Better employee health management drives good work

Good work is an outcome of better employee health management – but it requires sustained effort and support for managers

Recently I was at an event hosted by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, at which the Colleges relaunched the Healthcare Professional’s Consensus Statement on Health and Work, reminding us that work should be considered part of the clinical outcome for successful treatment.

We were shown that this is not just any work, but rather “good work.” I am pleased to see NHS Employers taking the lead, and widely publishing, CIPD and Simply Health’s recent findings from their Health and Well-being at Work 2019 study. Their findings in 1000 organisations across the UK (over 3.2 million workers) clearly show the increase in absence attributed to stress.

The well-conducted research highlights workloads, management style and relationships at work as key causes of absence and strongly reinforces the vital importance of good employee health management. It flags how few managers are well trained to spot the signs and to offer support.

When I shared a panel at another event recently, with Louise Aston, from Business in The Community, and Paul Farmer, from Mind, we were in accord that improving management capability to support their staff was important. This lies at the heart of the Empactis approach.

Improving employee health management is a long-term challenge

As someone who has spent the last few decades working with organisations to help understand the impact that good well-being has on organisational performance, it may surprise you to know I also welcome a second large scale study recently published in the Journal of American Medicine. This studied over 30,000 US retail warehouse workers, across many sites and carefully reviewed the impact of workplace well-being programmes and its relationship to employee health management.

Whilst the study found that, 18 months later, workers on sites with well-being programmes did do more exercise and were more likely to be “watching their weight” it did not show any difference in actual measures of health or healthcare spend, nor did it show differences in absence rates.

For me this simply highlights that actual health change is not achieved overnight – it takes time to see overall health change. However, in many programmes I have seen in the UK you do see changes in reported absence and productivity. This is the effect of positive employee engagement – if workers feel their managers and employers care enough to support better employee health there is a measurable impact!

Time to empower managers to intervene to support better employee health

This is why timely contact and intervention by a manager is vital if he, or she, recognises an employee is showing signs of illness or distress. Good support, early, with positive conversations about what is needed are simple to have and do make a difference.

I remain surprised that organisations feel this will be costly and take huge amounts of training.

Simply helping managers understand that it’s OK to ask: “are you OK?” is important.

Helping managers to offer advice and support to their staff drives improved staff engagement and can thus support better employee health in the longer term.

The rapidly-growing database of organisations using Empactis to support better employee health management and wellbeing at work shows the value this can give to well-managed businesses.