Ill health absences caused by the workplace cost the British economy a staggering £9.4bn in 2014, which works out to be about £18,000 per case. With the majority of private sector employers being small companies (between 1 – 9 employees), staff ill health can be financially debilitating, damaging to productivity, difficult to manage and upsetting for all involved.
The short answer – yes it does! Absenteeism isn’t the whole picture as to how healthy your organisation is; presenteeism is a far greater problem. ‘Presenteeism’ is the term used to describe being at work whilst being ill, and in 2014 cost the UK economy twice that of absenteeism - £15.1bn in lost productivity alone.
‘Hidden’ illnesses, such as depression, stress and anxiety account for nearly half of all lost working days (almost 10mn days in 2014), so judging your organisation’s ‘health’ in terms of sick days simply isn’t the whole picture.
Most of us have times of feeling stressed out or overwhelmed at work, so it can be hard for managers to know when there is a problem until it is too late. The average number of days lost during an episode of stress is 28, which places huge pressure on other employee’s, may mean using expensive cover, be time consuming to manage and seriously impact on the productivity of your company, particularly if you are a small organisation.
Employee health is now generally assumed to incorporate the WHO definition of health (physical, mental and social) and be far more than merely the absence of physical disease. A healthy workplace is also a healthy organisation from the point of view of how it functions and achieves its goals. Employee health and corporate health are, fundamentally, inextricably intertwined.
Improving employee’s health is not only the right thing to do in terms of employee wellbeing but can have a significant impact on the health of the organisation as a whole, it’s productivity, brand reputation and profitability!
The best way of managing the health of your staff members is proactively. Instead of waiting for things to get so bad employees are signed off, reading the signs early and getting the right help can, more often than not, put things back on track and keep your member of staff at work.
Whilst 70% of managers have reported having a staff member with a mental health problem, over half of managers don’t feel they have sufficient training to support their staff member adequately. This is where Occupational Health comes in.
Occupational health teams keep people well at work – physically and mentally.
Occupational health teams can manage any risks in the workplace that are likely to give rise to work-related ill health, supporting your organisation to meet its responsibilities. OH teams can carry out pre-employment assessments, advise and support on return to work programmes, advise on workplace adjustments and carry out training so your managers are clued up on the signs to watch out for.
Pete works in contracts in a bespoke lighting company. Whilst normally he never takes a day off, lately he has phoned in sick three times in two months. What’s more, his manager, Lisa, has noticed that he seems out of sorts, withdrawn, irritable, his appearance has become untidy and the quality of his work has decreased, with errors and deadlines being missed.
During a one to one, Lisa asks if everything ok and it becomes apparent that Pete has been feeling under the weather for some time now. Lisa refers him to Occupational Health.
A full assessment is carried out and the OH advisor identifies that Pete’s brother died 9 months ago. Pete and his brother shared the care for their dependent mother who is in early stages of dementia. It becomes clear that Pete is terrified he will lose his job as he knows he has been under-performing. The OH advisor also picks up that Pete is dyslexic.
Lisa is sent a report, following the assessment, that advises on Pete’s fitness to work and suggests adjustments that could really help. The OH advisor also suggests some psychological support for Pete.
Lisa and Pete work together to put the recommended plan in place. Lisa, now aware of Pete’s circumstances, manages the contracts so that Pete is able to take a few hours off each week to attend therapy and take his mother to her hospital appointments. Pete feels much more valued and supported, enjoys being back at work, is much more motivated with his work and takes no more days off.
OH really does not need to be a complicated task for managers, once some of the basics are in place and you are aware of what to watch for, supporting your employee’s health and wellbeing should be straightforward. Getting the right training and finding experts to support you when needed can deliver huge benefits for your workforce and organisation as a whole.
Clinical Partners Occupational Health team is a private, nationwide innovative OH service that can help deliver, fast, flexible, cost effective OH services to your company. Read more about the services we offer here.
 HSE - Costs to Britain of injuries and ill health relating from current day working conditions
 Department for Innovation and Business Skills - BUSINESS POPULATION ESTIMATES FOR THE UK AND REGIONS 2013
 Time to Change – Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces