Businesses are becoming increasingly concerned with employee wellbeing and for good reason.

A recent study by workplace solutions retailer, AJ Products, revealed that over 40% of people think that their current work environment has a negative impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing – as well as being detrimental to their productivity.

Why should businesses care?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the two leading causes of absenteeism due to work-related ill health are stress, depression or anxiety, and musculoskeletal disorders.

In the UK in 2018-19, 12.8 million working days were lost because of work-related stress, depression or anxiety, accounting for 54% of working days lost due to ill health. Musculoskeletal problems, such as back and neck pain, accounted for a further 29% of days lost: a total of 6.9 million days.

This is at a considerable cost to UK businesses. Workplace wellness programmes are one of the most effective ways to tackle the problem of work-related health issues. In fact, solutions that address health and wellbeing in the workplace benefit workers and the company’s bottom line alike.

The costs of poor wellbeing

The workplace has a significant role to play in reducing the physical and emotional burden placed on employees, which in turn can lead to fewer days taken as sick leave and greater levels of productivity. Improvements to the physical working environment, including the introduction of flexible and active office furniture, improved lighting and efforts to cut noise levels, can reduce stress, increase concentration levels and improve job satisfaction.
When it comes to present working conditions, employee opinions suggest that many businesses still have a long way to go in order to optimise the workplace to get the best out of their staff. The AJ Products Workplace Health Survey 2019 revealed that, although 82% of people believe that the organisation they work for cares about their health and wellbeing, over 60% said they would consider changing jobs for a healthier and more active work environment.

Furthermore, despite a significant majority believing that their employer cares about their health, 44% think that their current work environment has a negative impact on their physical wellbeing, 46% believe that it has a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing and 48% state that it has an adverse effect on their productivity.
This makes a compelling argument for the importance of improving working conditions. It is not just employees that see the benefit of corporate wellness programmes. Soma Analytics’ Mental Health and Wellbeing: FTSE 100 Report 2018 showed that FTSE 100 companies that placed an emphasis on employee wellbeing and mental health significantly outperformed those that considered it less important.

How can active working help?

Active working has become increasingly popular in workplaces worldwide as a response to the dangers of prolonged sitting. Sedentary lifestyles have been held partly responsible for a rise in health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and musculoskeletal problems. Moreover, it has been shown that regular exercise is not enough to combat the negative effects of long hours spent sitting down. The human body is designed to keep moving.

This is possible even with a desk job thanks to the growing range of office furniture on the market designed to encourage activity while working. This includes sit-stand desks, active chairs, stand-up meeting tables, balance boards and standing desk mats.

Get staff ‘moving’

Movement is key to a healthier workday. Workplace solutions that give staff the ability to change their working position and switch between sitting and standing throughout the day help to reduce musculoskeletal complaints by improving posture, increasing core muscle strength and reducing the strain placed on the back and shoulders by sitting. Not only does active office furniture improve physical health, but it also has a knock-on effect on performance, productivity and mood.

A study of 146 NHS staff led by researchers from the Universities of Leicester and Loughborough and published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) demonstrated that sit-stand desks have a positive effect on mental wellbeing at work. At the end of the one-year study, participants who had been given a standing desk reported improved quality of life, reduced fatigue and reduced anxiety as well as better engagement with their work and improved job performance. An active office that puts employees first will benefit the business by tackling the physical and mental strain that leads to diminished productivity and the most common causes of absenteeism.

Furthermore, it strengthens the image of the company as a top employer, making it easier to retain talented staff and attract the best new recruits. There is no doubt that putting workplace wellness front and centre is a smart move for your business.

As published on Real Business on 24th January 2020

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