Should business be doing more to keep its workforce happy and healthy?

What makes a successful business? Ask any good business leader and most will give you the same answer. Their employees. Looking after your staff isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a hard-nosed business decision. We know that motivated and valued employees are more productive and engaged than those who aren’t. So should business be doing more to keep its workforce happy and healthy? This Thursday, as part of the CBI’s Great Business Debate I’ll be taking part in a live debate to discuss just that with Dame Carol Black, Government advisor on Health and Work, Fiona Stark, Corporate Affairs Director at E.ON, Dr Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, and chaired by BITC Wellbeing Director, Louise Aston.

Every year, employee absence is estimated to cost the economy over £30billion a year. So whilst there is a strong moral case for investing in a healthy workforce, it is also the smart business decision. We need our businesses to compete on the quality of what we do, and that makes staff performance and productivity vital. Workplace health is essential to both of those key factors. So by investing in the health and wellbeing of their employees, business is helping to create a more prosperous society for everyone.

Business has, in the past, been cautious when addressing health and wellbeing at work. But business is being repeatedly challenged to up its game. A Great Business Debate survey revealed that 55% of people believe that expectations on business to do the right thing have increased over the last ten years. The same is true of staff, who increasingly expect more of a ‘great’ employer, including the role that they play in managing the of health our societies. So when it comes to health and wellbeing, that means business moving from a reactive approach to a proactive one.

“A Great Business Debate survey revealed that 55% of people believe that expectations on business to do the right thing have increased over the last ten years.”

Nike, for example, encourage their staff to take part in physical exercise and encourage walking meetings instead of sitting in a meeting room, whilst M&S have launched a ‘wellbeing and weight loss challenge’ where, together, participants have lost around eight metric tonnes. These are the kind of changes that can be made by any size of business, whether big or small. By adopting simple measures such as these, businesses can lead the way in tackling key demographic health trends among their staff today and in the future.

Many companies are already introducing innovative initiatives which focus as much on managing the health of their employees as they already do on absence or safety management. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, but a healthy, happy workforce will also be an engaged and high-performing one, having an impact on the bottom-line of a business. Having healthy staff doesn’t automatically lead to a healthy business. But it certainly does help.


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