As a registered nurse for 40 years, over half of which were spent working within both the public and private sectors as an occupational health and well-being specialist, there’s not a lot that Christina Butterworth doesn’t know about health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Now as Chair for the Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing Development Group and an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Christina is the author and ‘knowledge provider’ for IOSH’s Occupational Health and Wellbeing course.
She explains how the course can help managers to implement a cost-effective and successful strategy, that improves their business’ productivity and competitiveness.
“When asked, ‘why is it important for a company to effectively manage the health of its staff’ I will say, because there is moral, ethical and legal requirement to do so. But most importantly, it is the right thing to do, and I can’t stress that enough. If employees feel that their needs are being met, then they are likely to perform better at work and improve productivity for the business. Cared for staff members can also become great ambassadors for a brand which supports recruitment efforts and helps to increase a company’s competitiveness.
However, to provide a truly successful occupational health and safety strategy, Christina believes that it must be focused on the specific health needs of employees.
“A targeted approach to health at work will not only make staff feel genuinely cared for but help the business to support this function cost-effectively. If you consider the construction industry, it is common practice for hundreds of ‘sheep dip’ health assessments to be processed for people that don’t need them – a tick box exercise that wastes time and money. Companies need to recognise and tackle health risks and needs to ensure that they are putting their investment in the right place. For example, in the oil and gas industry many workers can feel isolated, working alone in remote locations and not looking after themselves properly. Here wellbeing and mental health support is an important for good health at work, as well as managing the inherent risk. For a small decorating firm, the biggest risk to staff is likely to be manual handling and subsequent back injuries. But occupational health and safety is complex, and it is understandable that managers often feel ill-equipped to deal with the fluctuating health of their workforce.”
Organisations can feel unsure about how to provide appropriate resource for their employees and can find themselves in a situation where they just don’t know the right thing to do. Cost can be a major barrier in the provision of good occupational health and safety at work, rather than ensuring that employers understand the benefits of a targeted occupational health strategy for their employees, managers and organisation.
“Unfortunately, fruit on Friday’s just isn’t going to cut it with today’s workforce, who are more in tune with their physical and mental health needs and expectations from a work environment than ever before. An employment relationship works both ways and we need to be mindful of that. If occupational health and wellbeing is not implemented correctly and for the right reasons, then the impact on both the business and the individual can be huge.”
IOSH’s Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course provides practical advice and tools for managers, to help create a healthy and productive place of work. Christina explains how the training can help managers to feel more comfortable and informed about their business’ occupational health and wellbeing journey.
“The course provides businesses with a simple model to follow, where best practice is backed up by lots of data and evidence demonstrating the positive impact of a robust occupational health and wellbeing strategy. Managers will learn what health and wellbeing at work is, and why it makes good business sense.
“The course clearly articulates the roles and responsibilities for everyone involved and how to resource a health and wellbeing function effectively. For larger businesses, employing an occupational health nurse is a good way to do this. Offering lots of tips for success, the course will not only give managers the tools, but show them how to use them.”
Employee retention is a continuing problem for businesses and it impacts their ability to compete in their industry. Because of the fluidity of today’s workforce, Christina warns that managers should be mindful of their offering around health and wellbeing, to ensure that high staff turnover doesn’t harm productivity.
“We are now in a time when people don’t stay in one job forever. They expect more from their employer and will go somewhere else if they feel that they are not being supported. Businesses need to learn how to recognise unhealthy workplace environments, target their resources (time, money and people) and see their staff as representatives of the company. IOSH’s Occupational Health and Wellbeing course will inform and guide managers to do this, creating a better and more productive working environment for all.”