United Kingdom

Workplace affects health and wellbeing, say staff

January 2017


Employers should focus on creating engaging and pleasant workspaces for staff to improve employee wellbeing, a new report out this month has argued.

The Interserve-led study carried out in conjunction with organisational change specialists, Adventures with Agile, Designing and delivering effective workplace experiences - a practical guide, suggests adopting 'workplace guardians' to curate workspaces which support wellbeing and productivity.

The report follows an industry study published at the end of last year which revealed that ninety per cent of UK staff believe their workplace is the cause of poor health.

The survey of 2,000 employees by Benenden identified several health-related trends, with depression, sleep issues, work-related stress and eye problems being among the most common workplace health concerns.

Charles Alberts, Senior Consultant at Aon Employee Benefits said: "We all recognise that work impacts health and health impacts work, so reducing any negative impact that work may have on someone's health can deliver tangible results. Interventions do not need to be complex, it could be as simple as reducing someone's workload, allowing greater flexibility with the times they work, ensuring their workstation is correctly set up, or creating a culture where taking regular breaks is encouraged rather than frowned upon."

According to the Beneden-led survey, 50 per cent of respondents said they felt depressed at work, 44 per cent said they were 'regularly stressed' and 58 per cent of respondents said work worries kept them awake at night. 91 per cent also reported feeling tired at work.

Physical health concerns were also found to be a real issue for many, with 84% complaining of backache, 42 per cent suffering with eye strain and 27 per cent admitted having regular migraines.

The research also found that presenteeism continues to be an issue, with nearly half of those polled saying they went to work despite illness.

At the same time, many respondents said their workplace did not do enough to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle. 54 per cent said they were unable to go to the gym due to 'work commitments' and 75 per cent said their employer did not actively encourage staff to live a healthy lifestyle.

There were also significant gender differences when it came to illness. Women tended to suffer more with aches and pains (50 per cent of women, 40 per cent of men) whilst women worried about work more (64 per cent of women compared with 52 per cent of men).

Alberts added: "The impact the workplace has on health can easily be overlooked when designing a health and wellbeing strategy. It would be a missed opportunity not to address areas where the workplace could have a negative impact on the individual (removing the risks) whilst taking steps to encourage behaviour change (proactive risk reduction). Yet whilst the workplace is an ideal environment in which wellbeing can be promoted, it is important to take a holistic view and recognise that there are often more than one causes of problems, both in and out of the workplace."



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