Alaana Linney, Sales Director, Bupa Health Clinics, reflects on a panel which explored 'How healthy is your working environment?'.
It was a pleasure to be part of the Briefing Frontiers: Modern Workplace event yesterday. It brought together leaders from some of the UK’s top law firms to discuss what tangible changes can be made to ensure modern workplaces truly are a healthy environment.
I joined the panel: How healthy is your working environment? looking at the impact of flexible and ‘smarter’ working, as well as where the responsibility lies between employers and employees when it comes to individual wellbeing.
As the discussion played out it became clear that technology has transformed the way we engage. It makes flexible working possible, as well as bringing many other benefits. For example, a recent report by Regus stated that flexible working will add £148 billion to the British economy over the next 12 years, as well as saving Britons 115 million hours of commuting time every year.
However, in truth, many employees who are working ‘smarter’ find themselves working for longer and they are suffering from the consequences. Over half of us now check our work email outside of office hours, often before we get out of bed or last thing at night. ‘Smarter’ can, for some, mean ‘always on’. Checking emails all day, every day, even on holiday is a way of life for many people.
Bad habits and this ‘always on’ culture can lead to a range of issues, namely stress, which in turn impacts productivity and talent retention. In the UK alone, work-related stress, anxiety and depression accounted for 12.5 million working days lost last year.
Worryingly, a Bupa survey conducted in 2017 showed that over half (51%) of workers were kept awake at night by occupational stress. And we know from users of our Bupa Boost app that they most want to improve their quality of sleep.
Employers have a responsibility to engage with and listen to their workforce. In order to empower a workforce it’s important to lead from the top to create a culture where people feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
While a business might offer multiple health and wellbeing initiatives, employees are likely to only engage in a handful at most, so companies need to get to the bottom of their health issues and what really works for their individuals and adapt their strategy accordingly. We should be doing fewer things, but doing them better.
Ultimately, wellbeing is an individual responsibility. But there’s a clear role for employers to encourage healthier habits, which will undoubtedly lead to a healthier and happier workforce and, in turn, improved productivity.
Top three tips for embedding a positive and sustainable culture:
1. Leader-led engagement: Successful cultures must have senior leadership participation or they may fail. Research suggests that employees are twice as likely to report improved health if they do.
2. Know your people: While a business might offer multiple health and wellbeing initiatives, employees are likely to only engage in a handful at most, so companies need to pay attention to data from surveys and key delivery partners, such as EAP or occupational health, to create a programme that’s relevant to their people.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Successful cultures need to be underpinned by a really strong and inclusive comms plan throughout the employee life-cycle. People need to understand why a healthy culture is important to the business, to its people and to leaders personally.
It’s great to see that more and more businesses are looking at wellbeing as an investment. Creating a healthy culture takes time, effort and constant development. But it’s worth the effort; your business will thrive and because it’s the right thing to do.