Obesity: Direct link between healthy staff and healthy profits

I was interested to read headlines last week highlighting government plans to tackle obesity (‘Employers urged to put weight behind bid to tackle obesity crisis’, Personnel-today.com, 24 January). And let’s face it, most of us are less active in the workplace today, with more and more people doing desk-based jobs, so we are less likely to burn calories while we are at work.

But should businesses be helping staff to manage their health? The answer is yes.

Our health affects our ability to do our jobs, so businesses who don’t invest in the health of their staff will lose out in the long term. When staff become ill, it directly affects the bottom line through increased costs of healthcare, absence, poor motivation, reduced productivity and performance-related problems.

Employers can play a role in reinforcing the benefits of behaviours which lead to positive health. This is not just connected with obesity, but includes diet, exercise, smoking cessation, stress management, personal development, taking better control of our lives, developing hobbies and interests, and becoming more active in local communities. Positive health will benefit individuals, colleagues and the business more generally.

Alan King, president, Employee Advisory Resource

Succession planning needs to go back to school

The headteacher recruitment crisis is forcing schools to take succession planning increasingly seriously (‘School chiefs call for bigger spotlight on staff retention following pay deal’, Personnel Today, 22 January), and there is a risk to the talent pool if work-life balance, stress levels and unattractive pay are not addressed.

The role of a headteacher is ever more complex and, given the growing management responsibility, extremely pressurised.

As the ‘baby boomers’ reach retirement age, there is an insufficient number of replacements, so demand will outstrip supply. The current fragile state of headteacher retention and recruitment will reach crisis point in two or three years’ time. Schools will need to use their local pay flexibility in determining leaders’ pay to compensate for the meagre national pay award of 2.45%, announced this month.

Modernising the path to headship and offering more realistic incentives could help turn the situation around. Recruiting managers to run the school’s business function, allowing the head to concentrate on teaching and learning, would not only ease the pressure on them, but also make the role an attractive prospect once more.

Whatever steps are taken in the short-term, it is clear that schools need to reassess their succession planning and see how they can better manage talent for the future. It would be both problematic and demoralising to the whole education system were we to be in the same position in 30 years’ time, with today’s enthusiastic newly qualified teachers unwilling and unprepared to take on the headteacher role.

Jon Sheridan, development manager, leadership division, Select Education

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