There is a growing movement for organisations to bring the wellness concept into the heart of the workplace and the minds of the workforce. And movement is badly needed. The office for national statistics reports that 131 million days were lost to sickness absence in 2013, at an estimated to cost to Britain is £32 billion. The biggest cause, at nearly 31 million days, was Musculoskeletal Disorders, such as back and neck pain, which resulted in more days off than for minor illnesses like the common cold!
The NHS is staggering under the double whammy weights of an increasing demand, and a tightening belt as we continue to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. The health of the people is a national issue and prevention is a major goal. Business and organisations are looking at ways to increase productivity, without necessarily taking on the risk of increasing staffing costs by additional recruitment. And the way that is gathering momentum is to make sure the people are healthy and engaged in their work, so are able to work as productively as possible.
Simply put, we are happier working.
Healthy people drive up the health and profit of the organisation in which they work. Logically, healthy people are less likely to take time off for sickness, and working people are more healthy, both physically and psychologically. Its a healthy virtuous circle.
People are increasingly looking beyond the pay scale in their job decision, and in the decision to stay or to move on. They value the wellbeing initiatives in their organisation. Companies that prioritise the wellbeing of their people see a 24% reduction in the costs lost to sickness absence. (Britain’s Healthiest Companies Awards 2015) According to Dame Carol Black, organisations will typically see two, or even three pound return on each pound they put towards staff wellbeing.
In a nutshell, wellbeing is good for the bottom line.
So, how to do it.
There are 4 important fundamental keys.
1. Working together
Collaboration is vital for change of any kind. Buy-in from the key senior personnel and leaders will determine the success of integrating any wellbeing plan. There is nothing less motivating than an overweight, lounge lizard of a manager, handing out motivational messages about joining the company’s sponsored fun run. Wellbeing needs collective responsibility, so the ideas and plan should come from the team, right from the start. Facilitated consultation is the best way to identify the needs and wishes, and the challenges to initiating healthy changes, and work habits and to develop the overall plan.
2. Being active
Being active often is necessary. Though 30 minutes per day of physical activity is the recommended guideline, hitting the gym after sitting all day does not cancel out the need to move about, frequently. Sitting for too long has been linked to serious illness like diabetes and heart disease. Conversely regular short bouts of light activity have been found to make you live longer (NHS Livewell). Two minutes every half hour is ideal. Walking is one of the best ways to reduce stiffness and increase blood flow. And so will help concentration, increase energy and reduce feeling of fatigue and lethargy.
3. Being mindful
Being mindful – aware of ourselves – is critical in taking responsibility for our health and wellbeing. Making sure we have taken the right steps to prevent stress and strain, knowing what the warning signs are, and what to do, from getting enough sleep, to seeking help and support, when struggling and treatment when in pain. If you are a leader, it’s knowing your staff and taking an interest in each person. Run a simple body-check – are my shoulders relaxed or tight? Am I crossing my legs? Is my screen straight ahead or over to one side making me need to turn my head? Simple adjustments can prevent joints and muscles becoming painful and inflamed.
4. Having purpose
Integrating healthy behaviour is the best way to create and maintain a healthy culture. Habits take a while to get ingrained, but lasting sustained wellbeing needs to be habit forming, sticky, practical and have purpose. Getting up to stretch or perform at-the-desk exercises is less easy to practise than walking a short distance to the water jug. It’s a moment to have a word with colleagues either a social moment or a work related conversation. The brief change of scene can improve focus on a task. Drinking one of the eight daily glasses of water, can be ticked off at the same time.
Creating a healthy workplace culture is essential for the sustained success of modern business and the wider health of the community. Prevention is better than cure. It’s cheaper. Eighty per cent of people will experience back pain, so it’s likely that preventative measures for back pain alone are going to have a positive impact on the costs of staff health. It has a long-term benefit on the individual and the organisation.
Mia Lederman, Founding Director at Living in Flowmotion.
Living in Flowmotion provides integrated workplace solutions to help organisations create their healthy workplace culture.