Wellness management crucial

Healthy people are generally happier people, who are more productive and contribute more to the organisations they work for.

Investment in employee health and wellbeing can therefore bring real benefits, both for employees, who appreciate opportunities to improve their personal health, fitness and wellbeing, and employers, who will benefit from increased motivation and productivity in the workforce.

Promoting workplace health and wellbeing is increasingly being recognised as a powerful way to enhance performance and results in order to gain competitive advantage. With long-term sickness absence costing UK business more than £3.8billion a year, tackling issues such as stress, colds, sickness and chronic fatigue and reducing levels of sick leave is an obvious benefit. Other advantages include improving retention of skilled employees, reducing staff turnover and contributing to corporate social responsibility.

Employees who feel fit and healthy will cope better with pressure, feel motivated to produce high-quality work and work in partnership with the organisation to help it achieve its goals. And studies comparing work and unemployment support the concept that work is actually good for you.

With demographic changes in society, and particularly the ageing workforce, it makes good sense to give workplace wellbeing a high priority.

Such initiatives, known as “wellness management”, are also in line with the latest Government Health Work and Wellbeing Strategy, which focuses on improving health and wellbeing of working-age people. Wellness management is about taking a holistic approach and positively promoting employee physical and psychological health and wellbeing.

Organisations such as Abermed provide a full range of wellness and health promotion services tailored to meet the needs of individual organisations. Help with developing wellness policies can also be provided.

Together with subsea engineering and construction contractor Technip, Abermed has, for example, recently created a pioneering health promotion programme which produces individual advice for employees.

The online Healthy Offshore Working Lives (HOWL) system is believed to be the first of its kind. It allows medics to input information about employees’ health and generates anonymous statistics so that health promotion work can focus on issues that are relevant to the workforce rather than simply providing general health information.

The programme has been designed to be accessible from anywhere, so it can be used on offshore installations, ships or other remote locations. Health checks are offered on a voluntary basis and are carried out by an onboard medic, monitoring height, weight, blood pressure, and so on.

The employee is then given their own booklet with a record of their statistics and personalised practical tips on issues such as stopping smoking, eating healthily or losing weight. If necessary, the medic may recommend that the person seeks further help through their own GP.

The information can be stored according to location, vessel, type of occupation, and so on, to allow employers to assess particular trends and patterns.

Back to wider aspects, national initiatives such as Healthy Working Lives can help set achievable health objectives and provide a focus for workplace health improvement.

Companies can also opt to organise health fairs, health promotion days – such as cancer awareness or No Smoking Day – or issue a monthly wellbeing newsletter to staff.

Dr Elizabeth Wright is a director and senior consultant occupational physician at Abermed, which specialises in providing medical and occupational health services to the international oil and gas industry. For more information, visit www.abermed.com