With a highly traditional and documentation driven approach to health and safety currently in place across the UK and the rest of the World, the idea of health and wellbeing as part of the overall HSE sphere has been overlooked. However, ignoring health and wellbeing at work can be a risky move for employers.
Research suggests that being in work is good for an individual’s health, and helping to improve health and wellbeing has had a positive impact on workplace performances in many businesses.
What defines wellbeing in an HSE context?
Wellbeing is a concept that can broadly be defined as an individual’s perspective on their quality of life. HSE professionals tend to factor in issues like physical and mental health as well as an individual’s feeling of personal development when establishing what their employees’ current wellbeing is. Current advice is that as a large percentage of an employee’s life is spent at work, employers should pay attention to how they can improve an employee’s life.
In jobs which require a lot of health and safety management, it is evident that employees need to be healthy both physically and mentally even more than those who have jobs which have less of a safety risk. Employees operating machinery, working at height, working in construction, and working in dangerous environments such as on roads and railways need to be safeguarded, and part of this comes down to their mental and physical health.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development defines wellbeing as: ‘The creation of an environment that promotes a state of contentment which allows employees to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of them and the organisation’
This definition outlines the desired outcomes within a workplace in terms of establishing good health and wellbeing practises, however the steps towards implementation are more nuanced.
The organisational benefits of employing a good wellbeing policy
Caring for your employee’s wellbeing should be high on your list of priorities from a purely HSE and human safety point of view, but there are also some business benefits. Better wellbeing leads to less absenteeism which saves your business money. A more open and collaborative work environment often results from better wellbeing practices, which often leads to better workplace productivity.
Some examples of Wellbeing Initiatives in HSE work from BT (British Telecoms):
- Smoking-cessation: a campaign to encourage employees to quit smoking
- Nutrition and exercise: encouraging employees to adopt healthier lifestyles
An employee’s morale is critically linked to their ability to deal with work-related stress. Some of the recommended ways of increasing employee morale are to keep them realistic about their job and ensure that they find the work meaningful. Other ways to regulate employee morale, and hopefully reduce the impact work has on mental health, is to put in place flexible working practices and ensure your employees are physically fit and eating well.
HSE is viewed by many as an industry with a very traditional approach to managing people and processes. This has been a short intro into how the more subtle aspects of mental health are incorporated into HSE consideration. The trend is likely to continue in the future.