The cornerstone for employers is ensuring the health and wellbeing of their workforce; not simply in order to reduce absenteeism, but to ensure that their staff are firing on all cylinders when they are there. The cost of staff being present but unproductive at work is estimated to be ten times higher than absenteeism, with the average employee costing a business the equivalent of three months per year in lost workforce productivity. The majority of initiatives still focus on what happens when individuals are sick, but not enough attention is paid to easy practical implementations businesses can make to prevent the problems of absenteeism and low workforce productivity in the first place. The emphasis needs to shift, so that businesses consider what pre-emptive measures they can deploy to reduce presenteeism (being presence but unproductive), rather than what punitive measures are used in response to absenteeism. Given that most people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, it’s reasonable to expect that businesses take a significant share of the responsibility for ensuring staff correctly prioritise their physical and psychological wellbeing. In addition to the employer’s duty of care, this is in the interest of the business, as studies have proven that there is a direct link between healthy, happy staff and the contribution they make to a business in terms of workforce productivity. As many decision makers are finding out, these implementations are not expensive, and they don’t have to be a pain in the neck (pun intended) to administrate. A highly effective support system with a measurable impact on a business’s bottom line can be in place in weeks and can cost approximately ten per cent of the average health insurance premium. In addition, the simplest provision of basic on-site health checks can be implemented at little or no cost – this will encourage a healthier lifestyle, as healthy employees are liable to be a business’s longest standing and most productive team members. The truth is, we continue to hear the same message about a good diet and exercise, but many have now grown immune to it. People tend to switch off because sometimes it’s easier to shut it out. On a personal level, making good lifestyle choices, implementing them and sticking to them is tough. From a business perspective, it is important to focus on the best strategies to help staff implement wellness techniques. But this is only possible if business leaders accept that the most common causes of workforce productivity loss and absenteeism are preventable, and that exercise and positive lifestyle implementations are the best way to both prevent and cure these conditions. Introducing wellness programmes in the place of work, for example, will help employees find the time to focus on their own health and create a positive and proactive workplace culture. A staggering four in ten people in the UK have an underlying chronic health condition. When you consider that almost half of your workforce could be affected by ill health, the financial benefits of investing in their health become apparent. Furthermore, the results of professionally prescribed exercise programmes are actually frequently better than the leading medication for the same chronic conditions. Any business concerned with staff sickness will find that investing in their wellbeing will soon pay off, absenteeism will drop and productivity will soar. If you can support your staff to prioritise their own wellbeing through positive lifestyle choices, such as prescribed diet and exercise regimes, you will simultaneously tackle the big public health challenges of our day, and help staff maximise their contribution to your business – in short, everyone wins. Andy Bowness is the CEO of BodireelImage: Shutterstock
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