Workplace wellness

21 August 2019

The recent HSM webinar on workplace wellness, brought to you in association with Cority and IOSH, explores health beyond traditional Hazards.

COMPANIES ARE spending more on wellness programmes, mental health and nutrition and exercise as there is an impact and cost of employees that are unwell.

Usually, when we think about health we think about physical hazards such as slips and trips. Product marketing specialist at Cority Software Andrew Cheung said, “There are other things out there that make employees unsafe, so we have to expand the definition of heath and include factors that are not traditionally thought of. These could be things like drug abuse, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression and sleep disorders and these hazards can look a lot different.

“When we look at workplace wellness in the context of these factors, how healthy are workers around the world? The answer is we could be doing a lot better. Across the world, 3.2 billion workers are increasingly unwell, so in general, they are facing economic insecurity, they are becoming less healthy and they are stressed and unhappy.”

This has a huge effect on the UK and sick leave and employees working while unwell, costs companies almost 8% of yearly wages, according to Britain's Healthiest Company Report. Britain's Healthiest Workplace Survey shows that employees are losing the equivalent of 30 days a year on absenteeism and presenteeism.

“We believe that the best option is to invest in wellness programmes in order to help us solve these challenges. With wellness a lot of times safety, health and risk can operate separately in companies, but the great thing about wellness programmes is they bring together all of these elements and include things like counselling, exercise, nutrition and stress management.

“Workplace wellness is a growing market that is worth around $40 billion globally and this is only going to gain momentum over the next five to 10 years, and according to Deloitte 5% of UK has extensive wellness programmes.”

There is a lot of data showing these programmes work. Andrew points out, “Companies with effective wellness programmes have 25% lower obesity and hypertension rates and 60% lower diabetes rate.”

According to Andrew, companies often look at wellness programmes as a cost – and this is a culture we need to change so that they understand how these programmes can help them achieve their corporate goals.

The webinar gives a summary of how employees have improved health and how companies have saved costs.

Technology and wellness

Software helps your team be more productive at managing these programmes and reduce costs while doing to. “So you are not only going to fight health problems better, but you will be able to reduce costs while doing to,” says Andrew.

You can transform your wellness with technology:

  • Understand your employees' risks

  • Create and promote programme

  • Training and communication

  • Managing employee absences

  • Programme results – reporting and analytics.

With the use of software, you can react to situations and also use the data to help you reduce risks.

There are plenty of enterprise level benefits too.

  • All your data is in one place

  • Access anytime, anywhere, on any device

  • Embedded contents such as regulations and guidelines

  • Keep your data safe

  • Contextualise data across QHSE spectrum

Andrew adds, “We want wellness programmes to succeed, and if we want to do that we need to elevate wellness as a strategic initiative across the entire company. We hear a lot that employee wellness programmes have failed, and large part of that is that they don't have proper processes and structure in place.”

Change starts at the top, so the leadership needs to demonstrate support for the programme. It's important to create goals but then need to be measured. Policy can change overnight, but the culture can take some time, so the company needs to ensure that conversations are taking place so that this happens.

Mental health 

The webinar also features a presentation from vice-president of IOSH, Jonathan Hughes. He looks at mental health and the large strides the UK and other countries have taken of late.

Mental health problems are a huge cost to businesses so it's something we can't ignore. Jonathan said, “According to the Mental Health Foundation, in 2015 they caused 17.6 million sick days, which is 12.7% of all sick days taken in the UK that year. Poor mental health is estimated to cost employers between £33bn and £42bn in sick pay and lost productivity.”

The main disorders are generalised anxiety disorder, depression and panic disorders – and think about how many people are effected in your organisation.

Line mangers are often the best place to stop the signs of poor mental health and can ensure employees feel valued, respected and supported, however, a bad line manager can aggravate or cause stress.

IOSH and Management Today examined the role line mangers play in promoting positive mental health in the work place. They surveyed more than 400 employers to find out what is being done in the UK to support workers with mental health problems.

“Our findings informed a whitepaper on the subject, which explores how well-equipped line managers are with the skills needed to safeguard the mental health of their direct reports. What approach organisations are taking to create a working environment and work culture that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing. It's concerning that 62% of line managers that took part in the survey, say they don't get enough help from their organisation to support the mental wellbeing of their staff.”

The survey also showed that only 31% can spot poor mental health and 57% say their organisation offers no mental health and wellbeing training or support. So, many businesses are failing to educate line managers.

Businesses are not being proactive enough when it comes to mental health.

IOSH funded research at the University of Nottingham exploring the use of mental health first aiders (MHFA) and this found a lack of clarity with boundaries with MHFAs being contacted outside of working hours. MHFA should be incorporated as part of prevention-first approach.

IOHS has developed additional guidance and there are now documents to download from the IOSH website.

Pace of change

The survey revealed the pace of change is too slow and there is still a stigma associated with mental health – some 80% of respondents said they would be reluctant to discuss mental health with their line manager. 33% rarely or never discuss mental health with direct reports and 25% would prefer to discuss mental health with colleagues.

Line managers have a fundamental role to play in the promotion of positive mental health in the workplace. Therefore, it is vital they receive best-possible support from their organisation.

Jonathan concludes that more work needs to be done to break down taboos surrounding mental health and open up lines of communication in the workplace.

The full webinar is available on the website, and you can also listen to all the questions from the viewers and the answers from the experts.

To watch this on demand, visit