Healthier workforces are generally more productive, and as an employer, being recognised for taking the health and wellbeing of employees seriously, can reflect positively on the reputation and improve the performance of your organisation.

You may have identified that some of your staff have health conditions that can impact on their work. Taking steps as an employer to support these staff members and to build a healthy workforce can provide a good return on investment in terms of performance, staff retention and reduced absence. Studies suggest a return on investment rate of three or four to every pound invested. Investing in staff health does not always have to cost money but the returns will still be there.

You may need to consider how to support staff that have health conditions or need support to return to or remain in work, you should also be thinking in more general terms about the health of your workforce and how you can help keep them healthy and at work. 

Preventing and taking steps to prevent ill health could mean:

  • supporting staff attendance – including retention in and return to work 
  • offering flexible working or workplace adjustments 
  • providing a safe place for all of your staff to work
  • ensuring staff are not exposed to work situations that could damage their health
  • undertaking health information and promotion activities at work, such as a campaign on a particular health topic – work related or not
  • actively supporting staff mental well-being
  • working with staff to develop a health policy/strategy for your workplace
  • working with staff towards a Healthy Working Lives award

By using the workplace to support staff and give messages about good health practice you will be improving the health of your existing staff, preventing future ill health and encouraging staff to take that message home to family and friends and therefore reaching a wider audience than you would have anticipated.

You may need to enlist the help of staff members or union representatives to help you build health improvement initiatives into your companies work activities. You may also need help from HR or Facilities teams if you have them.

Healthy Working Lives has information on health topics that can impact on work and how employers can take steps to improve health in their workforce.

Steps to Improve Health

A workplace health initiative can take many forms, it can be:

  • Giving information - including leaflets or posters, either left for staff to access at their pace or by holding events at work
  • Giving advice - perhaps through expert input or sign-posting to where to get suitable information on specific topics
  • Developing knowledge - including tool box talks, training sessions, informal discussions, guest speakers, videos or screen information on computers 

Ultimately you are influencing attitudes, values and skills, to empower your staff to make informed decisions about their health and their lifestyle.

You and your staff can do much of this yourselves with a little support and direction. Many voluntary organisations, occupational health providers and Health Boards across Scotland will have specific local information that can help you devise campaigns to improve health at work.

When to undertake health awareness activities

It is important to develop an activity that takes account of the way work is carried out and ensure that any activity can reach all your workers at a suitable time. Things to consider include

  • how to reach shift or part time workers with these messages, is the planned activity going to be accessible to everyone you target and at a time when they can engage 
  • what is the best media to use - are their different languages spoken in you’re workforce
  • do groups of staff have particular difficulties with literacy, numeracy etc
  • many charities have specific event days so plan in advance and ensure you can access/order their resources
  • are your activities aimed at specific groups eg male or female workers

Organising an event

There are some key principles to consider when organising health events in the workplace. If an event or activity is being organised by a group of staff, managers, union reps etc, make sure they consider

  • Clear statement of intent
  • Clearly stated objectives
  • Management commitment and support
  • Full and real consultation with workforce/unions throughout whole development, implementation and monitoring process
  • Clear accountability and ownership
  • Consistency with other policies, eg sickness absence, equal opportunities, disciplinary, grievance
  • Consistent with treatment of other kinds of illness (eg consistent treatment of those with HIV to those with cancer)
  • Protection against discrimination, harassment, victimisation
  • Equal treatment for all – policies applicable to all
  • Protection of confidentiality
  • Records conform to data protection regulations
  • Support for individual employees, including referral where appropriate
  • Fulfils legal obligations, eg Health and Safety, anti-discrimination legislation, Misuse of Drugs Act
  • Good communication at all stages
  • Resource allocation adequate to make the above possible
  • Monitoring and evaluation