fan of lip service. If you say you’re going to do something, you have to do it properly and with both integrity and willingness to keep trying until you get it right.
As a WRAW (Workplace Resilience and Wellbeing) Accredited Master Practitioner for Solomons Europe, I’m excited to support not only our employees internally but also other organisations to help facilitate the ongoing development of their wellbeing initiatives; to roll out resilience training and development based on science and facts, that will help their leaders, teams and employees to better understand the challenges and be better able to implement the subtle lifestyle and work-life changes that prevent burnout and promote healthy high performance and personal contentment.
I’m not naïve to the plight of employers to my moral crusade, especially SMEs who may read this and think: “I would love to implement effective wellbeing initiatives but I don’t have the time, the money or the resource for this”. I get this. But in light of PwC’s senior economist Kupelian’s comment that there’s “a growing awareness of the extent to which the UK’s high figures of economic inactivity are linked to ill health of the workforce”, can employers really afford not to take positive action?
A report published by Deloitte in 2017 clearly outlines the positive case for employers investing in mental health, with an average return of £5 for every £1 spent. To me – and surely everyone in business – this suggests that wellbeing initiatives are a necessary investment rather than an expense.
WRAW is a product of The Wellbeing Project © The Wellbeing Project 2019