Business

Action on health 'is sound business sense'

Public Health Agency workplace and wellbeing manager Janet Calvert

FOR the second year running the Public Health Agency (PHA) is a key business partner in the Workplace Wellbeing category in the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards.

As the major regional organisation for health protection and social wellbeing improvement, the PHA is committed to addressing causes and associated inequalities of preventable ill-health and lack of wellbeing across Northern Ireland.

Janet Calvert, the agency's workplace health and wellbeing lead, said a "clear link" had been established between meaningful employment and the health of individuals and their families.

"Action to support health and wellbeing in the workplace makes sound business sense," she said.

"There are many benefits to workplace health and wellbeing support programmes, such as being seen as a progressive employer, a reduction in sickness absence, reduced staff turnover, staff feeling valued, increased productivity and business prestige."

The PHA recommends that businesses work within the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework - which advises a 'whole system' approach and effective employee engagement. An online resource guide for workplace support can be accessed at www.pha.site/WellbeingatWork

“Effective workplace health and wellbeing support programmes involve commitment from management, meaningful employee engagement and delivery of appropriate information and support within the workplace,” Janet said. “This then enables employees to make positive choices to improve their health and wellbeing.”

In terms of the PHA's contribution to workplace health, a Regional Workplace Health Service was developed and commissioned in 2016 and engages with more than 200 businesses each year.

Three local providers - NI Chest, Heart and Stroke; Health Matters NI and Developing Healthy Communities - deliver training and support directly to businesses to help improve the health and wellbeing of their employees.

Examples of employee-led workplace health and wellbeing support include flexible working, help to stop smoking, healthy weight programmes, mental health awareness training and support, screening for diabetes and high blood pressure, alcohol awareness sessions, lunch-time yoga and cycle-to-work schemes among others initiatives.

However, despite much good work, the Northern Ireland Health Survey, published by the Department of Health last November, highlighted a number of health and wellbeing issues for the local population and showed where support could be best targeted in the workplace.

In the survey, a quarter of respondents (26 per cent) had concerns about their own mental health, 18 per cent of adults smoked cigarettes, one third of male drinkers (31 per cent) drank above weekly limits, nine per cent of female drinkers exceeded weekly limits and 64 per cent of adults were either overweight (37 per cent) or obese (27 per cent).

“As employees, we spend a large portion of our day in work, 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,” Janet stressed.

“It is the PHA's aim, within the context of the Making Life Better strategy, under the theme of ‘Equipped Throughout Life', to see the positive impact on employees of better workplace health and it having a wider reach, benefitting their families and communities as well as themselves."

:: Entries of the 2019 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards will remain open until Friday May 3, with the finalists being announced on Thursday May 16. More details at www.irishnews.com/wea. Follow us on Twitter at @irishnewsWEA

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