A Bupa report has highlighted that Brits regularly experience stress, anxiety or depression, mental health problems which are amongst the most common reasons for absenteeism and presenteeism. Both significantly impact businesses, together leading to a financial loss of £73bn a year. Presenteeism is perhaps a more human problem, whereby illness can quickly spread and leads to staff failure to get better. Lowered morale plays a part as well. Of course, in terms of absenteeism, lost days stack up to affect a business’ bottom line. The remaining employees also have to pick up the slack. Either way, absenteeism and presenteeism can be avoided by understanding what leads to such events, alongside fostering a culture of wellbeing. Touching upon the subject of absenteeism and presenteeism, Tim Scott, director of people at Fletchers Solicitors, talks to Real Business about sector progress and the role managers have to play in promoting health. With the legal sector renown for its stressful nature, do you think the industry is successfully managing the mental health of staff? Mental health is a challenge for all industries at the moment, but awareness of the issues surrounding the subject increased over recent years. I certainly think the legal sector is changing and realising that health and wellbeing are key to improving staff retention and the motivation of employees, which will therefore benefit businesses as a whole. Do enough employees know it gives rise to absenteeism and presenteeism? There’s more recognition around how it can contribute to the rise of absenteeism and presenteeism – but “the word” is spreading slowly. I’ve dealt with issues of both absenteeism and presenteeism in my career, and although absenteeism is the more common, people turning up every day when they aren’t well can be just as damaging to the company. It can also have longer term effects, especially to a company’s culture due to low staff morale or productivity. What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing? First and foremost, there’s a human element when it comes to wellbeing policies: we owe it to our workforces to look after their health and wellbeing as best we can. From a business point of view, it’s the biggest cliché in the HR book, but employees are a company’s greatest asset – without them, most businesses wouldn’t be unable to function. Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of who they are or where they work. This is no different in the legal sector and it’s about time firms started putting the health of staff before caseloads, especially given the stressful nature of the work. If firms do not take the time to develop employee wellbeing strategies, they risk losing their top talent to more forward-thinking firms. In what ways do you invest in your employees’ health and wellbeing? At Fletchers, we have provided managers with specialised training to help create an open culture where employees can discuss their mental health or any issues they may be having. Half of our managers are now known as “mental health champions”, as they have had ACAS training to help them proactively spot and prevent mental health issues in their teams – an innovative move for the legal sector. We also run a flexitime scheme, which gives staff the opportunity to earn 12 extra holiday days (on top of their existing 28) that can be built up through earning extra hours. This allows employees to have a much-needed break from the pressures of working life. If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you like to have in place? One of the most well received perks that we have introduced was actually free fruit, which our team members really appreciate. But if money was no object, I’d look at giving our team members more time off, providing on-site treatments during the working day, and increasing support for our managers. Scott discusses on the next page how the we deal with mental health at work is dictated by company culture
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