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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Wednesday 30 Oct 2013
Action points for employers when addressing well-being of employees

Action points for employers when addressing well-being of employees

The Average Sickness report from LV is effectively saying that the average sick days of UK workers represents 2-3% of their working lives (assuming a 45 year working life).

Of course there are a number of other issues that take people away from work, holidays, waiting in for the plumber or seeing the dentist spring to mind, but none of these are regarded as issues that interfere with work. Rightly, they are all seen as essential aspects of daily life. 

The same should be said of illness 

In reality, 2-3% is a small proportion of our working lives. What's more concerning is the amount of people who have stress or depression and who are still at work and the impact that has on productivity and business performance. 

And this issue doesn't even show up in these statistics, yet has a far more wide reaching impact. For example, did you know that one in six workers is currently experiencing mental health issues such as depression, stress or anxiety? 

According to research by Mental Health charity, Mind, the biggest cause of stress in people's lives, more so than debt or financial problems is mental illness. One in five people refrain from talking about their mental illness at work in fear of losing their jobs. 

With this in mind, there are three key actions that employers can take to be pro-active in addressing the well-being of their employees:

Be proactive: Take proactive steps to break down the stigma of mental health and create a culture where fostering good mental health is part of good business practice. 

We're seeing employers form alliances with these aims in mind and truly benefit from sharing experiences and articulating why good mental health is critical to business success 

Make evidence based decisions: Use data analytics that provide the full picture. Absence figures alone aren't enough to understand what is really at the heart of sickness levels. 

Productivity and performance data can provide more insights, and of course, the employee's views and customer/client satisfaction should all be analysed and considered, in a connected fashion, not piecemeal

Educate your people: A significant number of organisations provide access to support on wellbeing to their employees, and yet how many actually access these facilities? Sadly the reality is far too few. 

There needs to be ongoing communication, and at the heart of that communication strategy, needs to be education to management and leadership, in particular around mental health issues which are often harder to detect and address. 

A culture of trust and adult to adult conversations is vital. Finally, there's a lot that employers can learn from the self-employed. A number of our friends who are self-employed are never sick. When asked why, they say they can't afford it and ensure they maintain a lifestyle that maximises their wellbeing. Employers can learn a lot from this. 

Connecting with employees is all about getting them to act as if the business is their own. So a business focused on connectivity with its employees, who understands the full picture of performance, engagement and customer satisfaction, and who proactively supports employees in taking responsibility for their own well being, has a far better chance of succeeding.

Robert Bolton and Ingrid Waterfield, partner and senior manager in KPMG