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.