Are you giving your people the support they need?

Work-related sickness accounted for about 28 million lost working days in the UK last year. The biggest cause of this has been shown to be stress and mental health related issues. The environment in which individuals work has been shown to have a large impact on their health and well-being.

Working late

Poor management of this can lead to an increase in work-related health issues and, therefore, can affect your sickness absence rates too. This can lead to real problems for businesses due to the costs involved, the impact on customer service, and also the consequences for the individual personnel. It must be seen that sickness absences is a key issue for any business, and can be a key indicator to how well a business is being managed.

Any business needs well-motivated and healthy personnel if they are to deliver a high-quality service to their customers, and the effective management of occupational health is key to achieving this. The Advisor on Work and Health at the Department of Health, Professor Carol M. Black recently said: “None of us doubt the negative effects of smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or obesity on health, but few of us have any understanding of the value of work to an individual’s health. Work is important not only to physical and mental health, but also to social integration.”

The Sickness Absence and Rehabilitation survey that was undertaken by EEF (The Manufacturers Association) showed that there was a definite link between companies who tackle sickness and improved business performance. Ways that companies have tackled health and wellbeing at work are:

  • Ensuring personnel have access to occupational health advice and support.
  • Promote the importance of health and safety at work to all personnel
  • Improve access for personnel to preventative care for common health problems, and also treatment too.

Occupational health can seem like a complicated subject, but all it really comes down to is understanding how work and the work environment can affect your personnel’s health, and at the same time understanding how your personnel’s health can impact on their job performance.

Some ways that companies can effectively manage occupational health, and therefore reduce the likelihood of sickness absence are:

  • Clear communication on the importance of health and wellbeing at work from top management. Management need to motivate the workforce to take action by making it clear that the key priority is occupational health, sickness absence and safety at work.
  • Support and good training for line managers, as they are the people who can make a real difference through their relationships with their team.
  • Regular contact with individuals who are absent due to sickness – in a supportive and caring way. This has been shown to have a huge impact on an individual’s motivation to get back to work.

The right systems and data management structure for recording accurate, up-to-date sickness data – and which will break it down by area and cause. This will enable companies to target actions to specific problem areas and accurately measure progress on tackling sickness absence.