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Stress-at-work

The workplace, common health complaints and prevention

British workers take more time off work than their counterparts anywhere else in the world. As an employer how can you combat this?

According to research, UK office workers are four times as likely to take sick-leave as workers in any other Western European country with an average of nine days off per year due to illness. In terms of lost productivity this equates to a staggering £29 billion for UK employers annually.

BE 27 Oct

Ranging from the common cold to chronic musculoskeletal complications, it is actually mental health conditions that represent the single most prevalent cause of long-term absence.

So how to assuage the sick days burden on your business? Here are a few steps to improving the health of your workforce.

Mental health problems

A working environment in which employees feel supported makes both common and economic sense. Employees leaving their jobs due to mental health related problems costs businesses £2.4 billion a year. Whilst the majority of people with mental health illnesses want to work, it is essential that they feel supported by their employer otherwise this is likely to compound their problem. If you have an employee who needs time off due to a mental health issue regular communication with them will help as well as implementing a flexible system whereby their needs and challenges are recognised and catered for within the working environment.

Everyday illnesses

The workplace can be a breeding ground for cold and flu viruses, just one flu-infected person can carry germs that could spread rapidly. Good hygiene should be encouraged with boxes of tissues available and strategically placed hand sanitisers. A sickness policy that promotes tolerance will encourage employees to take time off if they really need to rather than struggle in when ill and by doing so infect their colleagues, potentially causing an epidemic. One employee taking a couple of days off could reduce the over all number of days lost to sickness. It may also be worth offering staff the flu vaccine as the best insurance against it.

Food poisoning is another common cause for absenteeism and although triggered by toxins, germs or chemicals in consumables, it can also be contagious. One of the most regular causes of food poisoning is cross-contamination so it is important to keep food preparation areas clean and ensure the weekly cleaning and clear out of any out of date items from a communal fridge.

Musculoskeletal issues

A general term encompassing any damage, injury or disorder relating to the joints or tissues, musculoskeletal problems can be exacerbated, prolonged or even caused by workplace tasks. Repetitive strain injuries, upper or lower limb disorders, carpel tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis are common complaints but there are several steps that can be taken to reduce your employees’ risk:

  • Every workers workstation and tasks should be suitable to their abilities or limitations
  • Regular breaks should be encouraged to diminish the risk of repetitive strain injury
  • Any employee required to do heavy lifting as part of their job must undergo specific and adequate training.

The health of any business depends heavily on the health of its staff. Small measures such as supporting staff when they are sick, advocating good hygiene and taking care of the physical and to some extent the emotional wellbeing of employees while they are at work, will lead to a reduction in staff sick days. A communicative, reassuring environment in which to work will lead employees to have confidence in and be happy with the support of their employer and can only have a positive impact on absenteeism.