Promoting a culture that improves the health and wellbeing of employees is good management and leads to healthy and productive workplaces, according to new public health guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
It is hoped that this new guidance will encourage employers and managers to do more to address the effect that poor working environments has on people’s lives. It is estimated that more than a million working people in the UK experience a work-related illness annually, leading to 27 million lost working days, costing the economy an estimated £13.4 billion.
The guidance says that all those with a remit for workplace health should develop policies that support workplace culture such as ensuring respect for work-life balance. It recommends flexibility in areas of work scheduling, within the needs of the organisation, to give employees control and flexibility over their own time.
As well as this, senior leaders should act as role models for leadership, proactively challenging negative behaviour and actions. Line managers should also receive training to improve the awareness of health and wellbeing issues.
Dame Carol Black, Department of Health’s expert advisor on improving the welfare of working people, said: “When its influence eventually comes to be measures – in terms of the quality of service and product, workplace efficiency and productivity, and staff moral – this new guidance from NICE might well prove to be the most significant ever.
“There is abundant evidence that the health, especially the mental health, and overall wellbeing of employees depends greatly on their relationships at work. That means their relationships with each other but particularly their relationships with employers, from line manager to the most senior executive and board member. These relationships are encapsulated in the concept and practice of engagement – a concept that reflects the culture of an organisation.
“The precepts contained in this guidance are simple and plainly put. They are already observed in exemplary organisations. It should not be difficult to translate them into practice at all.”
Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “Health-promoting workplaces are obviously good for millions of employees and ultimately for taxpayers too, so the time is right for all employers – including the NHS – to raise our game.”
Professor Gillian Leng, NICE Deputy Chief Executive and Health and Social Care Director, said: “Every workplace is different and the relationship between management and employee wellbeing is a complex one, dependent on numerous factors including occupation, sector and so on. However, there are some basic principles that should be applied by all employers, directors and line managers – these include ensuring the right policies and management practices are in place.
“Recommendations include encouraging new ideas and exploring new ways of doing things and opportunities to learn, recognising the contribution of each employee and if possible a flexible approach to work scheduling, giving employees more control and flexibility over their own time.”