Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference Highlights
Our wellbeing expert Debbie Kleiner-Gaines, Head of Workplace Happiness at PES, recently attended the 12th annual Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference.
With such a rich programme of content, Debbie would have liked to be in multiple places at one time. Sadly, that wasn’t possible, but she was able to attend a number of fascinating talks. Here she highlights some of the key messages she took away from the event.
Mental health and wellbeing
With poor mental health affecting one fifth of the working-age population, it was interesting to hear how one major utility company has built mental health into its wellbeing strategy. This organisation is not afraid to tackle thorny issues, including suicide. Some of the ideas they shared for a successful programme included:
- involving the CEO, who in this case has filmed a YouTube video championing the wellbeing plan
- launching the programme on a key date, for example a national awareness day on a particular wellbeing issue
- appointing mental health champions to help raise awareness and tackle stigma
- having a great communications plan
- sending wellbeing packs to field staff (including porridge sachets and cereal bars!)
- keeping up the momentum with monthly campaigns on different mental health topics
- producing their own branded factsheets about various subjects such as good sleep
- offering a wellbeing wall where employees could make a pledge around wellbeing.
Integrating flexible wellbeing benefits
The most important message was that this organisation integrated their flexible benefits platform more fully into their wellbeing strategy (as a result of a wellbeing survey). Their platform now reflects their wellbeing ‘brand’ and includes such flexible wellbeing benefits as healthcare schemes.
Work with good partners
Another key message from this talk was the importance of working with good partners. To ensure a successful wellbeing campaign, work with experts in workplace wellbeing and online employee benefits and all other elements of the campaign.
National policy and initiatives
Department of Health
Professor Gina Radford, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, explained that one in three people have some form of health condition. She said that the government is planning to make Statutory Sick Pay more flexible. She was clear that employers need to be encouraged to engage in health and wellbeing at work, particularly smaller businesses.
Emily Hough, an NHS England director, spoke about their own ‘Healthy Workforce Programme’ for employees. She said, ‘We owe it to staff to provide good working environments and support.’ The NHS still has the highest absence levels compared to private business, local government and central government.
Their programme focuses heavily on organisational enablers of good health and wellbeing. These include:
- Management – enabling good line management is key to a successful strategy
- Healthy working environments
Other specific interventions cover mental health, musculoskeletal health and healthy lifestyles.
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, spoke about the charity’s report ‘Thriving at Work’. He summarised that businesses can make the most impact at the point where employees’ performance has dropped, and they are not socialising as much. At this stage they haven’t yet reached the stage of being off work with mental health problems, and interventions can be very effective.
He said that:
- 300,000 people leave work every year with a mental health condition
- The cost to employers is at least £1,205 per annum per employee
Paul’s key message was that line managers need to be equipped, trained and supported to ask, ‘are you ok?’ and be able to respond effectively if the answer is no.
Dame Carol Black
Dame Carol Black and Public Health England’s Dr Justin Varney talked about our ageing workforce. Dame Black said that our health problems are often lifestyle related, so some issues are within our control. She said, ‘It’s better to build strong children then mend broken men!’
She identified that although we are lucky to be living longer, we are living with more disease and a multiplicity of illnesses. Often there is a correlation between musculoskeletal and mental health conditions, but they are dealt with in silos.
Health Innovation Network South London
Eric Barratt from Health Innovation Network South London spoke about his organisation’s wellbeing programme. One highlight was an email curfew to encourage people to have a better work life balance. He recommended the Alcohol Health Network as a support for people in the workplace who are drinking more than the national average.
Delivering a great employee experience is a challenge for growing organisations. At PES, it’s what we do. Our online employee benefits platform, HR support and workplace wellbeing services bring out the best in your employees – enabling your business to thrive.