Obesity is one of the most significant health issues facing the UK population today. In the UK, 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese, costing the UK £47 billion every year – and this figure is continuing to rise.
Obesity can also affect the workplace in numerous different ways. For example, obese people will often have to take more time off work – both short and long term – because of associated health conditions.
Obesity can also affect the productivity of a workplace; if someone is obese, their health will be worse, and they will be more likely to suffer from issues such as back problems or sleep apnoea. This means that even if they aren’t taking time off work, ‘presenteeism’ can be an issue, as the staff member’s health conditions can affect their ability to do their work properly.
These all cause significant workplace costs for businesses. For an organisation with over 1000 staff members, this could equate to more than £126,000 a year in lost productivity.
These numbers help to highlight the need for health promotion in the workplace. Eating healthily and exercising can often be seen by many as an extra chore to fit in around their work day and family life. However, in 2013, the CIPD found that just 29% of employees receive advice from their employers on healthy eating initiatives.
Encouraging exercise and healthy eating among staff members can’t be done in isolation – instead, it should form part of a far broader initiative to promote staff health and wellbeing. Employers can do this in many ways – small things like introducing walking meetings or encouraging staff to get outside on their lunch break can all work well. Employers could also consider introducing cycle-to-work schemes, discounted gym membership or nominating an employee as the ‘office wellness champion’ to encourage their colleagues to keep fit.
While it can be uncomfortable to consider talking to employees about topics such as obesity, with a well-rounded ‘wellness strategy’ in the workplace, these conversations can form part of everyday office life. Wellness initiatives can boost morale, productivity and performance at work – so why not consider implementing one today?
If you have an employee who has been off work for four weeks or more with obesity-related issues, you can refer them to Fit for Work at www.fitforwork.org or get more information by phoning the Advice Line on 0800 032 6235.