We spend a lot of time at work and a lot at our desks. This is unhealthy. An estimated 1.2 million people who worked in 2014/15 were suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by work. Around 80% of the new work-related conditions in 2014/15 were musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety (LFS). The direct costs of employee absence to the economy are estimated at more than £14bn per year according to the CBI.
Historically, employee health has fallen under the health and safety banner and has been limited to occupational health related interventions for injuries or illnesses acquired while at work. More recent initiatives have begun to challenge this relatively restrictive view of employee health, advocating an expansion of health and safety programmes to encompass a more holistic approach to wellness, to be proactive rather than reactive.
There has been a growth of engagement; 21% from 2013 to 42% in 2014 of senior leadership who are actively promoting health by using outbound communications to their staff. Over a third of companies (37%) are using schemes based on peer-based champions to promote programmes and initiatives while only 16% have no active promotional activities.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP was commissioned by the Health Work Wellbeing Executive in 2007 looking at 55 UK Businesses who implemented Wellness initiatives. As the chart illustrates reductions in sickness absence & Staff turnover were 2 of the major benefits.
The survey then went on to look at 7 case studies in terms of a benefit-cost ratio (BCR), for their wellness programmes. This ratio below shows the nominal return for every unit of cost expenditure. The Call Centre Physiotherapy programme ratio of 34 illustrates that for every £1 spent the organisation recovered £34 in programme benefits.
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is for the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees.
It is the employer’s legal obligation (EU Directive 90/270/EEC) to organise annual Workstation Risk Assessments. Additionally from 1st January 2015 the Government introduced a tax exemption of up to £500 (per year, per employee) on medical treatments recommended to help their employees return to work.
Insurance company Vitality Health runs a yearly competition to find Britain’s Healthiest Company and in 2014 Old Mutual won as the healthiest small company. Old Mutual’s employee assistance programme includes counselling on topics ranging from housing and debt to care responsibilities and bereavement, with referrals to healthcare staff and confidential advice included.
Fitbit the company behind the fitness trackers, which a lot of office products sellers stock, run their own “Workout Wednesdays,” a day devoted to fitness where employees can participate in various workouts throughout the day. And, of course, utilises its product by running quarterly
In the UK 12.5% of all sickness absence days are estimated to be attributable to back pain. Ergonomic products do a good job in preventing some of these instances and it is the employer’s legal obligation (EU Directive 90/270/EEC) to organise annual Workstation Risk Assessments. The company Fellowes is a good example of a company whose product development is supported by comprehensive research. They offer a full range of workstation ergonomic products including back supports and wrist rests.