Employers should encourage their staff to be healthier

by Dr. Muireann Cullen, Manager at Nutrition & Health Foundation

Irish employers should encourage their staff to be healthier according to a new national survey of employees, which shows that employee wellbeing is crucial to staff retention and productivity levels. Seven in ten (69%) employees surveyed are more likely to stay longer with employers who show an interest in their health and wellbeing while half would consider leaving employers who don’t. The survey of almost 1000 employees was commissioned by the Nutrition & Health Foundation (NHF) to mark Ireland’s second National Workplace Wellbeing Day which took place on Friday, 8th April. This year hundreds of public and private sector organisations across the country participated in the Ibec supported day which aims to improve employee health by promoting better physical and nutritional wellbeing in their workplace.

The results of the Behaviour & Attitudes’ study highlight the important role for employers in improving their employees’ health. Three quarters of those surveyed say employers should encourage their staff to be healthier. Our study shows that about half of employers are trying to facilitate healthier lifestyles for their employees. More employees have access today to health and wellbeing initiatives within the workplace than they did in 2014.

Launching Workplace Wellbeing Day 2016, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said: “A healthy workplace is a happier and more productive workplace. That’s true for both staff and employers. We spend so much of our lives at work that it makes sense for so many reasons to foster a healthy workplace. It creates a happier environment, reduces sick leave, increases productivity, and helps to beat the Monday blues. So I would encourage everyone to take part on the day. The Government will also shortly be launching a new obesity policy so I’m encouraged that industry is already taking a role to improve public health.”

The nationwide campaign is supported by Ibec. Danny McCoy, CEO, Ibec said “Improving wellbeing is in everyone’s interest, including employers. Given the considerable amount of time people spend in the workplace, it’s the ideal place to encourage healthier lifestyles amongst adults. We are encouraging employers of all sizes and across all sectors to get involved.”

Commenting on the results, Small Firms Association Director, Patricia Callan said “Over 4 million days are lost in Ireland due to absenteeism by small businesses alone³. As this research shows, employers of all sizes and from all sectors are doing a lot already. But employers should do more to promote these initiatives and encourage staff to get involved. Workplace wellbeing is in everyone’s interest and 8th April is a good day to start.”

Four out of five employees point to a positive link between their health and wellbeing and their company‘s productivity. Two in five meanwhile claim that sickness and absenteeism are a barrier to productivity within their workplace.

Employee health and wellbeing programmes are also an issue for those employers intending to recruit during 2016. More than a third of employees (35%) surveyed said that a company’s workplace wellbeing programme is important when they are choosing a new employer.

Niall O’Callaghan, Partner at employee benefit consultants, Mercer, stated “Our own recent research supports the fact that across all life stages and ages, employees’ personal worries about their health and wellbeing are having a dramatic effect on how they operate at work. The provision of a wellbeing programme is one of a number of ways in which employers can help to reduce this stress and worry.”

Niall O’Callaghan explained “Employers who proactively seek to provide support and resources to help staff manage their health and wellbeing will see dividends in terms of improved productivity and morale, and lower staff turnover. They will also be better placed to recruit and retain the most talented staff in a competitive labour market as the economy recovers.”

Improving employee wellbeing is in everyone’s best interest from the individual as well as the employers’ perspectives.

Categories: ​Health & Well-being

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