health in the workplace

Warning: Bad managers may seriously damage your health.

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I’ve seen many shining examples of good managers in my 30+ years at work and am still in touch with one of the best, after 25 years, and he’s now my trusted advisor and mentor.  

Good managers help to make work meaningful, set clear expectations, and whilst looking for high performance are also accessible, supportive and realistic.   

But bad managers may seriously damage your health and well-being as well as decrease organisational performance.  Recent reports (CIPD and Simply Health) show that 37% of businesses have seen an increase in stress-related absence over the past year due to poor management, notably in terms of workload expectations and abrasive management style.  

The problem is not confined to stress-related illnesses albeit these are so very debilitating and have an impact on the person and their family as well as on the workplace.  Bad managers create the conditions which lead to lower levels of engagement, to greater unplanned absence and to premature resignations. General health may also be impacted. Let’s look a little more at two particular areas where Bad Managers have such a negative impact.

Managing Workload 

A bad manager simply piles on more and more work, probably in response to greater work demands they themselves experience. Everything becomes a priority, the “hurry up” button is firmly pressed, and deadlines become impossible.  Quality of work suffers, certainly, expectations are not met, customers experience poor service, and employees are burdened with far too much to do.  

No-one is saying it is easy, but one of the responsibilities managers need to demonstrate is to manage workload levels.  They need to set out realistic and achievable priorities.  By origin, the word “priority” means “the first thing” (a priori) which means that there can only be one priority at a time.  Yet how many employees have managers who set an incessant stream of “urgent/important” demands with no sense of which needs to be “the first thing”.  These become impossible pressures and quite literally something “has to give” – family-life suffers, personal time is squeezed, sleep is disrupted, health impaired and the conditions set firmly in place for long-term and debilitating stress from excessive workload.  Workload has to be managed – not merely side-stepped. It’s also one of the HSE Stress Management Standards – Demands.

Management Style

Often such a vague term and certainly we need to accept that different managers do things in different ways.   That is part of a rich and potentially positive diversity.  There is no single approach that necessarily is better than another, but we do know what aspects of manager behaviour impacts seriously on employee health:

  • Managers who are not clear on expectations, who set and then change goals interminably, who fail to give clear direction.

  • Managers who fail to make work meaningful and to value the contribution others make.  It is simply not acceptable for managers to hide behind phrases like “I don’t like to express my feelings” or “I am not a people person” when the very nature of their role is to support, develop and nurture the life-force of any organisation --- its people.

  • Managers who fail to tackle workplace performance issues, to “nip problems in the bud” instead of being supportive but direct to people when there are things that need to be said.   Again, bad managers fail to provide regular and (generally) positive feedback, waiting far too often for the annual appraisal.  They fail to create a culture which addresses issues quickly, firmly but fairly and they also neglect to weave health and wellbeing into one-to-one conversations – how can they then spot signs and symptoms of stress, notice something amiss, or expect their team members to open up around mental health issues?

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Under these negative conditions, and directly impacting on well-being in the workplace, people feel under-valued and unsure what is expected of them or how they are performing.  They are not being “needy” when they want to be acknowledged for the contribution they make, nor are they being “demanding” when they want to talk about their careers and their development.  These are basic human needs that good managers recognise, and bad managers ignore.  

It is hard being a good manager in such a demanding and competitive world of work.  They too have to tolerate very difficult conditions.  The workplace is changing and changing fast.  Managers are often responsible for larger teams, often on multi-site operations or home-working where a completely different way to manage workflow and outputs needs to be developed.  Most of them as front-line managers do not receive training on “managing people” or on specific issues including “stress” or “wellness at work”. Technically, highly skilled without making the transition to these complex range of emotional and social demands on them many managers feel out of their depth or simply fail to develop emotional intelligence.

So, by all means, acknowledge the issues they face.  But there is no stepping away from the fact that bad managers create havoc inside organisations, seriously impact on the health of individuals and are hugely disruptive.  The role is not for the faint-hearted but the enormity of the impact they have, for good or ill, has to be clearly understood.

Jayne Carrington

April 2019 

Are you sitting comfortably?

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Evolution has designed us to be on the move – foraging, hunting and gathering – not sitting down for long periods of time. However, so many of us, find ourselves stuck behind a computer for the majority of our working day.

Research has linked a sedentary lifestyle to severe health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and premature death.  

A sedentary lifestyle is also shown to have a negative impact on mental wellbeing and in particular an increased risk of depression.   By connecting to things around us, to noticing and interacting with others, individuals can feel less stressed and more content.

Many people do not meet the minimum physical activity guidelines and are at risk of developing health issues from spending too much time being sedentary. Yet keeping our employees in good mental and physical shape underpins morale and engagement and has a positive impact on productivity. 

Some simple changes can make a big difference:

  • Standing while commuting or walking to work.

  • Setting reminders to stand up every 30 minutes when working at a desk.

  • Standing up when on telephone calls.

  • Using the stairs instead of the lift.

  • Office floor walking to increase mobility and connect more to people.

  • Meet and greet visitors personally.

  • Walk and work.  Have that catch-up chat walking outside with someone for a few minutes.  It may improve both the quality of your connection and your fitness.

Many employers recognise the importance of providing a good working space and encouraging their staff to move more.

There are very good reasons to take action – a lack of physical activity is one of the top four causes of premature death, according to the World Health Organisation.

To support this, ‘On Your Feet Britain’ campaign on 26th April may just be a step in the right direction.

And to read more about the evidence regarding the potential hazards of sedentary work read the Expert Statement on the Sedentary Office.

Essential ingredients to support someone with a mental health issue.

Jayne Carrington, Director for wellbeing and engagement – Cordell Health

Time to Talk Day (about Mental Health) this year is on 7th February and the theme is ingredients…

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When I see the word ‘ingredients’ it makes me think about a recipe; getting myself organised and excited. The trouble comes with the weighing, the mixing, the baking. But it’s worth the effort.

So, what are the ingredients for supporting someone with mental health issues, and how can we bring them together? It's important. We used to think that “mental health” was a “taboo”, and something relatively few people “suffered” and where effective treatment was behind locked doors in a daunting asylum. Now we have come to realise that with one in four of us likely to have mental health issues at some time in our lives. It’s an everyday occurrence, and one where so very often simply bringing together the ingredients of friendship, support and a listening ear can be so effective.

I would start by creating an opportunity to talk - not in any sense a counselling coach or clinic room, but a quiet, relaxed, private space which feels comfortable, warm, secure and supportive. For me, that could be a country walk in the early spring sunshine or coffee and biscuits by a warm fire on a cold day. For others, it could be driving along in the car, or sitting quietly by the seafront. Choose carefully, and think about what would really work best.

The second crucial ingredient is time, plenty of it. Often time seems to be rationed, or simply unavailable as an ingredient, but you really do need it. Think of the difference when saying to someone “I haven’t much time, so what is it you wanted to say?” compared to “Let’s talk, I have all the time in the world…” How often all of us long for that time. Such a wonderful ingredient to bring to the mix.

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The third ingredient is a large dollop of “generous listening”. The very power of listening is enormous, and to be “generous” means to listen so intently and with such fulsome and genuine interest. Not as a “duty” or a “task”, but in an open, friendly and connected way. Generous listening is often scarce so you will need to look around the shops for enough of this ingredient, but it’s essential.

At the same time, find an ingredient which binds your own teeth and lips together for large periods of time! Something sticky, a large chunk of chewy toffee perhaps, anything which stops you from talking, from commenting on everything that is being said, and ensures that you simply listen. Remember that phrase “I am all ears”. Seriously, we so often minimize how important that is. So just a “pinch” (and no more) of your own comments or experience.

In fact, be careful with your ingredients that you do not change the mixture with “judgement” or even “advice”. They seem harmless in their little jars, but they can totally ruin your “Time to Talk cake”.

And there you have it - sometimes the best cakes are made from a few carefully selected ingredients – and it is as much about what you leave out as you add to the mix. Don’t over-mix, don’t over-cook. Simply bring the ingredients of “space, time, generous listening, and sticky toffees together”.

So, enjoy the day, bring those ingredients together and remember that any day can be a “Time to Talk” day.

An Actionable Plan for Alcohol, Health and the Workplace.

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For many, Dry January has become an annual challenge: a chance to kick start the year with a detox after the heavy festive period and to help out a depleted, sorry looking, bank balance. In an ideal world it needs to be more than just a one-off, one-month avoidance of alcohol. If we look at the evidence, there’s no getting away from the fact that alcohol has a serious impact on our health and our work:  

  • Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages [Source].

  • Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression [Source].

  • In England in 2016/17, there were an estimated 1.13 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption (7% of all hospital admissions, 67% higher than ten years previously). In the same period there were 337,000 admissions for conditions directly caused by alcohol, 17% higher than ten years previously [Source].

  • Lost productivity due to alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion annually. An estimated 167,000 working years are lost to alcohol every year [Source]. 

  • Between 3% and 5% of all work absence is caused by alcohol consumption [Source].

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Research has confirmed that workplace stress can make employees want to drink more. [Source: You Gov (2012) Workers more stressed now]. Just as in certain industries drinking is the norm and for some, the inherent culture encourages drinking to be the focus of social events, or an informal way to let off steam with colleagues. Does this sound familiar to your organisation? What can you do? You are likely to already have an alcohol policy and provide EAP (Employee Awareness Programme) support but perhaps some of the following ideas could spark some healthy changes:

Conduct an employee survey to understand the embedded culture and current attitudes to alcohol in your workplace – find out what you have to contend with

Encourage employees to explore their personal drinking habits, NHS, Alcohol Change UK and Drinkaware all offer free apps and tips for you to share

Do you offer health checks for anyone concerned about their drinking? Speak to your occupational health provider to arrange onsite clinics

Organise a series of social events that don’t centre on alcohol: yoga or mindfulness workshops, sponsored runs/hikes/bike rides, tough mudder, cookery classes, team treasure hunt, laughter workshop - get creative!

Congratulate and recognise anyone who has completed Dry January. It is an achievement to celebrate. Encourage them to share the many benefits to ditching the booze - improved sleep, more energy, weight loss and money in the bank! Let’s hope they have enjoyed the improvements to their health and wellbeing and continue their new habits for the long-term. 

Sirona Awards for Excellence 2018

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The most important asset of any organisation is its people. Happy, healthy staff are more motivated, productive and loyal as research frequently proves. Having a company strategy to keep staff happy and healthy is vital, as is putting into practice policy and procedures where employee health and wellbeing are concerned. Managers in the front line, often face mental health or physical health conditions in their day to day responsibilities with their fellow team members or direct reports.

The people looking after people within an organisation are key to success. They deserve recognition for the support they offer and for helping others do their jobs when dealing with a health-related obstacle.  

In the spirit of recognition, Cordell Health was delighted to be asked to sponsor the Health and Wellbeing Award at the recent annual Sirona Awards for Excellence 2018Cordell Health have recently been appointed by Sirona care & health* to provide a tailored occupational health support service to their highly dedicated team. 

The Health and Wellbeing Award, a new addition to 2018 event, was created to recognise an employee for their support of others within Sirona. 

The criteria for the award specified an employee who: 

had shown leadership in supporting team members or colleagues with regard to their health at work and demonstrated their commitment to helping others with a long-term health condition or disability to overcome the barrier to remain in or return to work. 

Nikki Cordell, Managing Director of Cordell Health presented the award at the event held in October at The Bristol and Bath Science Park. Quoting extracts from the winning nomination, Nikki said:

“In her nomination, our winner was described as a ‘tireless, supportive, compassionate team leader and a highly committed professional’. She works hard to support every individual in her team and ensures that anyone returning to work after an extended absence has a properly supported and organised plan.

She will meet regularly with anyone off work, or needing her support and will selflessly take on a heavier workload to ensure that other staff are protected and safe at work. Her efforts are met with the full support of her team who really value and respect her commitment and would like nothing more than for her to win this award tonight.”

The Health and Wellbeing Award 2018 was won by district nurse Claire Eccles, Team Leader for Leap Valley District Nurses. Congratulations Claire! You are a fantastic workplace role model, worthy of the award for all your support of others. 

It is great to see organisations embracing and recognising health and wellbeing champions in the workplace. Do you have a Claire amongst your team? What are your plans to make sure their efforts to look after your people get the recognition they deserve? 

*Sirona care & health provide high quality, NHS specialist health and social care services across South Gloucestershire, parts of Bristol & Bath and North East Somerset. 

Giving Tuesday - Putting the heart of your business in the community!

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Imagine if money were no object, what sort of business would you run? Would you pay someone to do the jobs you hate or spend it on a big budget ad? Would you invest in the best staff benefits money could buy; duvet days, flexible working, free lunch, gym memberships, and unlimited annual leave? Imagine how easy it would be to recruit new staff…if anyone was to ever leave! 

Sounds good doesn’t it! Yet, the reality is that a business has to make the numbers work and this means a constant conflict between our heads and our hearts; what we’d like to do vs. what we can afford to do; what’s good for our staff vs. what’s good for our business!

There isn’t always an easy solution, but as Winston Churchill famously said, ‘we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give’. Therein lies a clue, and actually, a quick glance up from the ledger books to consider the bigger picture can show there is much to be gained by giving, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at great cost. 

What we’re talking about is community. That word that binds us all together in different forms of association whether at work, home, school or in our neighbourhood.  It’s a proven fact that building a strong community at work, through giving to community outside of work, builds employee resilience, engagement and improves performance. Not only this, but there are benefits to improved brand image, improved staff retention, training opportunities and stronger internal and external relationships being built. 

A report by Accenture, on the 2020 vision for Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV), showed that engaging employees in volunteering was a huge benefit to business. 89% of people reported increased job satisfaction, 87% felt more pride in the company and 76% reported gaining core work skills such as time management, communication, influencing, decision-making and leadership. 

Clearly ESV is something we’re all going to be hearing a lot more about in the next few years. If you’d like your business to get ahead of the game here’s seven steps from Cordell Health on how to make ESV work for your business. 

  1. Support a cause that aligns with your business vision and values or consider allowing employees to vote for what they think the volunteering opportunities should be. This will ensure their engagement with the project and build connections directly with their community. 

  2. Decide how much volunteering time you will allow staff to take during working hours, make sure staff across your entire business can get involved.

  3. Lead by example and make sure senior staff are taking part. 

  4. Boost participation and celebrate stories internally and externally. Set up a team to lead the volunteering activity and act as a point of reference for anyone wanting to get involved. 

  5. Set up a number of different volunteering opportunities, each with a unique benefit to employees as part of their skills based training. 

  6. Review, refine and improve the process annually to make sure the business and staff are getting the most out of it. 

  7. Be sure to integrate your volunteering offering into your recruitment program, it’s seen as big benefit to future employees. 

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No matter what the size is of the business or the volunteering offer, there is no act too small to reap the rewards of the benefits above. Whether it is a fund raising team challenge (such as the bike ride we are shortly embarking on at Cordell Health), a long term partnership mentoring or as a charity trustee, there is only good news about a business putting its heart in the community. 

For ideas about volunteering opportunities for your business contact Volunteering Matters or for more information about how to review your employee’s wellbeing so they are healthier, happier and more engaged at work contact our team at Cordell Health. 

The bitter-sweet tech savvy workplace.

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It’s ironic isn’t it, that the very things we’ve developed to make our lives easier, have made them harder, in ways we could never have predicted as technology has evolved. It’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in a sea of connectivity and the pressure to keep up socially and professionally is relentless. 

It’s no surprise, that the theme of this year’s Stress Awareness Week is related to  ‘Workplace stress and automation’. Taking a deeper look at the effects of technology on our working lives, a survey by the International Stress Management Association showed that nearly all of us feel panic when we can’t locate our mobile phones, a frightening number of us check messages and social media in the night, and whilst we’re aware of the additional stress, we find it hard to put our technology away. 

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Yet, we mustn’t be ‘bitter’, the ‘sweetness’ that tech brings to our lives, the doors it opens, the ideas, news and views that it enlightens us with, have propelled our lives and businesses forward at a pace we could never have experienced otherwise. Harnessing that power in the workplace is just as beneficial to business as encouraging staff to switch off and put it away. 

For all the pro’s and cons, the fact remains that we are on a journey, and we need to learn to manage and deal with the stress caused by connectivity. 

In the workplace, the duty falls to managers and HR professionals to openly promote a stress free working environment with very clear work/ life boundaries and support for employees in place. Managers must lead by example and make sure that teams are able to talk openly about stress (a survey by ISMA in 2017 revealed that 94% of people experience work-related stress yet only 32% feel they can speak to their line manager or HR department about it. Read more). 

Here’s our top 3 ways to look after your team’s stress and few tech savvy apps to help them on their way!  

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  1. Get a wellbeing policy in place. A workplace wellbeing policy is important to remind staff that you take their health, wellbeing and happiness seriously. Encouraging staff to take regular breaks, get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise are great ways to endorse it (My Fitness Pal, Sleep Score).

  2. Lead by example. It’s OK to turn it off! As management, YOU need to take proper breaks and turn your phone and email off too. If an employee is working, emailing or calling out of hours, why? Make yourself accessible and keep the lines of communication with your team open. Is their stress coming from tech related distractions? (Trello, OFFTIME).

  3. Get social (off line). In and out of work. Downtime with friends and family is key protective factor to mental health and wellbeing, and is proven to reduce stress. Workplace social events or team activities can support this. Encourage mindfulness as it’s proven to increase productivity and emotional wellbeing. (Headspace).

 What policies have you put in place to deal with technology related stress in your workplace? 

Return to work interview: 5 strategies to improve your empathy skills

Continuing our focus on the return to work interview, this blog will look at the topic of empathy, how it is different to sympathy and why it is so important in the workplace.

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Empathy and sympathy intertwine constantly in our day-to-day lives, yet they each have a very different outcome. The dictionary definition of empathy is‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Sympathy is defined as‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune’. Sympathy tends to be the default emotional reaction, to show you are sorry for how somebody is feeling. Empathy requires more thought and a deeper understanding of exactly what the other person has gone through. It puts you in their shoes and shows that you have ‘heard’ them and that you are supportive of them. 

Health and wellbeing professionals often use empathy as a tool to open up difficult or sensitive conversations. It empowers the person as they realise you are ‘walking alongside’ them, not just pitying them. An employee returning to work after a period of long-term sickness absence will need a positive and constructive return to work interview.  If, as a manager, you can use empathy to show that you understand what they have been through and that you understand their concerns about returning to work, you will have a more positive outcome in supporting and integrating that employee back into the workplace.

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Referring your employee to an Occupational Health provider will have been the first step to getting an understanding of how the employee’s health will affect them back at work. Following that, and in preparation for the return to work interview, here are our 5 tips to improve your empathy skills:

  1. Do your homework. As with all return to work interviews preparation is paramount. This will demonstrate you are fully focussed on supporting the employee. Use your occupational health report, familiarise yourself with the history of the sickness absence and recommendations. What is the long-term impact for the employee? Do you understand fully the implications of any adjustments required? Is there a plan in place to get the adjustments implemented? Have you researched all the guidance that has been suggested by your occupational health report?

    Does the employee’s case qualify for Access To Work support?

  2. Walk in their shoes. Showing empathy means taking someone’s feelings into consideration and understanding their journey, even if you disagree with the route / treatment / approach they have taken. Before the interview, put yourself in their shoes and think about what changes/challenges they are facing. Imagine how it must be for them. 

  3. Practise makes perfect. Be aware through your day-to-day life, of how you use empathy and sympathy and notice the different responses to each.

    Here are some examples of empathy: 

    It is hard, you must be worried / exhausted / frustrated.

    Sometimes these things don’t really make sense.

    I can hear in your voice that _________ has been really difficult for you.

    I would be asking the same questions if I were in your situation.

    This kind of thing is never easy.

    I am on your side / I will be with you through this.

    That must be infuriating / so frustrating for you.

  4. Listen carefully. Find a private, quiet space without any distractions. If it’s more comfortable this could be away from the office. Put phones and laptops away. Listen with your whole body: be still, smile and nod reassuringly, maintain eye contact and be aware of your hand movements and gestures. Keep the range of your movements to a minimum so the full focus of your attention is on them. Ask open questions and listen carefully to their responses, use the 2 ears – 1 mouth rule: repeat back key information and use empathy in your responses. 

  5. Take notes. Make sure the employee is happy for you to take notes at the beginning of the meeting and offer to send them a copy. Write down what needs actioning, reviewing or researching and follow-up the action points taking any worries or concerns into consideration. 

    Do you have any other advice or tips to share? How have you used your empathy skills to support and welcome an employee back after a period of long-term sickness absence?

World Mental Health Day 2018 - The importance of resilience in the workplace

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This week has seen mental health awareness back in the headlines, with the unveiling of World Mental Health Day 2018. The focus has been on young people and their mental health in our changing world, and the messages will have no doubt struck a cord through every headline and media channel worldwide.

Ironically, as I’m sat with my head down, embedded in my social media and ‘catching up’ on the lives of my friends and family, I have been struck by the breadth of the conversation about mental health, from young to old. It’s true, it IS vitally important that we get in early and coach young people to handle the pressures that will inevitably come. But what about those of us for whom ‘early’ intervention is too late… we are already adults, and according to MIND, 1 in 4 of us is likely to suffer a mental health issue every year.

Furthermore, we spend at least 1/3 of our life at work, it stands to reason that the work environment has a huge part to play in our mental well-being. Interestingly, no matter how old you are the story is the same, it’s about resilience, the magical ability to get knocked down and pick yourself up. The ability to survive or even thrive under pressure, to change course, to remain positive and take failure as an incentive to try and try again. 

As a manager or HR in charge of the health and wellbeing of employees, this is an area that can easily be overlooked. It can feel like there is not enough money for the ‘essentials’ let alone the icing on the cake! Yet it is never ‘too little too late’, the environment you cultivate can have an immediate effect on employee wellbeing, keep them mentally safe AND have an immediate effect on the bottom line.  

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It could be as simple as signposting to occupational health or other relevant services or taking steps to assure employees that vulnerability may feel like a weakness but to others, it looks like courage and is a brave step to make. 

As we move boldly (and less blindly) into a new era, it’s becoming clear that resiliency is a tool for survival, rather than just for success. Through our many clients at Cordell Health the same 5 resiliency factors come up time and time again…none of them are big budget and they all deliver the end result of a happier, more empowered, healthier and more productive workforce. You are, after all, only as good as your employees at the end of the day! 

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.  

Get moving

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

Build a psychologically healthy environment

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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. If a manager has a positive mindset and a positive attitude to work it will rub off on others. 

Promote learning and development 

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

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

How does your business go about boosting employee resilience and have you noticed an uplift since putting strategies in place?

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?

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

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

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. 

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?