Is your workplace supporting healthy employees?

Workplace health and safety is one of the more traditional aspects of an HR professional's role. However, with increased awareness of the effects of absenteeism and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, this practise is still a key part of managing employees. Businesses have a duty to ensure their staff are practising good exercise, diet and sleep habits to stay happy and productive. 

However, there may be some areas that are worth revisiting, with the help an HR consultant, to ensure maximum health outcomes in your own workplace. 

The benefits of heathy staff

One of the key advantages of health schemes is reduced absenteeism.

Actively encouraging health in your employees is not just an ethical consideration. According to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC),  there are a number of business benefits that come with implementing wellness programs in a workplace.

One of the key advantages is reduced absenteeism among your staff from serious illness, which costs Australian businesses around $7 billion a year. With workplace wellness schemes also comes higher rates of engagement and better mental health outcomes.

Employees often feel pressured to work when ill

Another issue is the pressure employees feel to make an appearance at work when sick. According to the University of East Anglia, this behaviour is known as "presenteeism" and can occur due to a high workload, strict deadlines and job insecurity.

As lead researcher Dr Mariella Miraglia explained, this well intentioned act has negative consequences in the long run.

"Working while ill can compound the effects of the initial illness and result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work," she stated.

"Organisations may want to carefully review attendance policies for features which could decrease absence at the cost of increased presenteeism."

One of the ways to adjust your HR policies to encourage better health is through an "employee health codes of conduct". This term was coined by researchers at the University of Cornell, who found that a contract-style program was easier to commit to.

Employee "health codes of conducts" should include exercise regimes.Employee "health codes of conduct" should include exercise regimes.

Participants in the initiative were more likely to change their long-term health habits and see better wellness results in the long run. An important part of the program includes encouraging recovery days for illness, as well as regular checkups and personalised exercise routines.

Making a commitment to your worker's health is not only important for building and maintaining strong relationships, it also ensures that staff are their most productive during the working week.