5 Tips for Creating a Happy & Healthy Workforce during a Pandemic

As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that your staff are healthy, happy, and productive. That’s an even taller order during these uncertain times that we are living and working in at the moment! However, there are many business benefits to making sure you continue to adopt this approach – it’s a moral obligation too. The forward thinking companies that can cement best practices into their everyday new way of working will undoubtedly reap the benefits.

Need a little further incentive? Focusing on health and wellbeing could lead to:

  • Boosted productivity, and in turn, profits
  • Increased motivation and morale amongst your employees
  • Higher retention rates
  • More successful recruitment practices, due to an improved employer brand

The Black Report, published back in 2008, showed the impact that poor health can really have on businesses and much of it is still very relevant today. It’s estimated that around 30 million working days are lost each year thanks to illness and injury, and this can cost businesses £495 per employee per year. It’s a strain that many small businesses simply cannot handle. The CIPD are also saying that with everything that’s happened in the last 6 months, they see Health and Wellbeing as one of the top priorities for HR over the next few years.

The statistics available all indicate a growing problem for employers, and the key message here is that it’s not something that you can afford to ignore for any longer. You need to do your bit, in line with societal trends, government initiatives, and even schemes from the NHS.

But what can you do, in the most practical of terms? Paying lip service to health and wellbeing isn’t enough – you need to translate your intentions into solid workplace practices that bring about positive change and strengthen your position as an exemplary employer.  In this guide, we discuss five tips for making wellness work for your business.

1.Promote physical activity

These days, many of us could benefit from moving a little more. If the majority of your staff are office-based, and sitting at home in front of a laptop, inactivity could be a real problem that leads to mid-afternoon slumps and muscular-skeletal problems.

So, what can you do to get people moving again? The options are endless with this one. Encourage workers to take a break either mid-morning or mid-afternoon – that could be anything from an online yoga session to a quick walk around the block. It might even be possible to organise an activity to be held during break times which can be done virtually online together. Teaming up with local gyms and health and fitness clubs to offer discounted memberships for your staff, many of these are now doing on line classes too as part of their membership options. Get creative, and don’t be scared to try new things!  For anyone going into the office, remind people of the benefits of using the stairs instead of the lift, can they walk or cycle into the office instead of driving?

Standing desks are also extremely popular at the moment, and many forward-thinking businesses have started to introduce them into the workplace. AOL, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are just a few of the companies that have jumped on the bandwagon, with some citing workplace wellness as a key motivator. These are businesses that are known for being innovative with their people practices, so you could certainly learn a thing or two from the way they do things. Allegedly, Winston Churchill even had a standing desk  – so he was way before his time!

Be careful though if you decide to start bringing in standing desks for those who have requested them. It could lead to employees who opted out of the perk to suffer from ‘standing desk envy’ – a term coined by Wall Street Journal.

2.Put healthy eating back on the menu

Exercise and activity won’t make too much difference if healthy eating problems are at play. With fridges close at hand to those working from home, weight gain has and is for many, a real issue. Staff need the right fuel to get them through the day, but all too often, there’s a tendency to fall into bad habits and start reaching for the biscuit tin when working from home!

So what can you do to help? For those staff working form home, you can’t control what’s on their shopping list or in their fridge, but maybe some motivation to eat more healthily could help – a challenge amongst staff about health eating rather than weight loss? For those at work, make sure that healthy options are offered in the canteen, and identify these healthier choices on the menu. Consider offering free fruit at break times. Survey your vending machines and make sure that they aren’t just crammed full of chocolate and crisps.

Small tweaks can often make a huge difference, so start by tackling the issues that you know you can deal with right away.

3.Consider mental health issues

Mental health is often a taboo subject, but this is getting better and still needs to change. The CIPD suggested that the culture of silence around mental health in the workplace is costing the UK economy £70 billion each year.

Stress is a key mental health issue that’s worth mentioning here. Have you fully assessed the impact that your existing working practices are having on your employees, and have you considered where improvements could be made? Flexible working hours, for example, could really help you to give staff an element of freedom and choice, which often leads to reduced stress levels and happier employees

Take mental health seriously, and work to reduce the stigma. Ensure your line managers are fully equipped to handle sensitive matters, and have systems in place so you can deal with confidential information in line with the correct protocols.

4.Tackle existing negative behaviours

Smoking, alcohol, and substance misuse can sometimes cause problems in the workplace. Here, it’s really important to be proactive rather than reactive.

If you have a designated smoking area, ensure that it’s screened to minimise the impact of passive smoking. Ensure that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to smoking, so they know things like when they can take smoking breaks.

Have policies in place that include a code of conduct addressing drinking and taking drugs at work or being under the influence of such substances while at work are really important here. When appropriate, seek help from experts in the field. It’s a sensitive issue to deal with, and you need to make sure that you handle everything correctly.

5.Effectively communicate your initiatives

You could have all the best initiatives in the world, but if your staff don’t know about them, they aren’t going to make any difference whatsoever. Consider the usual channels of communication that are used in your workplace and think about how you can ensure everyone is fully informed about the changes that are being proposed.

You might arrange for messages to be shared via email or your intranet system, for example, or you could take steps to have health and wellness discussed at team meetings.

Think about how you can involve members of staff in focus groups where they can share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas on the health and wellness initiatives that you have in mind. They’ll often be able to provide you with a wealth of information about the practical issues that you may not have thought of.

Get feedback as time goes by and be sure to act upon it. You might hit the mark first time, but you can only improve if you’re committed to working in collaboration with your employees on how to improve their health and wellbeing.

Summary

Some of these initiatives may seem remarkably simple, and the truth is – they are. Making a commitment to promoting health and wellbeing doesn’t have to be difficult, or costly. The key is often in the implementation and keeping initiatives going when the initial fanfare has worn off!

It may be a tough economic climate out there, but businesses still need the best talent if they want to thrive. Ensuring that wellness is on your agenda will attract the right people and ensure that they’re happy and productive in their roles.

If you’re thinking about introducing a wellbeing programme or initiative, but not quite sure where to start, then we can help. You can book a call with us for an initial chat about your options. http://bit.ly/CallMerakiHR