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The best of all benefits

Health and wellbeing in the workplace are no longer trendy buzz-words but an essential part of any successful business, explains Wendy Merry, Civica’s Chief People Officer.

Employee wellbeing – are we taking it seriously enough? A recent survey by Price Waterhouse Cooper would suggest not, with nearly a quarter of workers suggesting that more attention needs to be paid to mental health in the workplace. The survey of 2,000 UK employees also uncovered that 34% of those who took part reported a health and wellbeing issue, most commonly anxiety, depression and stress. Meanwhile, the European Brain Council recently reported that one in ten working people have taken time off work because of depression, and around 350 million working days are lost in the EU each year due to stress and depression.

It’s now a recognised fact that our health and wellbeing can have a significant impact on performance within the workplace, affecting concentration levels, interaction with colleagues and productivity. Yet there is still a worrying stigma attached to admitting to mental health issues; a further recent study by Canada Life found that almost a fifth of people would be more likely to go into work if mentally ill than physically ill, and many worried how taking time off for mental issues would be perceived by their manager and colleagues. 

A complex issue

So why do issues persist around asking for help around mental health issues? There are out-dated pre-conceptions that if you’re seen to have a problem, especially with stress and anxiety, it will be permanently on your record. I’ve never known this to be the case – we all experience stress and anxiety at different times in our life and businesses need to be there to support people when those times arise. It’s only by continuously promoting and talking about the support available to people that we can start to remove the so-called ‘stigma’ in this area. 

The emphasis on health and wellbeing in the workplace is a huge growth trend as people, especially so-called Generation Y and Z, strive for more of a work-life balance and health-conscious lifestyle. At the same time, the need for companies to provide more support post-recession has increased significantly as roles have changed and we’ve seen the move towards the ‘always-on’ culture. Employees expect so much more from their employers; the days of just providing a job and salary have fast disappeared. People wish to access support whenever and wherever they need it, including those working in the field or from home. As employers, we must react quickly to nurture and support our employees both now and for the future.

A healthy, happy workforce

So how are we tackling these issues in today’s workplace? It’s true to say that health and wellbeing are now integral to our culture at Civica and to our long-term development as a business. We have developed a full programme of health and wellness to improve our employees’ mental health and wellbeing, with trained counsellors, leaders and dedicated members of our people team ready to provide support whenever and wherever it’s needed.

We know that a healthy, motivated workforce will lead to higher performance and stronger growth. As in any modern businesses where people are striving hard to achieve, we aim to promote a culture where employees are able to balance the pressures of work with their commitments at home, resulting in a healthy mind-set and physical state.

We believe in a combined approach to building a healthy work environment: this ranges from ensuring our leaders are confident and well-trained in people management, as well as championing Civica’s health and wellbeing services which include occupational health, advice on financial issues, specialist counselling services and flexible working, to name just a few.

We’ve worked over the past few years with Health and Wellbeing Consultancy Sanders Training to deliver a full on-site health and wellbeing assessment, looking at their current health status, testing blood glucose and cholesterol levels, cardiovascular health, posture and assessing any mobility issues – all followed up a sustainable and realistic plan to work towards. These assessments have been embraced by, and are available to, all from our Executive leadership team to every single person in the business.

We also offer our employees many options to get involved with charitable work; proven to help foster a sense of belonging, reduce isolation and stress; after all, helping people others feels good! Along with our ‘Donate a day’ programme, where employees have a free day every year to take part in volunteering, we also run our annual Tour De Civica sporting events and take part in Byte Night at multiple locations across the country in support of Action for Children, among many other activities.

So is it working? Since launching our latest Health and Wellbeing policy in summer 2016, Civica’s seen a four-fold increase in our employee net promoter score plus our Glassdoor rating increase to 4.3. We’ve also received lots of feedback from customers telling us they enjoy working with our people: enhancing our reputation as an Employer of Choice, backed up by our recent Glassdoor 2018 Employees Choice Award.

I truly believe that our health and wellbeing support is a major contributor to employee’s happiness. By taking a pro-active approach, we’re staying ahead of issues such as anxiety, stress and long-term absence from the workplace. With a further survey from charity CABA finding a third of senior HR employees don’t think their company considers employee wellbeing an essential part of good business strategy, it’s time for the business community at large to start tackling these issues head on.