Public Sector People Managers’ Association conference, 28-30 March, Hilton Metropole, Brighton
Organisations need to be more proactive when thinking about wellbeing if they are to demonstrate a return on investment (ROI), PPMA delegates were told.
Stephen Bevan, director of research at the Work Foundation think-tank, said that while long-term illness did have an impact on work, the workplace was not the cause of most chronic health problems.
He stressed that a cultural shift was needed to put the responsibility for personal health back with the employee. “Individuals need to be empowered to take more responsibility for their lifestyles,” Bevan said. “Organisational culture has to change to promote better wellbeing rather than continuing to adopt a reactive approach to sickness.”
However, while the public sector had higher sickness absence rates than the private sector, Bevan said that was a reflection of there being more female workers with caring and childcare responsibilities. “There are more women, but there is also better sickness absence reporting,” he said.
Alex Jessel, head of development at Investors in People, said the term ‘wellbeing’ could be confusing, and companies needed to be clear about what it meant to them. “Gym membership and fruit at work will not affect someone’s wellbeing – but good management will,” he said.
Sally Radford, head of HR at Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, revealed that empowering staff and allowing them to choose the hours they worked had helped cut sickness absence from an average of 17.4 days a year to 10.9 days in just three years. “If you empower staff it does not have to be expensive. But you have to measure it to be able to manage it,” she said.