You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the main topic to dominate our workload throughout 2021 as been ‘Health and Wellbeing’.
Quarter 1 started out with “can you review our Covid Risk Assessment?”. This was replaced in Quarters 2 and 3 with “I think we need an audit, can you do one for us?”, before the remainder of the year (Quarters 3 and 4 so far) seems to be rounding up with “we need a Health and Wellbeing Strategy, can you do this for us, and, can it run alongside our Health and Safety system or does it have to be a standalone thing?”
Mostly separate, unrelated clients, and that’s great news for their workers! Something to be celebrated.
In case you’re unfamiliar with health, safety, and/or wellbeing “strategies” or “management systems”, the purpose of each is to prevent work-related injury and health, and to properly identify hazards so that they can be eliminated at source, or minimised by taking effective preventative and protective measures.
That’s also known as risk management and legal compliance.
A strategy is usually the Action Plan that gets things done, and is often developed around what the Senior Management Team, Shareholders, and/or Board want to achieve within a financial year or other timescale.
Management systems provide a framework for consistency across a business and can be useful to demonstrate achievement of an industry standard or legal compliance. The Policies are also helpful when a business grows, wants to stand out from its competitors, or decides to bid or tender for contracts.
Procedures and processes are a great business tool for ensuring consistency in working practices, and can often be used to safely reduce working time, often making the business more efficient and easier to manage.
The management system comprises a suite of ‘living documents’ from Policies that are signed off by the Managing Director or Head of the Business; underpinned by procedures, processes, forms, training and supervision applicable and relevant to the various departments.
It’s important they’re updated when anything changes such as the law, industry standards, following an accident or serious incident, an organisational structure change, change of premises, etc.
Any good employer will have made you aware of its various policies when you joined the company. The better employer will have given you a copy or told you how to access them – possibly as part of the New Starter Induction, Staff Handbook, intranet and/or noticeboards; and you should be able to access them as required.
It’s important you follow the information contained within these documents as they can form part of your employment contract.
If you discover a problem with any of the policies, procedures or process documents, or have knowledge about how something could be improved, it’s often best to raise it with your line manager.
Ultimately, any management system is there to protect you and the business, and you both need each other.
Health & Wellbeing
For many years, health and wellbeing has taken a back seat to safety, but that is changing and prosecutions for work-related stress and work-related mental ill health started coming through the courts.
Medically, stress is not considered to be a mental illness, rather a symptom of either anxiety or depression – both of which are recognised mental illnesses.
Psychosocial hazards (those arising out of mental ill health) are being recognised as major challenges to health, safety, and wellbeing at work. They are also associated with economic costs that are present in all organisations and sectors form work tasks, equipment, and employment arrangements.
There are a variety of terms used in relation to what psychosocial risks affect, including “psychological health” and “mental health” and we may have used these interchangeably throughout this article.
If health and wellbeing is unmanaged or ignored in the workplace, negative outcomes for workers can include:
- poor health and associated conditions (eg cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders) and
- associated poor health behaviours (eg substance misuse, unhealthy eating), as well as
- reduced job satisfaction, commitment, and productivity.
The impact of psychosocial risks or mental ill health on your organisation could include:
- increased costs due to absence from work,
- higher staff turnover,
- reduced product or service quality,
- additional recruitment and training costs,
- low morale,
- workplace investigations and litigation, as well as
- reputational damage.
The benefits of a properly devised Health & Wellbeing Strategy supported by a robust, fit-for-purpose management system are obvious and could deliver tangible results with a clear economic benefit to the business.
Your Health & Wellbeing Strategy will be unique to your business and for that reason an “off the shelf” solution is not advisable and technically should not be available.
There are 8 key elements to our Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and these are summarised below.
The Strategy – An Overview
1. Leadership & Management
It is crucial that all business owners and senior managers commit to any Health and Wellbeing Strategy both in the early discussions, and throughout the development, implementation and review stages to ensure the aims and objectives are clearly communicated, appropriately led and supported (including the designation of duties that reflect accountability and responsibility for day-to-day and overall achievement).
It’s also important to ensure access to suitable and sufficient resources is available throughout the process, and the ongoing development and improvement of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
2. Worker Engagement and Participation
For any strategy to work successfully (and with the least amount of resistance), it’s important that all workers within your business feel consulted and involved throughout the entire process. The earlier you can get them involved, the better.
Be open and honest about your intentions from the outset.
3. Prevention of Achievement
What could prevent you from achieving some or all of this strategy?
Take some time to consider internal, external and unusual factors such as being under-resourced, supply chain commitments/issues, time pressures, production pressures, economic conditions, how the organisation is governed/managed, work culture etc
4. Psychosocial Risks and Opportunities Assessment
Conduct an assessment of the psychosocial hazards, prevention of injury and ill-health opportunities, strategies for workers returning to work, development and review of systems, processes and reporting structures.
Consider the benefits that could result from opportunities for improvement including promotion of wellbeing at work.
To ensure the successful creation, implementation and ongoing improvement of your Health & Wellbeing Strategy, consider the supply or access to adequate resources, competence, awareness, communication, documented information, data protection, confidentiality, and privacy.
As part of operating a successful Health & Wellbeing Strategy the following elements need to be considered: the creation, review and audit of processes and procedures, strategies for eliminating hazards, reducing psychosocial risks and promoting wellbeing, change management, procurement, contracting and outsourcing, emergency preparedness and response, rehabilitation and return to work.
In any evaluation process, it’s important to determine what’s working and what would benefit from improvement.
To do this effectively, monitoring, measurement, analysis, and performance evaluation, including internal audit and management review would be required.
A combination of trailing and leading key performance indicators (KPI) is recommended so that performance can be measured. We would suggest 3 of each.
8. Continual Improvement
Like any strategy or management system, continual improvement is encouraged to make sure everything is still relevant, fit for purpose, and has not become an unnecessary burden or drain on resources.
Audits and management reviews should not be seen as scary, and are to be positively welcomed as they will identify non-conformities, incidents of ill-health and absence, coupled with appropriate investigation and reporting processes and procedures.
One thing we frequently say to our clients:
“It’s better we find it this side of an accident as opposed to the Police, HSE or other prosecuting body!” – Andrea Dodds, Managing Director, SHEQworx Ltd
As your management system develops and embeds itself within your organisation, some initiatives could be phased out completely or replaced with something more appropriate. Equally, if a problem becomes apparent in another area, resources may need to be diverted to it.
Before you Start
We strongly recommend the following items are in place or undertaken before you start, or as soon as possible thereafter as the results would be useful in determining the direction of your Strategy, should help identify what resources are needed and where – ultimately saving you valuable time and money.
It will also provide you with a good benchmark from which to measure progress.
- Leadership commitment
- Audit – gap analysis purposes
- Worker consultation
- Health & Wellbeing Survey
- Risk and Opportunities Assessment
Remember, the purpose of a good Health & Wellbeing Strategy is to improve health and wellbeing in the workplace, reduce costs and stresses associated with sickness absence and mental ill health, improve productivity and the quality of goods and services, and to demonstrate legal compliance, amongst other things.
Would you like our help with any of this?
As an independent consultancy, we can provide you with 100% unbiased, confidential and professional expertise that can help you build a stronger, safer, and healthier workplace.
We would be more than happy to support you with the independent Audit, Survey, the Risk and Opportunities Assessment or any other aspect of the Strategy or management system – it’s what we do.
And, because we’re external to your business, by issuing and processing the Survey for you, it gives your workers the opportunity to answer questions open and honestly without fear of recrimination – helping you acquire more reliable base results on which to start building the Strategy. Learn more about the Survey process here
Alternatively, why not save yourself the time and hassle and outsource the majority of the work to us? (You still have to tell us your aims and objectives and consult with the workers though!)