Prevention better than cure for wellbeing at work

Employers in North East England are being urged to actively promote health and wellbeing in the workplace in order to reduce absence rates and improve performance and productivity.

Recent government statistics show that 112,000 people in the region suffered from an illness which they believed was caused or made worse by their work.

Naturopath Rumana Zahn is pushing for greater recognition of the importance of investing in health and wellbeing in the workplace and has launched a groundbreaking Wellbeing Workshop aimed at helping reduce absenteeism levels in the workplace due to ill-health and stress.

Companies in North East England feel that wellbeing at work is an important issue according to a snapshot poll by Rumana Health. Rumana, who is an award-winning naturopath with a solid scientific background, said:

“The poll, which is based on feedback from some North East-based firms, revealed that 63% of participants deal with poor sickness records and long term sick issues. However, nearly 70% currently have initiatives in place to counteract these issues.”

These figures are complemented by the results of a recent CBI / AXA Survey, which showed that nationally over two thirds of organisations (69%) have a well-being policy in place to encourage staff to lead healthier, happier lives.

However, work-related stress remains the second biggest cause of employee sickness absence days in the UK; 40 million days are lost every year due to ill-health and injury, which costs the economy billions.

Rumana said:

“Flexible working, counselling sessions, performance management system, dress-down days, and summer garden parties for all staff are just some of the initiatives in place by firms in the region. Such offerings are necessary to ensure that employers and employees recognise not only the importance of preventing ill-health, but also the key role the workplace can play in promoting health and wellbeing.”

A recent government review ‘Working for a healthier tomorrow’ showed that the annual economic costs of sickness absence associated with working age ill-health are estimated to be over £100 billion.

This is greater than the current annual budget for the NHS and equivalent to the entire GDP of Portugal.

Rumana said:

“The review showed that the UK has one of the highest sickness absence rates in Europe and much of it is due to work-related stress. Achieving a good work-health balance is absolutely essential to retaining productive and motivated staff. Most of us who work full-time spend one-fifth of our lives in the workplace. What we eat there, how we sit, how we travel to the office, how we deal with pressure are all factors that affect productivity and long-term health.”

The Wellbeing Workshop, which will take place from July 2008, will provide employers and HR professionals with the ideas and tools to reduce absenteeism levels in the workplace due to ill-health and stress at a strategic level.

Once the plan is in place a more in-depth Wellbeing at Work Programme can be introduced, which is designed to put the strategic goals into operation and help improve the health and wellbeing of staff.

It covers topics such as managing stress, improving health through diet and nutrition, and managing difficult emotions.

Norma Foster, Chief Executive of the North East Regional Portal, invested in the Wellbeing at Work Programme.

She said: “Wellbeing at work has been part of our strategic vision for a long time and has greatly benefited not only the health and well-being of our staff but the organisation too.

“Prevention is better than cure when it comes to the wellbeing and health of the staff and ultimately the company. A happy and productive team is critical to the success of any organisation – after all what business can flourish with a burnt-out and miserable workforce?”

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