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Making it easier to get employee wellbeing right

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The workplace wellbeing agenda is growing in importance as more and more people make the connection between the health and the wealth of our country.

Most adults are in work, and we spend a large proportion of our time in work, so our jobs and our workplaces can have a big impact on our health and wellbeing.

And from an employer’s perspective, the benefits of a healthy workforce are clear. Healthy staff are more productive, take less time off sick and don’t necessarily need to retire early.

Looking at the wider economy, combined costs from worklessness and sickness absence amount to over £100bn annually so there’s a strong economic case for action.

Reviewing the evidence for workplace wellbeing interventions

With many employers now recognising the positive business impact of a healthy workforce, there’s growing interest in the evidence behind wellbeing interventions, particularly whether they actually deliver measurable improvements and positive health outcomes.

We’ve worked with RAND Europe to review the current landscape of health and wellbeing interventions available to employers in order to identify good practice.

Case studies were submitted by both workplace wellbeing providers and employers and they were then rated based on the quality of the evidence supporting their impact by an independent academic panel.

ESCAPE-pain (Enabling Self-management and Coping with Arthritic Pain using Exercise) is just one example that shows employers how to put evidence into practise to confront one of the biggest causes of workplace ill health and sickness absence – musculoskeletal conditions.

The six-week rehabilitation programme is designed to teach individuals the causes of chronic hip and knee joint pain and coping strategies, as well as a tailored exercise programme. It can also save £5 in healthcare savings for everyone £1 spent – showing its economic value beyond the business sector among many other MSK health initiatives.

Around 50–99 organisations have implemented the programme, which reaches between 500–999 individuals annually.

The RAND Europe report highlights how limited the evidence base of health and wellbeing interventions is and how few providers are currently able to provide robust evidence on the impact of workplace health and wellbeing interventions on employees.

Even fewer providers were able to provide evidence on how these interventions translate into gains for businesses. However, there were interventions identified as promising practices which include interventions related to mental health, sleep, menopause and musculoskeletal health.

The full RAND Europe report ‘Promising practices for health and wellbeing at work’ provides a wide range of information, case studies and recommendations that can help businesses channel resources aimed at improving workplace health and wellbeing appropriately.

 Supporting business to use the evidence base

In the context of the challenge of finding evidence-based practice we have been co-producing a range of toolkits and resources over the last three years to address issues in the workplace that have been highlighted by the business sector.

Identifying the most common health and wellbeing concerns within a workplace is crucial as it allows businesses to put simple and practical measures in place to mitigate any risks. Although sickness absence data will provide some information on staff wellbeing, it is limited and actually engaging staff through mechanisms such as staff surveys can provide a rounder picture.

Working with the charity, Healthy Working Futures, we co-produced a Workplace Health Needs Assessment toolkit to support employers gather more information on their workplace health.

The toolkit provides standardised and validated questions in workplace surveys and some advice on how to benchmark them.

Whatever your type of business, creating a healthier more productive workplace begins with, being open with employees and understanding the legal duty of care to employees and to the wider community.  Co-production and engagement with staff sits at the core of every good workplace health and wellbeing strategy and delivery plan.

We work closely with Business in the Community to offer a range of free evidence-based toolkits for employers, all co-produced with business leaders and topic expert charities.

These are full of advice, tips and case studies, promoting simple actions that every business can take whether an SME or a multi-national and whether your business operates in the public, voluntary or private sector.

Ultimately the toolkits are just tools to help your organisation to draw down the evidence base, best practice and signpost to lots of free support and resources. For every organisation the starting point or priority may be different, but across the suite of toolkits there is bound to be something that resonates and helps to start to build or improve your workplace health and wellbeing strategy.

Taking action on health and wellbeing will create a healthier and more productive workforce, helping your employees to be their best and ultimately making your businesses stronger.

Employer toolkits

Sleep and recovery

Lack of sleep has a profound impact on our brain’s ability to function and can impact our physical and mental health. Our toolkit looks at the business case for sleep and you can also find out more in our blog on this issue.

Mental health
This toolkit helps businesses support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, promoting positive actions to build a culture that champions good mental health and provides a greater understanding of how to help staff who need more support.

Musculoskeletal health
Bone, joint and muscle problems are a major cause of sickness absence and this problem may become even more significant as our population ages. This toolkit helps employers take a proactive approach to preventing MSK issues.

Physical activity, healthy eating and healthier weight
Working in partnership with employees, employers can take a positive, proactive, preventative approach to support weight management and encourage greater physical activity. This toolkit contains a range of tips and advice and you can find out more in this blog.

Domestic abuse

Employers have an important role to play in society’s response to domestic abuse including a duty of care to employees and a legal responsibility to provide a safe and effective work environment. This toolkit looks at how employers can prevent and tackle domestic abuse.

Drugs, alcohol and tobacco

By referring to this drugs, alcohol and tobacco toolkit employers can support employees physical and mental wellbeing and reduce sickness absence.

Suicide prevention and postvention
Our prevention toolkit supports senior leadership, line managers, HR and occupational health and safety professionals identify a member of staff who may have suicidal feelings and gives practical advice on how to deal with a crisis situation. A separate postvention toolkit is designed to support employers in their response to the suicide of an employee, at work or outside the workplace.

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