An unhealthy workforce is bad for business – it’s time for companies to start taking responsibility
Posted: Mon, 05 Nov 2018 16:19 by Mr Gareth Samuel
By Katie Tierney
There is growing evidence to show that poor physical and mental health arising from our increasingly stressful working environments is one of the main factors behind our comparatively poor productivity levels as a nation. Smart businesses can invest in employee health through physical activity schemes to increase employee efficiency and improve company performance.
As project officer on Active Workplaces, my role enables me to support local businesses and organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees. In Norfolk we are fortunate to receive financial backing from Norfolk County Council's Public Health and funding from the Department for Transport, through a project called Pushing Ahead, to provide information, resources and training as well as bespoke support to businesses who are looking to develop and implement a workplace physical activity and active travel programme.
For organisations which commit to creating a culture that encourages and supports their staff to become more active in and around the working day, the benefits can be substantial: increased productivity levels, reduced sickness absence, lower employee turnover, higher morale, improved company profile as well as reduced pressure on car park and lower business travel costs for those employees who promote active travel.
For employees, benefits include improvements in their mental and physical health, quality and quantity of sleep, concentration and mental alertness, higher levels of energy as well as a reduced risk of many diseases.
In our competitive and challenging economic climate the unfortunate reality is that some organisations and senior managers still fail to understand the importance of, or prioritise, workplace health. Many organisations continue to view it as an optional extra; something that they would like to implement, but at a less demanding and stressful time. This mindset is counter-productive as it is frequently when working environments are at their most challenging, and employees at their busiest and stressed, that promoting and supporting workplace physical activity and active travel can benefit organisations most.
One of the best parts of my job is witnessing the positive results that comes from employers engaging with the Active Workplaces programme. From watching employees enjoying time together whilst participating in a variety of different activities at our ever-popular Business Games event or calendar of evening competitions, to meeting with businesses and hearing first-hand stories about the positive impact it has had within their organisation as well as the physical and mental health improvements that individual employees have seen from becoming more active.
With employees now spending 60% of their waking hours at work, workplaces have now become a vital setting for individuals to receive the information, support and opportunities to make positive lifestyle changes. For business leaders it is imperative that a change in our workplace culture occurs. Bad health is bad for business so it's time to start taking it seriously.