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Business Success and Employee Wellbeing

Business Success and Employee Wellbeing

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The NSM Centre's report argues that good employee health and wellbeing is good for business and that there is both an economic incentive and a moral imperative for employers to take care of their workers’ health. (Published Aug 2008)

Copyright NSMC.
The NSM Centre's report argues that good employee health and wellbeing is good for business and that there is both an economic incentive and a moral imperative for employers to take care of their workers’ health. (Published Aug 2008)

Copyright NSMC.

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Published by: Professor Jeff French on Feb 10, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Health & Saety Executive Report
The cost o sickness absence alonehas recently been calculated tobe £19.9 billion
The quality o working lie has a major impacton employers, employees and the State alike.175 million working days were lost in 2006
. Thecost o sickness absence alone has recently beencalculated to be £19.9 billion. That’s £780 orevery worker, every year
. The cost o accidents atwork has been calculated to be £700 million
, andthe cost o preventable ill health stands at £187billion
. Likewise, there is growing concern aboutthe level o Incapacity Beneft payments to thoseon long-term sickness absence and the pressure onront-line health services. This level o “drag” onthe competitiveness o UK plc arguably demandsa more coordinated and proportional responserom both economic and social good perspectives
.Traditionally, the policy ocus has been on dealingwith the known negative impacts o work onhealth, mainly physical health. Generally over thepast 30 years, there has been an improving picturein terms o work-related atalities, injuries and ill health. In contrast, until quite recently, there hasbeen relatively little appreciation on the part o Government, and other stakeholders, o the scaleo potential benefts rom improving the quality o working lie and enhancing the positive ways inwhich work, in its widest sense, contributes to thephysical and mental health o employees. Thesebenefts include boosting employee engagementand productivity, reducing absence and enablingbusinesses to recruit and retain high-perormingemployees as well as having a signifcant impacton society as a whole.Despite the growing political and national interestin links between the workplace and health andwellbeing
, and investment in studies looking atwhether work is good or you
, there is a deartho evidence about what to do to improve positivehealth and wellbeing at work that draws on theviews o employees themselves. There is already astrong evidence base about what constitutes worldclass business practice
in terms o the kinds o workplaces that maximise employee engagementand perormance and that deliver employerbenefts in relation to retention o key sta,competitiveness and productivity. However, withsome noteworthy exceptions, there is relativelypoor appreciation among stakeholders o thepotential benefts o tackling the disconnected,ragmented and unsystematic practice thatcharacterises many workplaces.
Health and wellbeing at work is not a peripheral issue or Government but, potentially, a central plank o a national policythat could add signifcantly to the competitive advantage o UK plc. As set out in the recent Strategy Unit report “RealisingBritain’s Potential: Future Strategic Challenges or Britain
’’,ensuring that British workers and businesses can prosper ina highly globalised and competitive world is one o nine keyissues acing the country.
This is despite the act many o the aspectsassociated with successul business practice areexactly the same as the key eatures o workplacesand jobs that promote health and wellbeing
10 11
. Inthe light o these insights, we need to make threeundamental changes to our current approachesi we are to derive the individual, business andwider economic benefts o improving health andwellbeing at work. This needs to be done in asystemic rather than a piecemeal way:
• Re-focus
how we develop interventions designedto promote health and wellbeing at work so thatthey are driven by deep insights about whatworkers say will help them both perorm better, besaer and be healthier.
• Unite
our eorts to promote world class businessand organisational perormance with eorts topromote employee wellbeing rather than pursuethese imperatives through parallel strategies.
• Move
rom a ‘cottage industry’ approach totackling the problems o health and wellbeing atwork to one that reects the scale o benefts thatcould accrued or UK plc i good practice was morewidely adopted.Drawing upon case studies, the literature reviews,and a seminar discussion involving a wide range o stakeholders, we explored the ollowing hypothesis:
Hypothesis: Eective employee engagement = Good employee health and wellbeing = Successul businesses. (A virtuous circle o dialogue and action that promotes employeehealth and wellbeing as well as successuland proftable business).
By eective employee engagement we meanthe active involvement o employees, includingmanagers, in identiying improvements to workprocesses, practices and management styles andcultures that provide employees with the kinds o working environments that support their sustainablecontribution to the business goals and ethical values o their employer.The case or this hypothesis is strong. Translatingthis hypothesis into action requires a undamental change in the way in which policy and delivery areconceptualised. This can be translated into twopropositions which can be used to guide utureaction:
Proposition 1:
Strategically, the two key strands o Government policy and strategy (business enterpriseand employee health and wellbeing) should bebrought together into a coherent sphere o activity.Government needs to support the developmento the inrastructure and provide a platorm ornational discussion in this key area o activity.
Proposition 2:
Operationally, delivery will beenhanced by a systematic change in approach,which is characterised by an active dialogue withsta, clear leadership, supported by signifcantup scaling o investment, coordination and betterknowledge management.
The Case or Change
For too long, strategies and initiatives to promotehealth and wellbeing at work have been drivenby a product and service mind set rather thanan employee - or people-ocused approach.
 Traditionally experts in occupational health,health and saety and public health have defnedthe problems and the solutions.
It is time to ocusmore on what employees themselves say will help.It is our view that oten those who have sought topromote health and wellbeing at work have alleninto our traps that have limited the impact o whatcould be achieved.
Hypothesis:Eective employee engagement = Good employeehealth and wellbeing = Successul businesses.

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