According to the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD), the leading body providing accreditations and qualifications for HR specialists in the UK, 1.4 million people suffered from work-related illnesses in 2017/2018.
While attitudes towards workplace wellbeing are slowly improving, such figures highlight the need to not only create healthier workforces, but also healthier communities.
According to Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, wellbeing interventions need to be more structural than physical, "it is not about beanbags, ping-pong tables and sushi at your desk. It is about how you create a good environment, so people are motivated to come to work" (Financial Times, Health at Work Report 2019).
193 of the UN’s member states have welcomed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are thus committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals which includes the goal to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. However, the Centre of Mental Health, an international research and policy charity has reported that mental ill-health still costs employers approximately £35bn a year through lost productivity, sickness absences and staff turnover.
CIPD are seeking to tackle the challenges in the workplace that are affecting mental health. Through their independent research, the registered charity are positively influencing policy and setting professional standards within HR Departments, "this is especially critical during a global health emergency, where many employees find themselves working remotely, isolated from friends, family and colleagues for long periods of time, and anxious about their health and wellbeing" writes CIPD.
While subsequent lockdowns have further challenged workplace wellbeing, there are a number of ways employers can help tackle the stress that comes from working at home. As it stands, employees are balancing their roles alongside the provision of childcare, home schooling, and the care of aging parents, which can all contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. Therefore DTA would like to recommend three simple practices that may help to relieve the pressure:
- Create space for employees to chat about non-work-related issues – While work socials or coffee mornings are a thing of the past, many organisations are still socialising with their teams within a virtual capacity. This allows employees to break away from work chat, boost morale and iron out any personal or workplace tensions that might be influencing their performance or satisfaction in the role. This in turns allows employees to benefit from the social element of their role that they may be missing and can help counter feelings of isolation and boost connectivity amongst team members.
- Encourage exercise and physical wellbeing among staff members – As staff are now living and working in the same space, physical wellbeing may have taken a back seat. The lack of structure and change of routine can wreak havoc with physical wellbeing practices that were once in place for employees. Lunch times formally spent in green spaces with co-workers may have been replaced with a quick bite to eat, mid-home-schooling. The 30-minutes of walking that were previously part of the daily commute may have now been replaced with the shorter commute from the bedroom to the make-shift home office. Therefore, supporting staff to stay active and moving is paramount during the pandemic. Encourage your staff to step away from their desks and take breaks in the fresh air. Check out our blog on ‘how to become more physically active in the workplace’ for some great tips on how to remain physically active even when working at home.
- Promote flexible working hours – Within many industries, the 9-to-5 grind has become a thing of the past, and for good reason. In order to support employees in their roles as parents or carers it is important to respect the fact that such responsibilities may interfere with standardised work hours. Permitting flexible work hours allows employees to work outside of these time frames and manage their own workload and responsibilities accordingly.