The business impact of a healthier workforce

Posted on: March 4, 2015 by Andrew Kinder

Atos - The business impact of a healthier workforceSo far in my Healthy Workforce (Health@work) series, we’ve looked at why it’s important to establish a healthier and happier workforce, and top tips to optimise home working. But how do you actually measure the wellbeing of your staff?

Quantifying the cost of absence

At a basic level, you can measure your staff’s happiness by looking at your financial bottom line, but is this really the only measure?

It has been found that successful businesses rely on their employees being happy, healthy in mind and body, and engaged in their jobs. But anxiety and stress are major contributors to sickness absence in the UK.

However, a major cost which is sometimes not fully quantified by organisations is sickness absence. PwC estimates that the average worker in the UK takes 9.1 days sick days a year (compared to 7.3 for the average across Western Europe), which is costing businesses almost €40m a year. The cost of absenteeism is so high because it’s not just a case of paying the employee for a day’s work that’s not done; you also have to consider the cost of bringing in temporary staff to cover the workload, who may also require additional training to get up to speed. An alliance of European employers – including Deutsche Post DHL, Ogilvy & Mather and Barclays – is calling on HR and occupational health professionals to push mental health, anxiety and stress disorders further up the corporate agenda to reduce the impact that absenteeism is having on businesses.

Using online portals

Wellbeing portals, such as Atos Revitalized, can help employees to confidentially track and monitor their health and wellbeing. Such portals enable metrics like the employee’s height and weight, sleep patterns, alcohol intake, exercise sessions and doctor visits to be measured over a period of time (but in confidence so the employer is only informed about aggregated statistics rather than individual scores). Various coping strategies and action plans are provided to help the individual improve on an area they wish to work on. For example, if the person is looking to improve their fitness, the portal provides an exercise plan to help them achieve this. The individual can track their progress day-to-day, entering key metrics related to exercise in order to assess whether their fitness has improved over an agreed time period.

Over 13,000 Atos employees are currently using this Revitalized system, which provides each person with a wellbeing score. We can also calculate the overall wellbeing scores which have been found to increase over time as each employee gets involved with the programme. This awareness can help to increase productivity in the workplace as the participants become more aware of the benefits of maintaining their health.

Entering ‘Best Employer’ awards – and winning!

There’s no better way to assess your staff’s wellbeing than by asking them and there are a plethora of “Best Place to Work” awards programmes across Europe, which ask a company’s employees to rate their perception about how happy they are at work along with their suggestions on how to improve the workplace. This anonymous feedback can be incredibly valuable for employers, who can use it as reason to introduce new initiatives and schemes to keep staff motivated and healthy, both psychologically and physically. For the winners, these award schemes are often a great way to prove the wellbeing of their staff, as a happy and healthy workforce will always endorse their employer! Atos has been participating with the Great Place to Work Institute which has an excellent methodology of checking how one company scores against their peers within each country. Our employees from 29 countries have participated in the survey with a total of 50,000 individuals taking part overall, (which is just over 89% of our workforce). As a company, we are working together to help more of our geographies achieve the ‘Great Place to Work’ status.

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About Andrew Kinder
Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health
As Professional Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health, Andrew Kinder takes a lead on delivering its Wellbeing@work programme, which works globally to improve the health and wellbeing of its employees. Andrew has made a unique contribution in the area of counselling in the workplace over the last 15 years. He has been a leader in this specialist field work over this period, serving on the Executive Committee of the BACP Workplace (formerly Association for Counselling at Work). He has also promoted workplace counselling through committee work at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Counselling, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association. He was recently awarded a Fellowship by BACP.