Employers who create healthy workplaces can reduce employee absence and boost productivity, according to a new Trades Union Congress (TUC) guide published on 12 February 2013.
The report, 'Work and well-being', aims to promote healthier working and help union safety reps identify what within their workplaces are making staff ill.
Every year around 170 million working days are lost because people are too poorly to go into work - 23 million of these are down to work-related ill health and 4 million as a result of injuries suffered at work. The best way of tackling ill health is to stop workers from getting ill in the first place, says the guide.
Work and well-being says that the best method for improving the general well-being of a workforce is to change the way that work is organised and managed. For example, reducing workplace stress is far more useful than providing on-site massage for stressed workers.
The report also says that running exercise classes during lunch hours may prove popular with some employees but employers need to ensure that workers have a proper lunch break in order to benefit. Also any lifestyle changes must be made available in a completely non-judgmental manner so that no-one feels any changes are being forced upon them.
Work and well-being suggests a number of ways that employers and unions might try to encourage a healthier attitude amongst employees, including:
- Providing an on-site gym or subsidised membership of a local fitness centre
- Encouraging employees to cycle to work by providing a secure storage place for bikes, introducing schemes where staff can get discounted bikes and cycling accessories and having workplace shower facilities
- Offering healthy options in the canteen, encouraging staff not to eat lunch at their desks, or by providing a regular supply of free fruit to encourage employees to pick the occasional apple over their regular chocolate bar
- Giving staff the chance to access employee assistance programmes which can help them cope with personal problems that could have an impact on their performance at work, or offer advice with financial concerns, or on problems they may be having with colleagues.
Commenting on the guide, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Healthier lifestyles are something we should all be aspiring to, and given the amount of time we spend at work, the workplace is a good place to start.
"Work can create a lot of health issues such as back problems, and it can also be a cause of stress which is linked to the increased use of tobacco and alcohol. Similarly, if employees are sitting down all day and only have access to junk food during their lunch break then they have more chance of developing heart disease or diabetes in later life."
She concluded:"Far too many days a year are being lost through ill health. Sensible employers who are able to identify problems at an early stage, and who introduce changes to prevent ill health and promote well-being will reduce sickness absence and increase productivity."
* Read and download 'Work and well-being' here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): https://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/532/TUC_WORK_AND_WELL-BEING.pdf