The most recent CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work Report, which has been tracking the issue for 22 years, has revealed a few worrying trends. Our employee health director Dr Steve Boorman was involved in the planning for this report. He told us:
“This valuable and comprehensive report is an important reminder that whilst progress is being made in improving awareness that staff health and wellbeing is important to business success, not all are well versed in how best to support their workforces to achieve this. I welcome this timely prompt for their action.”
Among the findings, this report suggests a slight decline in senior management focus on employee health and wellbeing and a stubborn proportion of leaders who still do little or nothing in this regard.
Despite last year’s research suggesting things were improving, this suggests lessons have not been learned as well as they should have been. More worryingly perhaps, the figures suggest that line managers are still not being sufficiently supported in their work to help their staff on health and wellbeing
Here are some of the highlights we have noted:
Fewer senior leaders are prioritising employee health and mental wellbeing
Seven in ten (70%) HR respondents agree that employee wellbeing is on senior leaders’ agendas, down from 75% last year, while 42% think that senior leaders encourage a focus on mental wellbeing through their actions and behaviour compared with 48% last year.
This is set against a backdrop within which just half of organisations (51%) take a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, while almost one fifth (19%) are doing nothing to improve employee health and wellbeing at present.
This is deeply concerning, because leaders are absolutely pivotal to building a culture in which workforce health is prioritised – without their support, little change is possible. In the wake of the early pandemic, this lesson should certainly have been learned.
Only 38% of Line Managers Confident Enough to ‘Signpost’ Employees to Available Help
A startling revelation from CIPD’s report is that only 38% of line managers feel confident enough to have sensitive conversations and to ‘signpost’ employees to available help, such as Occupational Health services, healthcare schemes or Employee Assistance Programmes.
Only 29% of managers feel confident enough to be able to spot the warning signs of mental ill health.
Although 42% of organisations say they are providing more line management training around health, this is not enough. Line managers are usually the principal interface to the organisation. They not only manage absences day to day but are also the best positioned to observe the emergence of patterns of absences and health issues.
97% of Organisations Faced Covid-19 Related Absences
Only 3% of organisations have escaped COVID absences in the last 12 months. Most organisations cite COVID-19 as one of the top three reasons for short term absence (alongside mental health).
Over a quarter of organisations have said that Long COVID is one of the top three reasons for long term absence (again, alongside mental health).
Absence is an ongoing challenge for all businesses, and COVID has clearly exacerbated this – yet 40% still fail to provide line managers with training and support to handle short term absence, and 35% do not support them in managing long term absence.
Managers and HR need more training, tools, and support to deal with absences that cost organisations so significantly.
Only 27% of Organisations are Questioning a Rise in Presenteeism
Working when unwell is known as presenteeism. Although presenteeism among employees in the workplace has fallen slightly, the same is not true for homeworkers – of which there are more than ever before. Leavism – working outside contracted hours or during holidays – is also prevalent.
The report shows that only 27% of organisations are interested in why presenteeism is happening – although more are wondering why leavism is on the rise, at 51%. Those who are home based are more likely to work even if they are not fit to do so than they were last year. This has correlated with a decrease in general interest from managers and organisations in the mental wellbeing of those who are working remotely.
Ignoring these factors is of concern, especially at a time when employee health has been so clearly demonstrated as critical to continuity and organisational health.
As the CIPD says: “Presenteeism and leaveism are not the signs of a healthy workplace.”
The Outtakes – what should employers do about health and wellbeing in 2022?
“As a priority, organisations need to ensure their line managers have the confidence and capability to nurture trust-based relationships with those they manage, so individuals feel they can talk about any work or wellbeing issues. To perform this role effectively, managers need the behaviours, education and skills they will only gain from receiving effective training, support and expert guidance.”
The above findings reinforce two important things:
First, how critical it is for line managers to have the training, tools, and resources to support employee health and wellbeing. The pandemic has not yet ended. COVID challenges and absences and will continue to affect every organisation – with Long COVID already presenting health management challenges.
Secondly, that everyone in every organisation must work to ensure that employee health and wellbeing must stay top of the agenda. It requires determined effort and investment to build better processes, platforms and a culture in which employee health is measured, managed, and remains a priority.
The Empactis Employee Health Management System was designed around the very issues which are evident in this report. It supports line managers by providing them with the right information and tools to manage absence, hold conversations, and direct employees to the help they require. To find out more, get in touch.