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By Teresa Boughey – April 2019

The phrase ‘employee wellbeing’ continues to gain prominence in the business world, with more recent attention focusing on mental health and the illusive work-life balance. However, a prevailing culture still remains that focuses upon absenteeism and sickness. It is understandable that smaller businesses are focused on the impact of absence days on their bottom line, but the fundamental health and wellbeing of employees should not be neglected in favour of a ‘numbers’ approach. If employee wellbeing is considered a priority from the offset, the effect of absenteeism will also diminish.

The link between inclusivity and wellbeing

If your organisation wants to become truly inclusive, revolutionising your approach to employee wellbeing is a great place to start. An organisation with all-encompassing wellbeing at its heart is one which is much more attractive to potential employees, especially for those with disabilities or who would require extra support. A diverse workforce is one which brings a wealth of experience and ideas to the table, as well as exceptional talent. By ensuring that employee wellbeing remains at the core of organisation’s culture and policies, staff engagement, productivity and retention will all improve significantly, making a real difference to the performance and long term future of the business.

Consider the root cause

Whilst formulaic methods of measuring absenteeism can show you the levels of absence in your organisation, the human face that is needed to determine the underlying cause is removed. By tackling the causes in your control, possible future absences can be omitted. Cycle to Work Schemes or offering healthy snacks can help employees to embed a healthy lifestyle into their daily routine. This not only improves physical health, but has a great impact on mental wellbeing too. In addition, making employees aware of your company values by clearly displaying them will show everyone what is acceptable and help to stamp out any cases of workplace bullying before they manifest. Ensuring everyone feels supported from their very first day should also help to limit absence days.

Support those returning

Returning to work after a leave of absence is a daunting prospect but if you have created an inclusive and welcoming workplace, the impact of this will be lessened as the individual is more likely to look forward to returning. Companies should consider making reasonable adjustments to ease their transition back to work. Relaxed meetings should be available for returning employees so they are transitioning appropriately back into the workplace and are able to voice any concerns they have. For example, if they have had an operation, they may require extra comfort breaks or flexible working patterns. In such cases, you could consult a healthcare professional for further guidance.

Fundamentally, a healthy workforce is a happier workforce, but the business benefits are also numerous with higher employee engagement and increased productivity. Instead of only paying attention when the health of employees is suffering, be proactive and try and limit the impact before it hinders your business.

About the author

Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR