Managing the return to work interview after an employee’s mental health illness.

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Following on in our series about the return to work interview, we focus this week on strategies to manage the process, following the absence of an employee with mental health illness. 

In many ways, this can be more of a challenge to management and HR than any other return to work interview. The improved attitude to mental health care over the last few years has certainly helped bring these issues to the table, yet there is still work to be done to reduce the stigma about mental health and keep up the communication at all levels. Source. This can create a challenging in encouraging an employee open up about what help they need and should be handled with sensitivity and care. 

The aim of the return to work interview in this instance is to create an honest and open dialogue that will lead to a system of support and understanding between employers and employees. The first step is often the hardest, but by reaching out to the employee on a regular basis during their time off, it should be a natural progression to discuss how the business might facilitate a return to work that ‘works’ for them. 

When they are ready, you might hold the return to work interview in an informal yet private location or they may be happy to come into the workplace. 

The first thing to discuss is confidentiality, this is one of the biggest concerns employees have about disclosure during and after a mental health illness. How it is handled is entirely at the discretion of the employee, they may like colleagues to be informed on their behalf, they might prefer totally confidentiality or be happy to share the story themselves. There is no right or wrong and the WRAP is the perfect tool to assess this…. 

This brings us neatly on to what is arguably the most important tool in a managers’ return to work kit, the WRAP ‘Wellness, Recovery, Action Plan’. This positive collaborative management tool is an informal contract between the employee and employer that details the support the employee needs to enable them to recover and stay in work and what the employer will do to facilitate that. 

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No two experiences of mental health illness are the same and the WRAP enables a person centred approach. This not only opens up the conversation but also gives the person control over their recovery and helps them feel confident that they will receive the support they need.  It might include questions such as ‘Can you describe any of your triggers for mental ill health and early warning signs that we might notice’, or ‘If your health deteriorates, or we feel we have noticed early warning signs of distress, what should we do? Who can we contact?’.

There might be points on the WRAP that a manager will consequently need to monitor, such as that the person isn’t working too many long hours, that they are taking their lunch break or supporting with a flexible approach to hours and workload. This will be an evolving process and used as a basis for ongoing discussion, the WRAP can be continually amended as the employee settles back into work and wellbeing. 

There is a good template on page 25 of the guide: ‘Managing and supporting mental health at work: disclosure tools for managers’ on the cipd website.

The final important point that a line manager handling a return to work interview should be aware of, is their ‘frame of reference’. This is the unique set of values and judgements that we all hold that affect the way we see the world and the people in it.  It affects every decision we make. For a return to work interview, a manager should leave their own ‘frame of reference’ at the door and try and see the situation from the employees perspective. This will enable them to truly listen and respond to the needs of the person in the room, without any preconceived outcome or solution in mind. 

For further information https://mhfaengland.org or https://www.mind.org.uk

Do you use WRAP in your workplace?  How have you found it as a management tool in terms of your employees’ responsiveness to it, after a period of absence with mental ill health? 

10 tips for managing the return to work interview after an employee has been off with stress.

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According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2016, 37% of all cases of work-related ill health were due to stress (and related issues of anxiety or depression). Each case resulted in an average 24 working days lost, the implication of which can have a huge effect on any business, large or small. 

High staff turnover is expensive, so it makes business sense to reduce the chances of employees leaving as a result of work-related stress.  The key to preventing an employee leaving is often good communication and understanding their issues and frustration. 

Our last blog discussed the importance of considering issues from different perspectives and this can really help in these situations.  A return to work interview handled with particular care and thought is essential if you want to retain such employees.   

Here are our top ten tips at Cordell Health for managing the return to work interview with an employee who has been off with stress. 

1. Consider the interview an opportunity to ensure the employee’s issues are fully explored.

2. Be open and supportive; make the conversation as informal as possible. 

3. Be objective and leave your own feelings and opinions outside the room. Listen carefully and show an interest in what they have to say, even if you feel that the employee is being unfair. 

4. Try to fully understand the cause of their stress from their perspective, so you can work with them to reduce possible triggers and barriers to returning to work where possible. 

5. Using the HSE management standards for work-related stress as a framework for discussion is useful:

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  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

The HSE has published a detailed questionnaire that has some really good return to work discussion points, ideal for a period of absence with stress. 

6. Discuss any medical advice given by a GP or occupational health professional and be honest about the changes that can be made by the business and the reasons for the recommendations that can’t be accommodated.  

7. It is important not to create unrealistic expectations or to fail to deliver on promises that might further increase the employees’ stress.

8. Use the interview to reinforce the employees’ importance to the business and let them know all about what has been going on in their absence. 

9. Agree how their progress back at work will be monitored, and set achievable goals that consider areas such as workload, regular breaks and impact on work-life balance.

10. Follow up the meeting with regular communication; frequent informal chats work well and may lead your employee to feel more likely to open up and share areas of concern or problems that arise. 

For more advice on supporting an employee with stress Fit For Work and the HSE have some really good strategies and tips. 

Have you had to manage an employee’s return to work interview after a period of absence with stress? Were there any strategies you used to help them feel at ease and support them in the road to recovery and keep them in employment?

Return to work perspectives

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It is good practice for organisations to conduct a return to work interview following a period of long-term sickness absence. Keeping the interview objective, based on facts and not influenced by personal feelings or opinions is easily achievable with the right planning and preparation. 

Be organised, brainstorm from each perspective of the parties involved as detailed below, before you conduct the return to work interview. This will then provide you with a solid framework for discussion that is going to ensure you remain focused and fair. Using your judgement of the facts relevant to each of the 3 perspectives is going to eliminate emotion and keep you on track to staying objective. 

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Schedule a face to face informal return to work interview once you know when the employee will be back at work. Communication is vital for success, plan for reviews during the initial return period and these will vary depending upon whether a phased return is in place. Explain and discuss any changes to their work role or responsibilities. Where appropriate set and agree new objectives for the future, short-term and longer-term, use these as the basis in your agreed return to work review plan. This approach will enable you to support the individual and facilitate discussion should any further changes need to be made.

Prepare yourself for the interview thinking about each of the following different perspectives: your own, the employee and the 3rd person.

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  • Your perspective: be positive, supportive and welcoming. You don’t need to become a medic and fully understand the individual’s illness, it is more important to be a good manager. Be sensitive, understanding and aware of the situation. Support any recommended adjustments that you consider reasonable and ensure they are in place prior to the employee’s return to work where practicable (or at least ensure they are in hand). Make sure you comply with the Equality Act 2010  Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff. Eliminate any emotion and focus on facts to help inform your decision-making, remember happy staff are proven to be more productive!
  • The employee’s perspective: they will benefit from a sense of normality. It is important for their rehabilitation to regain financial independence, this will impact and improve their self-esteem and self-respect. The benefits to them of getting back in the workplace will have a positive impact on their health. Helping to keep their first few weeks back at work as low stress as possible is key. In your preparation think about how to avoid triggers for stress.
  • The 3rd perspective: think about how the individual’s return to work will affect the rest of your team, other employees in the business/organisation or possibly external clients/customers. If appropriate, how will you communicate any changes to make the return to work as seamless as possible for the individual and the 3rd parties involved? Thinking and planning around the bigger picture is going to help set the scene for how the individual can integrate back into their role successfully.

At the end of the day, everyone’s goal is to get back to business as usual or to create a new positive ‘usual’ – for all involved that you can move forward with. 

Have you used any other techniques to help stay objective in a return to work interview?

Employee Spotlight OH advisor - Sue Bedford

What is your role at Cordell Health? 

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I am the Occupational Health Nurse Manager, in charge of a rapidly expanding nursing team that supports our clients and their staff both on and off-site. This not only means managing my team and their needs but keeping us all fully up to date on clinical matters such as law relating to mental health and workplace health promotion and clinical governance (i.e. maintaining standards, quality and audit etc). 

I also act as an account manager and clinical lead for clients. This means I act as their first point of call for any clinical issues and support them wherever I am needed.  

One of my favourite parts of the job is being the lead on all of our wellbeing offerings, especially mental health and emotional resilience training, advice for clients and managers either on a case by case basis or general training.

What was your first job?  

My first ever job was at the age of 13 when I worked in a greengrocer on a Saturday.  That might give you some insight into my age, as you could work at 13 then!  It was a really old-fashioned grocers shop.  Although there was a till it didn't work and was used purely as a cash repository, computers were still a way off!  We had to weigh the products and mentally add up the bill as we went. My maths has never been so good!


What has been your favourite project at Cordell Health so far?  

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My favourite project has been the successful implementation of a wellbeing clinic for one of our clients.  The benefits of early intervention are well-known, particularly when it comes to stress-related ill-health and emotional resilience.  We provide an onsite service that offers a confidential ear and tailored signposting for people to get support and information before it gets to the stage where they might need sickness absence.  I'm calling it 'A Return to Tea & Sympathy' and it's been very successful so far with great feedback from the employees and the organisation.  We are looking forward to implementing the service with other clients.


If you could swap jobs with someone... who would it be and why?  

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Any of the Springwatch team, so I could spend my days watching wildlife and getting paid for it!  Plus I would be surrounded by experts who could answer all my daft wildlife questions so I wouldn't have to spend ages on Google.  
Or Colin Firth's personal assistant...


What does a typical day look like for you?  

There's no such thing!  My role is varied where I can be on a client site one day and running training the next.


What is your guilty pleasure? 

Chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.  


What are you most scared of….?  

I don't really have any physical fears, although as I've got older, I've got a little more 'wobbly' at height.  This may put my plan to wing-walk when I'm 80 out of the window.


If you had to write a self-help book what would you call it? 

How to Care Less.  As a society, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best, have the most and do everything perfectly.  I see so many people who are struggling as they try and juggle all the demands of the 21st century both in their working and personal lives.   Putting ourselves first makes us happier which in turns means we perform at life better - I've seen results with my own eyes.  Yet people still think if I just work a bit harder, it'll get better - if I just work a few more hours I'll get it all done. Actually, the evidence tells us the opposite is true. 


What’s your biggest achievement in life so far? 

Personally, my sons - they are my constant source of inspiration and pride. 

Professionally, achieving 2 fast-tracked degrees with high marks whilst dealing with difficult life circumstances! It was a good lesson in perseverance and that anything is possible.


What advice would you give someone taking up a career in occupational health? 

It’s a great career and a role I have always loved. You will be well supported within the community and the work is varied, interesting and rewarding. It’s an exciting time to become an occupational health advisor too, as the face of the profession is changing as it adapts to the demands of the modern workforce and the way we live.

Why you need to manage your employee’s stress.

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We are getting used to hearing friends, family, colleagues and even children say ‘I’m stressed’ on daily basis. These two little words have become such a part of our culture that the true enormity of what they mean can often pass us by. 

As you probably saw all over the news last week, stress was the focus of Mental Health Awareness WeekThe Mental Health Foundation has highlighted the dangers with a report revealing the prevalence and implications of our stress levels in the UK, and offering guidelines to how we can manage and reduce our stress as well as calling on the Government to create a ‘stress-free UK’. 

Stress, by which we mean the sense of pressure and subsequent anxiety as experienced by an individual person will have a number of contributing factors. 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We all need a degree of pressure to perform, and it has been recognised for many years that as pressure increases, our performance increases too. The adrenaline surge that follows is the biological basis of the sense of excitement and heightened alertness that can make us deliver beyond what we might normally expect. 

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Sadly, there comes a point, when we reach the top of this so-called “stress-performance curve”, where increasing pressure leads to worsening performance. A downward spiral eventually leads to the state of anxiety that we term the "fight or flight” reaction.  This time instead of excitement, we experience fear.

The point at which we meet our maximum capacity depends on factors such as knowledge and experience of the role, but also our own resilience, which can be affected by factors at home or work.  Ill health, whether due to mental health or physical health problems or both, will also have an impact on resilience.

Whether or not the factors affecting resilience come from our own health, family life or the workplace, the fact remains that it is often employers that hold the key to unlocking that person’s ability to deal with the stress they are under. It makes good management and good business sense, as success, in any sector, is delivered through people. Being alert and sensitive to stress amongst those people, no matter what the cause, will enhance the sense of support they feel and thereby their motivation and productivity. The benefit is far-reaching for employers and employees too.

Business in the Community (BITC), in partnership with Public Health England, has recently published a Mental Health Toolkit for employers. The toolkit sets out the scale of the problem for employers, with mental health issues in the workforce costing UK employers up to £42 billion a year.

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They revealed that 91% of managers agree that what they do affects the well-being of their staff, yet only 58% of employees believed their line manager was actually concerned about their well-being.

Further to this, a report was released this week by the mental health charity Mind, it revealed that in a survey of almost 44,000 employees 48% had experienced poor mental health (including stress, low mood and anxiety) and of those, only half felt able to tell their employer about their difficulties. There is clearly still a lot of work to be done to open up the lines of communication and empower and equip employers with the tools to support staff with their mental wellbeing. 

The BITC mental health toolkit lists eight actions for employers for good mental health in the workplace. By following these, employers will also be putting into practice the recommendations of the Stevenson-Farmer report, Thriving At Work.

  1. Make a commitment to mental health, with senior level “buy-in’.
  2. Build your approach, including co-production of a plan with employees.
  3. Create a positive culture; supporting and valuing employees.
  4. Provide support and training, including recognition of the importance of line managers and providing line manager training and development.
  5. Manage mental health, including the use of the Health and Safety Executive Management Standards
  6. Provide the right support, including training for managers to be confident with sensitive conversations, and being ready to make reasonable adjustments.
  7. Help people to recover, including through adjustments and support.
  8. Go further, evaluating your approach and sharing best practice.

How do you feel you cope with the mental health wellbeing of employees in your workplace?  Do you feel equipped to know what to say or how to talk to an employee who you think might have a problem? 

For more information on supporting mental health in the workplace please read our blog on 'How to care for the mental health of a colleague' or call us on 0118 207 6190 Cordell Health

The lasting value of effective leadership in occupational health.

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We are often asked by clients to justify the cost of our services in terms of return on investment or a tangible growth from the bottom line. Some aspects of occupational health allow for this, with analysis before and after the occupational health intervention. But many aspects don’t, because you are dealing with people, and business and no two are ever the same. There is no one set magic formula that will deliver on the task in hand.  Each case has its own value of what success looks like, and our role in occupational health is to help identify and deliver on that.

But value, to us as a profession, runs far deeper than that.  We wrote last week about the ways in which a business, such as occupational health, that has no set ‘product’, needs to consider that its value (to clients, individuals, to itself and the wider society) comes from its people. This is why recruitment and training in addition to the right leadership and management are SO important in our sector. We need a motivated workforce, with the right level of knowledge and skills, as well as the right set of values. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines values as, “ Principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life”.

The organisation needs a culture that centres around and hopefully shares the same ‘values’ as its employees.  What is it that is important in life? For us in Cordell Health, and hopefully many in the wider occupational health workforce, it doesn’t always have to come from financial reward, but from BEING valued, the sense of which comes through being treated with dignity and respect. It is this self-perceived value that will drive and sustain motivation and results and success. 

Dignity and respect come from good leadership, described by Jim Collins in his 2001 book, Good to Great, as being a  “Level 5 Leader” characterised by: 

  • Personal humility; gives credit to others for success (“we have a great team”), and takes personal responsibility for failure
  • Professional will; having integrity, and resolve to do what is best for the organisation - getting the “right people on the bus, and the wrong ones off
  • Influences culture not by edict, but by example (so developing trust)

So it is, that the impact of the value we deliver in occupational health services can spread far and wide. Starting at the top, with a good choice of leaders and a good team:

  1. Managers promote the values of dignity and respect through good leadership. 
  2. A motivated team is built, with a shared value (working towards the common goal) and an understanding of their own value within the business.
  3. The value is passed on to clients and leveraged in the respectful treatment of employees and the skills and advice given on individual cases, such as those with health conditions or disabilities. ALL employees feel valued. All employees are motivated. 
  4. Society at large benefits from a culture where people are valued and consequentially there is a happier and healthier workforce. People are more productive, business is better, the cost of ill health is down and profits are up. 
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Through engagement with HR, managers and the senior leadership, we can add value to their organisations, and society in general, by encouraging cultures where all feel valued. The overall effect is positive for the bottom line and has a lasting effect running far deeper than the office walls. 

A Manager’s guide to supporting those with hearing loss in the workplace.

Hearing Loss

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What is it?  One in six people in the UK have hearing loss or are deaf.  Hearing impairment is a partial or total inability to hear. This may range from mild hearing loss in one ear to profound loss in both. Individuals may be born with hearing loss for genetic reasons or due to infections when their mother was pregnant (Rubella/ German Measles was a major cause before the Rubella vaccination and the MMR was introduced), conditions such as Meniere’s disease, and importantly in the workplace - exposure to noise.  

Many of us will have impaired hearing as we get older, and this is the most common cause of deafness.  This is important as more of us work to an older age.

Strengths: A hearing-impaired person will often have heightened visual awareness and so will be good at reading body language.  In common with others in the workplace with a disability, those with hearing loss are likely to be highly diligent, have a strong work ethic, and have strong loyalty to organisations that support them well - so become long-serving employees with a high level of corporate knowledge and skills.

Challenges: Hearing impairment is an invisible disability that can lead to barriers and miscommunication. Even relatively mild hearing loss can make some sounds hard to pick up, especially in noisy environments.  Not being able to communicate effectively is stressful and can lead to the individual feeling undervalued and isolated.   We recommend viewing the Oscar-winning short film, The Silent Child, which illustrates this well.  This film is available through a number of sources including BBC iPlayer at The Silent Child

Solutions: Action on Hearing Loss provides a useful guide to employers. Adjustments are recommended to “level the playing field” to take account of impairments and allow the individual to make maximum use of their abilities.  We suggest considering the following to support those with hearing loss, depending on the specific needs of each individual: 

  • All being aware these colleagues have this impairment – ensure you look at them, and if hearing loss is only on one side, speak with them on their better side.
  • Ensure meeting rooms have good lighting to aid lip-reading
  • To work in an office with good acoustics and low distraction
  • To provide flexibility to attend audiology appointments
  • Communication support such as speech to text reporters
  • Provide a portable hearing loop or other listening devices

The Government may provide funding for adaptations through the Access To Work scheme.

For further information on support or advice on integrating a person with a disability into your team, get in touch with us at Cordell Health

Delivering value in occupational health practice through effective leadership

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Dr Robin Cordell MBA FRCP FFOM

The value of what a business can deliver is important in every sector. It affects how much you can charge and vitally, how much you can make in return. For some sectors, it’s a monetary equation where costs of supply and demand are linked with a return on investment. For other sectors, the value is not always tangible, there isn’t a ‘product’ to buy and sell. These sectors, of which occupational health is one, are governed by the perspective of the people the services are delivered to, and the value of what they receive in return. 

At Cordell Health, we work hard to deliver ‘value’ to our clients, the individual employers that we see, the owners of our business and also importantly, the wider society that we can support.

For our clients, we offer value by understanding their needs with a timely communication of facts, which are not only evidence-based but also contextually relevant for the business. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and it’s not just about delivering assessments and reports to agreed performance indicators. We provide evidence-based advice that can make a visible difference to the ‘bottom line’ when dealing with the issues resulting from the impact of ‘work on health’ or ‘health on work’. 

For employees the value comes from a conversation, treating individuals fairly, impartially and courteously. We set a structured and efficient framework so we can ensure they are listened to and that those difficult issues or potential “elephants in the room”, can explore them through an honest conversation. We can then provide advice on how they may be able to improve their health.

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Our owners see value through profit, sought through careful consideration of all the elements of the value chain (first described by Michael Porter in his 1985 book on competitive advantage).  Having efficient processes, the right resources and a product of the required quality and price drives the profit.

In our business model, this allows us to reinvest in our own social enterprise and create a framework to support those businesses and employees who couldn’t otherwise afford access to our expertise. The more we grow, the more we can give and the value chain means we can we can fulfil our social mission and deliver value more broadly in society too. 

Our ‘product’ is people; they are the ones who deliver value to clients, their employees and our owners. Undoubtedly, they are our most important asset and it is essential that we recruit people with the right skills. These can be honed through training to best meet the needs of the paying client, and retained by motivating them to stay. 

This is where effective leadership skills at a management level are critical. Without those, no business can truly deliver value. We insist our leaders understand the industry within which we operate, its competitive forces, business processes and have effective management skills. Only then can they provide the high-level communications we require to support our staff, our clients and the right business decisions being made.

Through leveraging efficient management and effective leadership we are able to engage with our clients at any level, from HR to senior leadership teams. This feeds down to the skills of our people and the value they provide to our client's organisations, and society in general, by encouraging cultures where all feel valued, including those with health conditions and disabilities. 

We’d be interested to hear how you feel occupational health adds value to your business and how you measure its success if it’s not through ROI? 

Join our team ... Cordell Health is recruiting

About the role

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We are looking for a part-time Occupational Health Advisor (OHA) to join our team and are keen to hear from anyone who shares our values. The role would suit someone based around Oxford and who is willing to travel within the Thames Valley area.  We are keen to hear from those still in or about to start their training to be an OHA or those who are newly qualified and are looking for their first role.

About Cordell Health

Cordell Health is an occupational health consultancy set up as a social enterprise, specialising in providing early intervention and specialist support to employees, HR and managers on health and wellbeing at work. We are based at our main office near Reading and provide clinics and support to workplaces across the Thames Valley/M4 corridor from London to Bristol.

Our founders and directors are both FFOM qualified specialist occupational physicians with a genuine passion to develop the field of occupational health, including the education and development of our people. We pride ourselves on our innovative and tailored approach to service delivery and our close working relationships with our clients. 

How to apply

In the first instance, please send your CV and a covering email to our Occupational Health Nurse Manager Sue Bedford at sue@cordellhealth.co.uk. The closing date for applications is 15th June 2018.

A Manager’s guide to understanding Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD in the workplace.

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Having a diverse workforce has numerous benefits.  Many companies and managers see these benefits and are recruiting people from all walks of life.  But for some, there is a fear of the unknown and a lack of awareness of the impact or changes that would need to be made in the workplace in order to bring a person with a mental or physical difference into the team. 

In this week’s blog, we explore the four most common conditions, referred to in the context of neurodiversity, and suggest adjustments employers might consider to support these employees and maximise their contribution to the organisation. The aim is to mobilise the benefits those who have neurodiverse conditions can bring to work safely, without disadvantage compared to other employees.  Adjustments may cost little or nothing; having an open mind and a desire for innovation and positive change are the key to realising the business opportunities neurodiversity can bring.

Autism

What is it? Autism is a developmental disability characterised by rigid thinking, challenges with social interaction and communication, as well as restrictive and repetitive behaviours.

Strengths: Problem solving, analytical thinking, logical, sustained focus and capacity for lengthy periods of concentration. Can have great technical ability and attention to detail for in-depth tasks. Punctual, reliable, dedicated and loyal.

Challenges: The level of challenge is different for each person, but the need for strict rigidity in routines and tasks, as well as the avoidance of change, often needs managing. Obsessive behaviours and poor social skills can cause friction with colleagues who don’t understand the disability. 

Solutions: An agreed detailed training plan, as well as a structure to the working day, will assist.  Access to a mentor to provide support through the social and self-esteem challenges those with autism commonly face.  Education for other members of staff in how to work with those with autism will help.  Consider redesigning a job to play to their strengths.

Dyslexia

What is it? Dyslexia is defined by the British Dyslexic Association (BDA) as a lifelong specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language-related skills.  It is characterised by difficulties with processing words, rapidly naming, and working memory. A person with dyslexia’s skill in reading and writing will often not match their intelligence.

Strengths: Creative thought, insight and coming from a different perspective in problem-solving – “thinking outside of the box”.  Those with dyslexia can have an exceptional ability for pattern or trend spotting, whilst also being able “to see the big picture”. May well be “visual thinkers”, grasp opportunities, and good at problem solving and non-verbal communication. 

Challenges: Spelling and handwriting, short-term memory function, timekeeping and attention span. May have self-esteem and anxiety issues. 

Solutions: Awareness training for colleagues and managers, and training for the dyslexic employee to recognise and address areas for development. Mind-mapping software, dictation tools, and other resources to help those with dyslexia function at work and optimise their performance. Different coloured text or paper can make reading easier and a variety of communication styles (visual, audio) may help on an individual basis. 

Dyspraxia 

What is it? Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder characterised by coordination problems. This may have been first noticed as delayed or lower ability in fine or gross motor skills (for example playing sports).

Strengths: Insightful and good at creative ‘‘big picture’’ thinking, pattern-spotting and reasoning. Resourceful and determined problem solvers.

Challenges: Hand-eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, sensitivity to noise, touch, smell and taste. There can be reading, writing and speech difficulties, and short-term memory, organisation or planning challenges. 

Solutions: A positive and encouraging work environment with disability awareness training for all employees. Technology to aid memory, voice recognition software, reminders or electronic diary to aid memory. Regular work breaks. Support of a coach in work to aid their organisational abilities. 

ADHD

What is it? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder of brain function that is characterised by the person being inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive. 

Strengths: The constant desire for stimulation and information means those with ADHD often excel under pressure, can handle uncertainty and are often skilled at multitasking and taking calculated risks.  They may be insightful and good at creative thinking and problem-solving. 

Challenges: Maybe “absent-minded”, easily distracted, impatient, impulsive. May seem distracted, distressed, restless or disorganised. Time management can be a challenge and there may be social awkwardness or have problems of self-esteem, depending on the severity of ADHD.

Solutions: Helpful and empathetic management, and perhaps a mentor to support with coping strategies and to help prioritise and organise goals, priorities and “to do” lists. Clear communication and technology to aid memory.  Regular breaks and time for physical activity during the day. 

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For any individual, and especially in the context of neurodiverse conditions, it is important for managers and HR advisors to understand that there is no “one size fits all” solution.  Each person will face their own challenges and our advice is to keep an open mind, maintain an honest dialogue, and to accept people for who they are. By working with employees to find the best path for them, and to discuss and understand the coping strategies they already have in place, employers will be able to reap the rewards of a successful and productive workforce whose strength lies in its diversity.  

Advice on disability awareness training may be found at Cordell Health

Further information on supporting those with disabilities in the workplace, in order to realise the potential through their abilities, may be found on the Remploy website.

Why we need more professionals in occupational health!

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The Council for Work and Health have revealed that the occupational health sector is understaffed in their report: ‘Planning The Future: implications for occupational health, planning and delivery’. In this publication, they reveal that demographic trends and lifestyle changes have led to a greater need for more occupational health services and how the whole sector is in urgent need of recruitment. 

The report has been written for anyone from senior policymakers, to employers and managers. It supports the need for occupational health to diversify and demonstrate to business the benefits and return on investment that comes with quality occupational health support. 

Concern has arisen after the number of professionals training for careers in occupational health has fallen. It’s felt that the increasingly complex needs of the nations’ workforce, with increasing requirements for mental health care as well as the increasing prevalence of long-term chronic conditions and the particular challenges of ‘lifestyle diseases’ caused by obesity present a challenge to medical professionals. It is also recognised that the speciality of occupational health is not well known or publicised and that the rewards this career brings with it not publicly acknowledged. 

Whilst NHS resources are good, they are stretched, and therefore occupational health should become part of both mainstream healthcare and every business strategy. Calling on external providers to meet a need or keep a workforce healthy should become the norm. Every business has the power to help change the way health and wellbeing are thought about in the workplace. 

There is an absolute and urgent need to attract and train high calibre occupational health professionals by developing clear and attractive career pathways. The report demonstrates that we need an ‘occupational health workforce with a distributed range of knowledge, skills and competencies’, to cope with the changes to the nation's workforce. 

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Recruitment is an ongoing hot topic here at Cordell Health. We constantly strive to make sure our team is recruited from differing backgrounds so that each individual team member brings something new to the table. We support all of our clinicians in further specialisation in fields of their choice which will add value to our clients’ companies.

Nikki Cordell says ‘working in occupational health is one of the most rewarding careers you can have. The diversity of the role and the opportunity to work in both the public and private sector at Cordell Health means no two days are the same.  The impact you can have on an individual and their future can be life-changing. We are always looking to support training in the field of occupational health and when the right person wants to join the team, we are happy to explore job opportunities within the business. ’

If you have a background in health or health administration and are interested in discussing a potential career in occupational health in these exciting times, or just want to experience this speciality, please get in touch with the team at Cordell Health.  We would also be interested in hearing from you if you already work in occupational health and are looking to explore different and potentially challenging opportunities in a different type of occupational health business. 

Why Diversity Builds Success

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This week is National Autism Awareness Week and schools, workplaces and individuals have been baking, running and dressing up to raise money and awareness nationwide. 

Understanding autism and other differences are, of course, something we all need to embrace in life and work, and it’s really got us thinking at Cordell Health this week. We have spent a lot of time exploring neurodiversity and how we can work with our clients’ businesses to embrace it and use it to build success. There is proven evidence that the two go hand in hand if we can only remove the stereotypes and truly understand what neurodiversity is all about.

In modern thinking, neurodiversity is being used to express the belief that we should reject the social norms and stigmas that affect neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia or ADHD. They are natural human variations that cannot and should not be ‘cured’. We are ultimately ALL different and should be seeking to embrace and maximise the talents of people who think differently.

In February this year, the CIPD released a new guide to neurodiversity in the workplace. It’s a wordy but fascinating read for any conscientious HR professional with a gap in the workforce or tasked with managing a neurodivergent employee.

It is widely accepted that more than 10% of the country is likely to be neurodivergent in some way.  This means that one in ten interviewees will likely have some kind of neurodivergent condition and HR need to be aware that a person’s ‘differences’ may be regarded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Considering these 10% an ‘inconvenient truth’ is not a good business strategy, they are a high performing talent pool that has high-value skills not always accessible to the nondivergent 90%.  A diverse workforce is good for everyone. The CIPD makes a brilliant analogy that when picking a football team you pick from a cross-section of the best in all areas; the fastest runner, the best kicker, the highest jumper!  Not every employee is going to be able to be a highly creative big picture (right brain) thinker and not every employee detailed and process focused (left brain) tasked.

Neurodiversity enables us to remove the stigma and barriers of employment that are associated with dyslexia, autism or ADHD etc.. so we can stop thinking about what they CAN’T do and can start thinking about what they CAN do. Their ability not their disability.  Whilst group labels are helpful for the individual, for diagnosis or understanding the neurological difference, they should not be used as ‘one size fits all’. NO two individuals are the same whether neurodivergent or not.

When overhauling a business approach to divergent thinking there is much that can be done. Senior management needs to champion the process and work with HR and line managers to make change happen. They need to be trained and equipped with the skills and ability to bring a diverse team together. To see the team as a whole, of which each member has different strengths and weaknesses and requires a different kind of support.

According to the CIPD, the interview process can unintentionally exclude neurodiverse talent. Job descriptions should be clear without jargon and with very clear lists of the core skills and experience  ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to have’.  Always include a diversity and inclusion statement that states you are ‘happy to discuss reasonable adjustments’ and that signals that you welcome candidates with different identities and thinking styles.

In the interview process, ensure interviewers are trained to be empathetic to people’s differences and able to understand that a lack of eye contact or unconventional body language is not necessarily rudeness. Consider rethinking the standard interview format, as the CIPD points out, all a traditional interview demonstrates is your social skills, not your ability or talent to complete a set task.

Make sure the ethos permeates to the core of the brand. Include diversity and recruitment statements on the website as well as links to support groups or internal case studies and information.

The rewards of integration come thick and fast. A diverse workforce, within which each member is working to their individual strengths, is motivated, loyal and highly productive. JP Morgan Chase started a pilot program in 2015 introducing employees on the autism spectrum into the workplace. They reported that ‘after three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up, and were even 50% more productive’.

For more information about Autism in the workplace visit the National Autistic Society or the .gov website or find out about the Disability Confident Scheme.

Have you ever thought about overhauling your recruitment process and actively encouraging a diverse workforce and the many benefits it could bring?

Employee Interview - Nikki Cordell

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This week we start the first of a series of blog posts featuring our greatest asset ... our employees! We hope you enjoy reading this small insight into our work, our passions and our inspirations.

First off the post is Nikki Cordell

What is your role at Cordell Health?

I am the managing director and consultant occupational physician responsible for delivering specialist case management services to our direct HR clients and more technical contracts.

How did you come to start the business?

After working as a contractor and experiencing a number of different occupational health models, I wanted to look at delivering occupational health differently. My husband had similar feelings and we started up Cordell Health. We are a social enterprise and our aim is to raise awareness of disability in the workplace, as well as deliver evidence-based occupational health services that can be integrated into an organisation’s people strategy whenever possible.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love the variety and the impact you can have both on businesses and individuals to help them understand their capabilities and realise their potential, even when they have a significant health problem.

Can you think of 3 words to describe Cordell Health?

For our clients - innovative.

For their employees  - compassionate.

For our staff - inclusive.

What do you like to do outside work?

I love to spend time outdoors! Whether it be enjoying the countryside, walking next to the canal near our home in Wiltshire or skiing in the Haute Savoie. 

Tell us about who you would most like to meet (dead or alive)?

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Oh, definitely the Dali Lama.  No matter what challenges I am facing I have always found inspiration in his writings and perspective on the world.

What does true leadership mean to you?

Inspiring and enabling others to reach their potential.

What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in Occupational Health?

Being an Occupational Health professional gives you the potential to make an enormous difference to businesses and their people. In order to be successful, you need to have a good understanding of all the different aspects of the workplace. My advice to someone considering a career would be to find an employer or training organisation, that provides you with many opportunities to learn in as many different situations and businesses as possible.

What 3 things would you take to a desert island with you?

A radio to keep in touch with events in the world. Writing implements to allow me to write the novel that I have always wanted to write and a fine bottle of wine to savour at sunset.

What’s on your wish list for Cordell Health in the next 10 years?  

To develop even more innovative ways to help businesses look after the health and wellbeing of their employees and to deliver a social message which changes the cultural norm of businesses and enables them to value their biggest asset – their people!

Cordell Health leads the agenda in Wellbeing at Work

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Here at Cordell Health, wellbeing at work is always a hot topic of conversation.  We are ever so slightly obsessed with what more can be done to assist productivity for businesses and improve life for their employees.

Last week (6th March 2018), we were excited that one of our Directors, Dr Robin Cordell, in his capacity as a Director of the Council for Work and Health, chaired the national policy session at the Health and Wellbeing @Work conference at the NEC in Birmingham. 

Top level speakers, positioned to make a real difference in the future policy making of our nation's health and work, came together to discuss and share information and strategy on a variety of key issues. Among the many topics were the International and Public Health England’s perspectives towards health and work and the NHS England strategy for improving the health of the NHS workforce.

One of the most interesting presentations was Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive of Mind and co-author of the Stevenson/Framer review of mental health and employers. He spoke about the key findings of the Gov.uk thriving at work review which reports that the UK workforce is facing a mental health challenge that is a lot bigger than we thought and that employers are losing billions of pounds because employees are less productive, less effective, or off sick.

The review demonstrates that investing in the support of mental health at work is good for business and productivity. The most important recommendation is that all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt six “mental health core standards” that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health.

These are:

  1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan.
  2. Develop mental health awareness among employees.
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
  4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for development.
  5. Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors.
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

At Cordell Health, we regularly inform our clients that change starts at the top. It is the empowered, effective and supportive leadership that can drive the motivation for an organisation to implement these ‘six mental health core standards’.

Our view was backed up in the final session of the day in which a panel chaired by Dr Robin Cordell debated the advantages and disadvantages of providing financial incentives for employers to support health at work and to provide incentives for employees to engage in initiatives to support their own health. The panel found that it is the senior leadership of the organisation that set the right culture for health and encourage the behaviours of employers and employees that promote health at work.

Exciting times ahead. We are certainly looking forward to supporting many more businesses as they become more health and wellbeing aware and step onto the road to change.

5 Ways To Build Emotional Resilience In Your Workplace

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The first few months of 2018 have already passed us by, and despite it feeling colder than December, we are slowly but surely rolling towards spring. As the first quarter of the year comes to a close, many businesses will be reviewing their targets and strategising for the year ahead.

There may have been budget cuts, staffing issues, or other unforeseen circumstances that have meant things haven’t gone to plan. How a business responds to this depends largely on its resilience. Its ability to turn a problem into an opportunity, and success in this, largely depends on how emotionally resilient the workforce are.

A person’s emotional resilience refers to their psychological ability to cope with or adapt to, pressure, change and stress. With stress levels on the rise, it’s a word we are hearing more and more commonly in a business environment.

Statistics show that the older generation is among the most resilient we’ve had. They fought in wars, survived tough conditions and lost their livelihoods and people they loved. The younger generation (and us in-between) have never had it so good, and conversely, have lower resilience than ever before. We are more likely to suffer from stress, ill health and are generally more unhappy and unfulfilled than ever before.

Of course, not ALL stress is bad! A healthy amount of it can make us top of our game, challenge us, reward us and give us the edge in a difficult situation. But too much of it, tied in with our lack of resilience, can affect our businesses bottom line with high staff turnover and increased sick leave.  The question is what, as a business, can we do about it?

It turns out, quite a lot!  The Emotional Resilience Toolkit, developed by Business in the Community and funded by the Department Of Health, shows us that a healthy workforce = healthy profits.  Through a 12-step process, a business is able to easily integrate emotional resilience into its health and wellbeing program.  

There is a strong case for businesses to invest in building the emotional resilience of their staff. Not just for the immediate health benefits, but for the vastly improved engagement with their work. The upside is lower absence-related costs and fewer insurance claims, improved morale, performance quality and productivity as well as a boost to their corporate reputation. Research by Gallup (Employee Engagement: The Employee Side of the HumanSigma Equation), revealed that businesses who encouraged staff to engage with their work exhibited ‘lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, better customer loyalty and other manifestations of superior performance.’

Building emotional resilience doesn’t have to be a big budget option, even a simple intervention, incurring little or no additional costs can have a profound effect. Here, with ideas from the Business in the Community Toolkit, we have come up with the top 5 ways employers and employees can work together to build resilience in the workplace:

1. Foster a sense of community

People thrive on friendships and good social interaction. People who have positive relationships in the workplace are more likely to enjoy coming to work and be productive when they get there.

2. Get moving

Physical health is fundamental to our mental health, and creating a pleasant working environment and promoting healthy behaviour can bring many benefits.

3. Build a psychologically healthy environment.

Make the workplace a pleasant and happy environment through recognition, reward, job security and a management style and culture that promotes mutual trust and respect.

4. Promote learning and development

Developing new skills enhances a person’s capabilities and is empowering and helps their sense of wellbeing too.

5. Seek help

Sometimes people require specialist support with physical or mental health issues and may need to be referred on for more support. It could also be that your business needs support tackling some of the issues it faces. For example from:

  • Occupational Health.
  • Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Human resources.
  • Counselling.
  • Physiotherapy.
  • Ask employees to come forward and seek support if they feel they need it.

For support or advice for your business, you can contact Cordell Health.

A copy of the Emotional Resilience Toolkit is available from mentalhealth.org.uk and further information can be found at robertsoncooper.com.

What steps are you going to be taking to build emotional resilience in your workplace today?

6 Ways Occupational Health Can Help Your Business Boom

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The value of occupational health in a business is often judged by a return on investment.  Is the cost per head going to deliver the profit we need? It’s the way most businesses need to think in order to survive. Yet, a true picture of success does not always lie purely in the financial benefit, but also in the far broader and deeper reaching value (culturally, socially, emotionally) that a good occupational health program can provide.

There’s no denying that employee health and wellbeing contribute to successful business performance.  When supported by occupational health to encompass the work environment, culture and interpersonal relationships, the resulting productivity really can make a business boom.

There is no ‘one size fits all’. Every company has its own culture and challenges and it takes analysis and comprehensive risk assessment to design a bespoke service for maximum effect. Here we have identified the 6 most common issues faced by many businesses and identified how the implementation of occupational health service might help.

1. Reduce Sickness Absence

This is one of the most common issues and with sickness absence estimated to cost UK businesses £28.8 billion each year (PWC Research. The Rising Cost of Absence 2013. CBI. London. 2013.) it’s no wonder!  Work-related ill health and health problems related to unhealthy lifestyle respond well to a specific needs and risks assessment that improves employees’ general health and performance at work. The benefit is both direct and indirect with significantly reduced sick leave and improved performance/ productivity at work.

It might mean implementing staff health assessments, optional immunisation programs or targeting a specific training issue (such as lifting techniques). Also, welfare counselling or an overall health and well-being drive to improve employee sleep health, diet and exercise regimes.

2. Reduce Presenteeism

Presenteeism is when employees are at work but with reduced levels of productivity. It might be that they have come into work when they are unwell/ overtired/ suffering from a mental health issue or as a symptom of the workplace culture. Whilst it is unlikely to be completely avoidable, by evaluating the top preventable causes of productivity loss, cultural or individual changes can be implemented that improve productivity as well as overall wellbeing.

3. Health and Safety

Occupational health can significantly contribute to the overall health and safety systems in an organization. to ensuring compliance with regulations/ policy for health and safety.  Research by the Health and Safety Executive has shown that a sense of ‘physical security’ including safe working practices, adequacy of equipment and pleasantness of work environment is important for employees. Health and safety interventions are often focused on the prevention of injury and may not consider the health benefits or impact of any intervention.   Working with occupational health can help ensure that interventions leverage health benefits as well as meet safety requirements. Ultimately investment in prevention is always a better for a business’ reputation, as well as for financial and cultural benefit.

4. Reduce Employment Costs

Employment costs are high and improved wellbeing and good occupational health support can help develop a supportive work culture, which retains existing employees and attracts talented employees to the business.

Research (Aviva. The Sixth Health of the Workplace Report) shows that when looking for work employees were more likely to choose an employer who took health and wellbeing seriously (66%) and felt they would have a duty to work harder because of it (43%). In addition, occupational health can reduce employment costs through support with early return to work programs for employees who are sick absent and appropriate adjustments for those who have a disability.

5. Encourage Diversity

A diverse workforce is stronger and more creative, the more elements of society it represents, the more views and resources it has to draw on and the better the business’ competitive edge. Not only that, but disabled people provide a loyal and committed workforce.  Occupational health can add value by offering support through disability awareness training, educating employers, on the benefits of diversity and the positive impact it can deliver and how workplace adjustments can support those with a disability in work.

6.  Management Training

Line managers are the gatekeepers to employees’ happiness or stress and by supporting, educating and training them in how to manage sickness absence appropriately, business will often see productivity boom.

Training might include Mental Health First Aid, understanding the role of occupational health in supporting employees with long-term health problems and understanding how much the workplace can have a negative or positive impact on the long-term health and wellbeing of employees.  Improving communication, adjusting roles and appraising employees to encourage performance may have a massive effect on positive mental health, employee wellbeing, job satisfaction.  Ultimately this can have a knock-on effect on improved performance and a reduction in sickness and presenteeism rates.

To find out more about occupational health and wellbeing in the workplace contact Cordell Health or have a look at the wellbeing section of the Business in the Community website.

Why looking after employees sleep health is good for business

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Last night I had a rare, but welcome, night of great sleep. I maxed out the full 8 hours and woke up feeling full of beans ready to kick start the day. I have probably achieved more in 4 hours this morning than I achieve in a whole day when I’m not properly rested.

The amount of sleep our nation gets has been in decline over a number of years, according to the NHS, 1 in 3 people suffer from Insomnia. There are a million reasons we’re all struggling to sleep, from technology and our inability to switch off, to the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life too.

It’s those increasingly blurred lines that have got the attention of the Government and with research by RAND Europe revealing that the cost of lost sleep to the UK is estimated at £40 billion a year, they are encouraging businesses to take more notice.

Whether or not the problem causing the lack of sleep comes from the workplace, the impact on an individuals ability to perform and the impact on the business remains the same. For employees to achieve their potential and make our businesses stronger, we need to understand that sleep is as important as good diet and exercise, and without enough of it, we simply do not do our best.  

Line managers play an important role. The impact of sleep deprivation often occurs over a long period of time, which means that employees often don’t notice they’re missing out. The first challenge is for line managers to learn to recognise the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Identified here by the Public Health England Sleep and Recovery Toolkit.

  • Decreased communication
  • Performance deterioration
  • Poor concentration/ easily distracted
  • Poor cognitive assimilation and memory
  • Poor mood/ inappropriate behaviour
  • Greater risk-taking behaviour
  • Inability to make necessary adjustments
  • Increased intake of caffeine/ energy drinks
  • Increased sickness/ sickness absence.

The next step is to take action and consider if the time is right to review the organisations’ whole approach to health and wellbeing so that it includes sleep.  The advice and support of a specialist occupational health service such as Cordell Health can help as they will monitor and assess workers health, safety and performance across the whole company. They will also be able to suggest and help implement positive changes that will result in more engaged, healthy and productive employees.  This will help those already affected and importantly put preventative measures and cultural changes in place.

Starting the conversation about lack of sleep with employees can be challenging as it is such a personal issue and can be hard to discuss. The self-assessment tools at Sleepio and NHS Choices are a great first step to opening the lines of communication and offer some good advice.

There are 8 recommendations identified by Public Health England to help employees recuperate:

  • Help employees to understand the impact of excessive screen time on their mental wellbeing, work/life balance and sleep
  • Encourage them to have screen breaks including a break from social media and news channels throughout the day.
  • Hydration aids recovery, so make drinking water available throughout the workplace.
  • Encourage exposure to natural light, sunshine helps the body recover natural rhythms disrupted by poor sleep or lack of sleep.
  • Walking meetings, outside lunches and breaks from work that involves stepping out of the workplace can all be promoted.
  • Ensure staff have a quiet space away from their desks to eat lunch and consider providing spaces for staff to relax during the working day or night.
  • Break out spaces, sofa areas and relaxation pods are used by some employers to promote rest and recovery.
  • Ensure staff take their full holiday entitlement. Time off work is not ‘nice to have’ but an essential element of work/life balance.

As well as this, there are some brilliant apps that employees can be encouraged to download that will help them get a better understanding of their sleep patterns and the triggers involved. These will not only help promote self-care but can be followed up with an open door policy in the workplace and support with signposting to where employees can get help if they need it.

  • SleepBot uses a motion tracker in a smartphone to monitor movement and can keep track of sleep cycles and record sound levels. There are detailed tables that break down your sleep history by date etc. It also has a nice little section where you can make a note of your mood or something that disturbed you (noise or a thought) in the night. 
  • The iMoodJournal tracks mood, sleep, medication and energy levels through the phone.
  • There is a sleep tracker within the clock function of the iPhone (ios10) that can monitor how you sleep as well as be set to remind you when it’s time to go to bed and gently wake you at the optimum time in the morning.
  • Fitbit can monitor sleep as well as encourage fitness. It provides easy to read graphics that show sleep cycles and restless period through the night.

Hopefully, this will help you to think about the importance of reviewing employees sleep health and wellbeing in your workplace. Have you noticed any of the warning signs of in your team? How do you think you will approach it with them?

Reducing Influenza in the Work Place

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By the end of 14 January 2018, there were 198 new admissions to ICU/HDU with confirmed influenza with GP consultations for influenza-like illnesses increased further with the highest rates in the 45-64 years age group

We’re talking flu, not a cough or a cold but influenza, and even if you are healthy it can leave you aching and sweating and bed ridden for over a week.  In older people, younger children and people with underlying health problems, complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia can be severe and in some cases fatal.  

You can catch it from a surface where the virus has been deposited or from a sneeze or a cough that can spread germs up to 6 feet away and survive in the air for several hours! 

Worse still, 70% of people show no symptoms until after it has spread, meaning it can unwittingly spread through our family, community or workplace, leaving weaker or more vulnerable people at risk.  Figures show that it hits about 20% of the population and it mutates into a different strain every year, so we can never get immunity from it no matter how fit and healthy we are, or how many times we’ve had it before. 

In the workplace, employers have a duty of care to their employees and health and wellbeing are of ever-increasing importance. Running a promotion programme to reduce the impact of influenza including a vaccination program for employees ticks a lot of boxes and goes a long way to demonstrate that the business has their best interests at heart.

It’s not just about the bottom line, for which flu shows no regard, but about engaging employees and protecting the wider society too (over the last few years the flu vaccines have not provided good protection for the over 65’s, highlighting a greater importance than ever to vaccinate other age groups to reduce risk for the elderly).

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to have an influenza vaccine this year, there are other means by which you can reduce the risk of flu spreading in the workplace.  Here are our top tips for a flu safe workplace!

  • Teach staff good hygiene practices including ‘cough etiquette’ and hand washing techniques
  • Keep the workplace clean
  • Encourage staff NOT to come into work if they are feeling unwell
  • Monitor and assess any sick leave throughout the year so you can plan and strategise well ahead

If your business has been hit hard with influenza this year, you may wish to work with an occupational health professional such as Cordell Health, to discuss your businesses needs and plan a vaccination program as soon as the newest one is available for 2018.

Of course, there is no obligation for employees to take you up on the offer, even if you provide it, nor can it provide 100% protection.  But in large workforces of 500+ people, which show the highest rates of illness,  the likelihood of an epidemic spreading quickly is increased and the cost to the business significantly more dramatic.

With this in mind, is it a cost that businesses can afford NOT to budget? Every year, sick leave costs business an average of approximately £554 per person, and with coughs and colds accounting for nearly a quarter of that, one is left wondering how much could have been prevented.

Nikki Cordell, Managing Director and Consultant Occupational Physician at Cordell Health, advises that ‘‘the more measuring and monitoring of sickness absence that is done throughout the year, the better equipped you are to implement strategies to reduce absence levels and inform an evidence-based health promotion programme.  For many businesses, this will include planning ahead to run a flu vaccination program in October / November before the inevitable flu epidemic of the next winter season hits.’

How has your workplace been affected by the flu this year? Have other employees had to share the workload when people have been off sick or have you been lucky enough to be part of a vaccination program that has had a beneficial effect?

For further information please see the link to Flu and flu vaccines: Expert Interview

The value of Occupational Health

What is Occupational Health? 

Occupational Health covers all aspects of the health of employees in the workplace. It can be preventative, supportive or reactive depending on the needs of the employee and the employer.

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Occupational health professionals come from a number of different healthcare backgrounds including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and technicians. They can each provide specialist expertise, depending on their background and qualifications, to assist a business in looking after the health of its staff.

How can Occupational Health add value to my business?

By law, employers have a duty of care to make sure employees are looked after at work. Occupational Health can assist with this in a number of ways from assessing people’s fitness for safety critical roles, providing advice and screening for health surveillance, educating employees and most importantly, timely advice on supporting people with health problems in work or back to work.

The way people work and are managed at work can have a big effect on their health. The Government is encouraging employers to create healthy workplaces and help manage the cost to the economy of work-related ill health, which is currently estimated at £100bn a year.  Healthy, happy employees are more productive and tend to stay with their employer for longer, reducing the hidden costs of presenteeism and staff turnover.

Which side is Occupational Health on – the employer who pays the bills or the employee?

The answer to this is neither. A good occupational health professional will be objective and spend time with both the business and the employee.  They will need to understand the business’ needs, the constraints of the role and any concerns raised.

The employee will also have a confidential medical or consultation with the occupational health professional, and make sure they fully understand the situation based on the employees' difficulties or needs.

Must a business take the advice of an occupational health professional?

The business should review the advice and consider what is best for the business and the individual. If the recommendations are difficult to implement or they feel are not in the organisations’ best interest, they should take some time to discuss this with the occupational health professional.

They don’t have to follow the advice given and are free to consider other sources of information and have more contact with the employee if necessary.

Money should never be a barrier to implementing changes suggested by Occupational Health. The Government offers grants through its Access To Work scheme, to provide funds to help employers make reasonable adjustments to support employees with medical issues stay in work or get back to work.

Why can’t the business just rely on a fit note or letter from a GP?

Occupational Health is a specialist area of medicine that takes years of training and practise, in the same way, that a doctor might specialise in Surgery or Dentistry, they might also specialise in Occupational Medicine. As a specialist, they have extensive knowledge about different health conditions and their impact on work. This is something that a GP or a hospital doctor might know very little about and may find it difficult to understand the individual’s health problems from a work perspective.  

Interested in more information?

If you want to know more about the value of Occupational Health for the business please contact Kathryn at Cordell Health for a chat or download Occupational health: the value proposition from the society of Occupational Medicine here.

5 ways to find ‘Time to Talk’ in your business

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It’s not often we arrive at work to be told that today it’s ‘time to talk’! But today, Thursday 1st Feb 2018, we’re doing exactly that and showing our support for 'Time to Talk Day'.  Brought about by Time to Change, to encourage everyone to have a conversation about mental health … no matter who they are!  

Mental health is an issue that no organisation can afford to ignore with 1 in 4 British workers being affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year.  It is also the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year (Time to Change).

Many who are struggling with their mental health are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed.  Very often, it is left to the person who is struggling to find the strength to open up and talk about their illness, as those around them don’t know how to start those difficult conversations and are afraid to say the wrong thing. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

There is a strong business case for tackling the stigma associated with mental illness and even small changes can have a positive impact. Sickness absence rates are reduced, presenteeism levels drop and staff wellbeing, productivity, and retention improve all round if employees feel appropriately supported. Businesses need to know what to say, when to say it and most importantly how it needs to be said.

There has never been a better time to take those first steps and start to make change happen. We’ve put together 5 ways that any business, no matter how big or small, can step up and improve their culture and attitude to mental health in the workplace today.

  1. Work with an independent occupational health organisation that can assess your businesses specific needs for mental health and wellbeing and work with you to put strategies in place. This might include mental resilience training to help prevent mental illness in the first place or training dedicated members of staff to help reduce stress or deal with Mental Health First Aid.
  2. Sign up for the  Time to Change Employer Pledge and develop an action plan to get your employees talking appropriately and supportively about mental health. This could include in-house awareness projects or training for employees and line managers to help understand mental health issues and how to handle those difficult conversations about mental illness within their teams.
  3. Create an in-house mental health resource by choosing one or more members of the team to become dedicated Mental Health First Aiders. Employees will have a dedicated member of staff who they know they can talk to, who has been trained to listen and signpost where to get help.
  4. Review your company’s health benefits, employee assistance program and support structures. Make sure there is provision for confidential support and that your employees know about it. Get senior management on board and lead by example, creating a culturally supportive workplace.
  5. Appropriate communication - find time to talk to colleagues and start a conversation by simply asking if everything’s ok? A quiet private spot away from the office works well, listen without judgement and encourage others to do the same when you notice someone may need a little support.

How is your office finding Time to Talk?  Have you pledged to make any changes to your workplace today?