The consequences of ill health can be significant for a business, with considerable direct and indirect costs arising from sickness absence. The CIPD have previously estimated that sickness absence costs UK employers £522 per employee per year1. To a small business owner, every person within the business matters so absence due to ill health can be detrimental to a small business when compared to other businesses. However, it is possible to reduce the risk of long absences due to ill health by actively promoting a culture of wellbeing and open dialogue with your team.
Managing sickness absence
It’s important to manage ill health absence effectively. Equally – if not more – important, is prevention. A good place to start is building and sustaining a positive, supportive workplace culture where employees are encouraged to lead healthy, active lives and have a good work/life balance. And, if they become ill or injured, ensure they are supported by encouraging them to take time off when necessary for check-ups and medical appointments.
However, presenteeism – where employees attend work when unwell and perform below par – also comes at a cost. A Health at Work report highlighted that some 89% of workers who turned up for work unwell admit they are less productive2. It is important to encourage staff to stay at home when they are unwell to ensure that they allow themselves time to rest and recuperate.
Mental health in the workplace
Alongside promoting the importance of a physically active lifestyle to your team, it is also crucial to encourage everyone to look after their mental health and wellbeing. In 2018, mental health conditions accounted for 12.5% of the 141.1 million working days lost due to sickness absence3. If an employer works to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, then it can be a great start in encouraging a culture of open dialogue. This could mean that employees feel more comfortable in openly discussing mental health at work. Promoting a healthy work/life balance and a wellbeing culture at work can also contribute to a positive working environment. This can be encouraged by:
- Ensuring that your staff take all of their annual leave allowance
- Promoting that time off is, indeed, time off by discouraging weekend and out of hours work
- Encouraging employees to make full use of their lunch break and go for a walk or take part in an activity class
- If your business allows for it, providing your team with the opportunity to work from home or flex their working hours if they'd like to
Nutrition and exercise
When it comes to tackling the subject of lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise in your business, understandably, this may feel a little awkward. But these elements of our lives can significantly affect both physical and psychological health. Poor physical health can be bad news for your mood, self-esteem, energy levels and resilience. But even simple measures and subtle changes such as encouraging a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. You can prompt your workforce to make positive fitness and nutrition choices by:
- Replacing the office biscuit tin with a fresh fruit delivery
- Offering a cycle to work incentive scheme to encourage car commutes to be replaced with a bike ride
- Offering discounted gym memberships for staff
- Encouraging your team to make full use of their lunch break by going for a walk or attending a fitness class
A healthy, confident team is an asset to any small business and prevention, early intervention and allowing employees sufficient time to recover from ill health or injury are all key to positive attendance management. By actively engaging with your workforce to support their health and wellbeing – and not forgetting your own – you can go a long way to creating a workplace culture that optimises performance and productivity.
Workplace wellbeing survey
If you’re struggling to identify ways in which you can improve the wellbeing culture within your business, it could be beneficial to conduct a wellbeing survey among your workforce. Directly asking employees for ideas on how to improve the culture within your business may identify solutions and benefits that could increase their sense of satisfaction and happiness at work.
How we can help
Everyone plays a crucial role in a small business. So just one person being off for a while can make it hard for you and your team to keep the commitments you’ve made. And that can increase the pressure on all and affect business plans.
Our small business health insurance can help you and your people get well and back to work quickly. We understand that every business is different, with different wants and needs when it comes to health insurance. That’s why we think that the best way for you to get the healthcare cover that’s right for your business is to let you build your plan yourself. You may want to get speedy access to diagnosis and treatment for your team, or mental health support for the pressures which come with your area of work.
Whichever options you choose, all of our small business health insurance plans come with unlimited access to our 24/7 online GP service, Doctor@Hand (provided by Doctor Care Anywhere). This gives you and your team access to 20 minute appointments with a GP at a time and place that works for you (subject to appointment availability). Fair usage policy applies.
Sources and references
2 Health at Work: Economic Report 2016