Longer working hours, presenteeism and employees not taking enough breaks: it’s no wonder the UK’s office culture has gained the nickname ‘Burnout Britain’. However, with many businesses still looking to steady the ship post-Brexit vote, the wellbeing of employees has lost its place on some employers’ agendas. The preservation of a happy and well workforce brings with it considerable benefits in terms of cost and productivity, so now, more than ever, it is time for businesses to start investing and to make wellbeing a priority once again.
Wellbeing in the workplace should not be underestimated. Healthy, happy employees have been linked to higher workplace productivity, financial savings and top talent retention. Recent research undertaken by Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Awards – an organisation that commends those businesses engaging in employee wellness – found that a business which invests in staff health is rewarded with increased outputs, as each employee provides the equivalent of an extra 30 days’ work per year. By contrast, those neglecting wellbeing were responsible for a £57 billion a year economic deficit, with the biggest cost attributed to absences.
However, despite the obvious benefits of implementing a wellbeing programme, businesses often perceive that they must free up large amounts of capital to invest in one. What a lot of employers are not aware of is that they don’t need a huge amount of spend to introduce health benefits into the workplace. By focusing on common-sense solutions, communication and innovation, it is very plausible for a business to promote wellbeing on a budget.
One of the simplest but most effective ways to improve employee health is to introduce office furniture designed to support posture and prevent injury. Whilst high-grade ergonomic chairs and sit/stand desks are extremely effective in this area, introducing these company-wide can prove unrealistic and impractical for many businesses, especially those that employ contract workers or encourage staff to hot-desk. In these instances, staff training on how to accurately adjust seating for support and comfort, rather than one setting fits all, is a quick and effective win. Likewise introducing accessories such as back supports and seat cushions, can be a cost-effective alternative. Back supports ensure the spine is rested at a neutral position and minimises slouching, whilst a booster seat or seat cushion is designed to support the coccyx. Aside from their health benefits, what is particularly advantageous about these accessories is that they are portable and can be shared around the office, allowing mobile workers or hot-desking employees to quickly and effectively create an ergonomically designed working environment on the move.
Research from the Trade Union Congress suggests that 13% of workers clock up over 48 hours of work per week, with UK employees spending a lot of time behind desks and glued to a computer screen. Not only can this create physical injuries – such as back pain and eye strains – but working uninterrupted for long periods of time can negatively impact productivity. In most cases, a breakout area can positively benefit worker wellbeing as a breakout area is a space open to employees that is separate from their usual working area. It can be used to eat lunch, host brainstorms or even relax with a cup of tea for 10 minutes, giving an air of informality while still retaining the professionalism for meetings and get-togethers. Whilst it may seem like an expensive luxury, it really doesn’t have to be. It can be something as simple as introducing a sofa and a coffee table into the office, as a way of encouraging workers not to eat lunch at their desk, or bringing in colourful furnishings into an unused meeting room to give it a relaxing, home-like feel.
Take a break
According to research by Bupa earlier this year, nearly half of fulltime staff believe they have too much work to pause for a few minutes. Yet stepping away from the desk regularly for just a few minutes can boost energy, mind-set and, ultimately, productivity. It is a cost-free way to increase wellness but so many employers don’t do enough in encouraging staff to take breaks throughout the day. Simple steps, such as banning lunch at the desk, introducing a clocking in and out system for lunch, or even leading by example as a manager and taking a full lunch hour, can all be effective ways of bringing back breaks into the office. Benefits of natural daylight and Vitamin D absorption are continually expounded in the press, so a short walk during lunchtime can not only give employees a break but also provide multiple health benefits.
By introducing these simple ideas, business leaders can be confident in seeing an increase in wellness in the office, making it more likely that workers will be loyal to the firm and become smarter with their work output, both of which will lead to cost savings.
By Paula Marshall, head of furniture category sales, Office Depot