The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection and the opportunity to make promises to yourself perhaps to ease up on the drinking, lose weight or get fit in the months ahead. It’s the perfect time to take stock and plan for the future in our personal lives, but the same approach could help employers and organisations too.
It is becoming accepted that a happy, healthy and motivated workforce can boost the prospects of an organisation. And, on the flipside, staff sickness and absence can cost a company dearly and reduce productivity.
The figures speak for themselves…
Staff absence cost UK businesses £31.1bn in 2013, of which 90% was due to sickness. On average, staff in the UK had 9.1 sickness days in 2013 – higher than any other leading economy in the world (US 4.9 days, Europe 7.3 days). This has an impact on productivity, which in the UK also lags behind most leading industrial nations.
Furthermore, the Health and Safety Executive calculates that an average of 622,000 people are injured in workplace accidents each year, and 528,000 suffer ill health due to their workplace conditions. The direct financial cost of workplace accidents and injuries is estimated at some £14.1bn whilst the human, emotional and personal cost to employees and their families cannot be quantified.
Employers have a legal duty to protect the safety of their workers, but they also have a financial imperative for ensuring that their workforce is safe, happy and motivated. Increasingly, employees are looking for a workplace that is fun, creative, innovative, collaborative and inclusive, and they want to work for companies that value teamwork, diversity, ethics and responsibility.
Top workplace resolutions for the New Year
Seek help to support your workers
Fit For Work offers free advice and support regarding sickness absence issues, or about issues that may result in sickness absence, and employed people in England and Wales who have been off work due to illness for four weeks or more can be referred for a free health consultation to produce a Return to Work Plan to help them return to work.
Sickness absence policies that already make reference to occupational referrals are not likely to require amendment before referrals are made to Fit for Work, but information about Fit for Work should be available for employees to read (aims of the service, information about referrals and eligibility, the Return to Work Plan). Where no mention is made of occupational health referrals, employees should be made formally aware of the inclusion of Fit for Work referrals in policies (read our blog to find out more).
To find out more, visit the Fit for Work website or call the free telephone advice line on 0800 032 6235 (English), 0800 032 6235 (Cymraeg). There is a separate service running in Scotland (0800 019 2211).
Analyse your sickness and absence data
Maintaining good records of sickness absence in your workplace will help you to see patterns in illness across the organisation. They could, for example, identify back strain as a problem in certain roles in a factory production line. Back strain and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are some of the major reasons for sickness absence in the UK. By identifying a problem you can work out steps to solve or improve the situation.
Develop an attendance culture
Going to work is known to be generally good for an individual’s health and wellbeing. Train your managers to know the best way of dealing with staff when they are off sick and when they return after absence. Encourage a culture of support, understanding and flexibility. Look at the individual needs of returning workers in order to ensure a successful return to work process. What hours they can manage? What tasks they can do?
Risk assess your risk assessments
Are you satisfied that your risk assessments are as good as they should be? When were they last reviewed? Are they up-to-date?
Risk assessments are the foundation for keeping your workers safe in the workplace. They focus on identifying the hazards of a particular workplace and the steps that are required to keep risks to a minimum.
Encourage good health at work
Poor health choices outside work have just as much impact on sickness rates as a poor working environment. Encourage exercise and healthy eating amongst your staff. Encourage cycling to work with bike purchasing schemes, secure bike parking and showers. Provide a kitchen so staff can make healthy lunches or set up a healthy food cafe within the building.
Stress is a major cause of sickness and work can be a major source of stress. Employers can take steps to reduce stress levels among their staff.
- Insist on everyone taking lunch breaks and not working late at the office.
- Make sure everyone takes their full holiday entitlement.
- Encourage teamwork and communication between staff and bosses.
- Ensure that your staff feel valued for their work – give your managers the training they need to support their team.
- Review targets and deadlines – make sure they are realistic and staff are well supported in achieving them.
Diversity and equality
Question whether your organisation’s diversity and equality policies are actually making an impact on the management structure and the running of the company. Look at new steps to bring about positive changes to diversity at work, such as schemes to identify potential, and improved training. Diversity in the workplace will demonstrate that your organisation values all individuals.
Rewards and bonuses
People respond much more positively to praise and recognition for their good work and efforts than they do to criticism of their mistakes. Give simple rewards for new ideas or creative solutions, praise staff regularly, and set up some kind of formal mechanism for congratulating success (like a staff magazine or notice board).
Take care not to give rewards and bonuses only to those who shout the loudest. Be even-handed and give credit where credit is due.
CPD and training
A major disappointment for many employees is seeing their careers stuck at one level and not progressing. Offer training and career progression, and challenge staff so they can move on to the next level. Offering good training will also ensure that your organisation stays at the forefront of new thinking in your industry.