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Blog: Are you paying enough attention to staff health and well-being?

8th Jun 2012
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A couple of month's ago the nation’s hearts sank at the sight of Bolton’s Midfielder Fabrice Muamba being resuscitated after collapsing at the FA Cup Quarter final due to a sudden cardiac arrest.

The 24 yr old football star took 78 minutes to regain breathing and has bought new awareness to Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome this year. Over 600 young people die each year from Sudden Death Syndrome and 80% of those do not experience any prior symptoms, if this doesn’t make us stop and think about health and wellbeing I don’t know what will.   The need to address the employee work/life balance has increased over the years and providing your workforce with the facilities and opportunities to support and maintain high levels of health and wellbeing is something which many employers still fail to grasp.  A survey carried out by the Canadian Life Group Insurance revealed that 45% of respondents had struggled with personal or health problems over the last 3 years. A further 9 out of 10 employees who have recently struggled with personal problems felt that they did not receive adequate support in dealing with them from their employer. Only 10% of employees were allowed to work flexible hours in order to manage their problems and a staggering 9% were able to access support from someone at work/counselling. CLGI’s argument was reiterated in an article from The Guardian, titled “Companies are not paying enough attention to staff health and wellbeing”. The article ruffled a few feathers as it revealed disturbing images of Chinese workers at Apple’s largest iPad supplier Foxconn. The images showed Foxconn factory workers enduring long shifts in a monotonous, sterile and bleak environment. Poor working conditions resulted in a suicide spate in which Foxconn had to construct suicide nets outside factory workers’ apartments in order to deter other unhappy employees! Electrical giant Apple soon intervened after news of the ominous situation spread and have since tried to improve employee working and living conditions at Foxconn. The case of George Turklebaum  The Guardian’s point being, why does it take such dramatic circumstances for employers to take note? The return of investment in effective employee motivation, health and benefit programmes is priceless in comparison to the Foxconn disaster.  A recent survey carried out by Kings College London highlighted the fact that long working hours continue to increase and smaller stretched workforces are the cause of many problems. Their results prove that manager’s remain ignorant when it comes to reaping the benefits of happy, healthy staff, as presenteeism is set to rise a further 41% in 2012. Despite the number of leaders who are still choosing to overlook the advantages of employing effective employee motivation and benefit programmes, 31% of organisations reported health and wellbeing as a key priority for 2012.  Making sure your employee’s know you take an interest and care about their health and wellbeing is something which means more to staff than anything. One office urban legend which seems to have seeped into most workplaces over the years is that of New York publishing worker George Turklebaum whom suffered a heart attack and passed away at his desk and went unnoticed by fellow colleagues until 5 days later. Years of speculation regarding the truth in this tale have actually made many employees stop and think about colleague health and wellbeing. Despite the controversy over dear George’s existence the moral of the story is to make sure you give your staff that extra reassurance that their presence is valued and recognised.  Wish your employees every health and happiness by providing them with support, guidance and motivation to ensure they don’t slip through the net.

John Sylvester is divisional managing director at marketing services agency, P&MM.

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