The Impact of Ill Health in the Workplace

The Impact of Ill Health in the Workplace

“A healthy working environment is one in which there is not only an absence of harmful conditions, but an abundance of health-promoting ones”.

World Health Organization

Employees across the world are working longer and longer hours and reporting that their office environment and workload are attributing to their ill health. This is not only resulting in absenteeism, but also employees leaving their jobs. According to the Health and Safety Executive in the UK, 23.5 million working days were lost in 2018/19 due to work-related ill health, with on average sufferers taking approximately 15 days off work. Work related ill health includes conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders.

The World Health Organization is saying that stress has become a ‘world-wide epidemic’, which is not surprising with statistics such as 80% of workers in India and around 50% in France suffer from stress at work. Alarmingly the Japanese Karoshi report found that 20% of employees in Japan are at risk of death from overwork!

“Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope”.

World Health Organization

When we consider the shocking statistics around ill health in the workplace we can draw a number of conclusions on the impact both to the employee and employer. In a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study it was found that employees with a mental illness are not only likely to take long term absence, but are also more likely to get into conflict with colleagues, find it difficult to manage multiple tasks and to concentrate, take longer to do tasks and are generally less patient with those around them. So it makes absolute sense for an employer to promote and support good mental health and well-being, but to do this they require the right knowledge and skills.

health and wellbeing in the WorkplaceHowever, well-being is not all about mental health and stress, but also more general health, happiness, and a sense of purpose and positivity. There is a strong link between the culture of an organisation, a happy workforce and business success. A positive culture and working environment where employees can thrive and fully engage in their work is where people want to work, employees are more loyal and there is less stress, all of which boosts employee health and work performance. To create a positive culture management need to promote positivity across the organisation so that employees feel valued, happy and positive themselves. Enabling time for employees to get to know each other through social interaction and encouraging them and managers to really listen to others is vital.

Workplace health and well-being strategies tend to have a common theme, which is a culture of openness and having someone to talk to who has a good awareness of stress and mental health issues. Key to this is not only the training of managers, and in many cases a designated support person, but also all staff so that they can identify risk factors and learn tips for improving their health. ACAS has a number of excellent guides on promoting mental health and reducing stress in the workplace, and they have also developed a Framework for Positive Mental Health at Work. Find out how Metropolitan Council reduced stress related absence by about a third in their first year of adopting a new approach to work related stress. The Bank Workers Charity took a blended learning approach to creating mentally healthy workplaces.

UK businesses could save £8.4 billion per year if they have better mental health support for employees. In the US job stress is estimated to cost industry over $300 billion. The economic case for employers providing support to promote and prevent mental health illnesses is also made by London School of Economics and Political Science who found that for every £40 spent there is a saving of £347. For support on developing an effective health and wellbeing strategy take a look at ‘How to develop an effective health and wellbeing strategy‘.

Article written by Carolyn Lewis, Managing Director, eLearning Marketplace Ltd

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