Business

Public Health Agency points to 'clear link' between work practices and wellbeing

Janet Calvert, workplace health and wellbeing lead for the Public Health Agency (PHA)

THE Irish News Workplace and Employment Awards category entitled ‘Workplace Wellbeing' is being sponsored by the Public Health Agency (PHA) for the first time this year.

Since its establishment in 2009, the PHA has worked to improve and protect health and wellbeing, reduce health inequalities, promote healthy habits and reduce barriers to good health for the whole of the population of Northern Ireland.

Everyone's chance of leading a long and healthy life is largely affected by the social, economic and environmental circumstances of his or her daily routine and experts have proved a clear link between work and the health of individuals and their families.

Employees benefit both physically and mentally from being in a positive work environment, says Janet Calvert, workplace health and wellbeing lead for the PHA.

She said: “Workplace health also makes economic sense, as employers benefit from a reduction in illness-related absenteeism, an improved working atmosphere and morale, as well as a rise in productivity..

"The financial gains for employers far outweigh the investment required in workplace health initiatives, proving that workplace health is good for health and good for business."

Employee engagement is the key to successful workplace health programmes, Ms Calvert added. Employers need to find out exactly what the health and wellbeing concerns of their employees are – and then put an appropriate action plan in place to provide support.

"A good working environment, where people are valued, has the potential to increase wellbeing," she said. “Effective workplace health programmes can make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of employees, businesses and the communities in which people live and work.

“Many businesses are doing great work supporting employees and we want to give this the recognition it deserves. Highlighting good practice through the Irish News awards will hopefully encourage other businesses to learn and grow their workplace health programmes.

“We spend a large proportion of our day at our workplace, so it is crucial that we take a whole-day approach to health and wellbeing and don't treat it as something that only needs to be thought of outside of work hours.”

Examples of workplace health and wellbeing support include good human resources policies; help to stop smoking; healthy weight programmes; training of workplace health champions; mental health awareness training and programmes; cancer screening; alcohol awareness sessions; and cycle-to-work schemes.

A health survey in Northern Ireland, published by the Department of Health in October 2017, highlights health and wellbeing issues for the population and shows where support could be best targeted in the workplace.

The survey revealed that almost a third (30 per cent) of respondents had concerns about their own mental health in the previous year.

Other findings showed that 20 per cent of adults smoked cigarettes and 62 per cent of smokers wanted to stop, while 36 per cent of people who took part in the survey were overweight and 27 per cent were categorised as obese.

Meanwhile, only 42 per cent of respondents met the recommended weekly adult physical activity levels and over one fifth (22 per cent) reported drinking in excess of the recommended weekly limits.

The PHA commissions workplace health and wellbeing services and is actively working with businesses to improve the chances of everyone to lead long and healthy lives.

More information on the PHA's workplace health programme can be found at www.healthatworkni.org

:: The Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 14. Entries must be submitted by noon on Friday April 27 and the short-listed companies will be revealed in the Irish News on Thursday May 17.

:: More details at www.wea.irishnews.com and follow us on Twitter @IrishNewsWEA

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