Work Wellness

Posted: November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

Here in the UK the NHS is something that’s more than an establishment, it’s a part of the British state of mind: if you get ill you will receive world class treatment, free and (mostly) promptly.

However, the NHS can only do so much. They offer advice about public health and wellbeing but given their limited resources, have to concentrate on making people better, rather than preventing people from getting ill in the first place.

And health is an issue most people shy away from. If you’ve ever watched Embarrassing Bodies you’ll know that people’s willful ignorance means that they won’t go to the doctor until something is really wrong with them. You find yourself asking “how could anyone have possibly let it get that bad?” when they finally present with a limb that’s all but atrophied itself off. But I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent, we find excuses, we don’t have enough time, it’s not bad, it’s just a twinge, it’ll pass… All the while we’re just storing up trouble for the future.

Companies from cleaning outfits to international banks carry out drug screenings to weed out potential problems before they impact on their bottom line so why not initiate health screening too? Maybe you’d find it a little intrusive to have your employer carry out a raft of health checks on you, you’d be worried about what they might find or that they might use the results to limit your chances of promotion or advancement if you had something that might mean you’re knocked off of your career path for an extended period of time.

But that’s not the point. Some middle managers in unscrupulous corporations might use such data as leverage but in the most part companies will be able to use this information to help and support you, identifying concerns and addressing them in a timely fashion means that you’re not likely to take unpredictable days off or go on long term sick. Nobody wants you to be ill and replacing your unique skillset is laborious, expensive and boring. Instead it’s much better to keep you fit in the first place.

It’s not just your physical health that’s being monitored either. Many of us feel uncomfortable talking about stress or issues that affect our mental health. Ask a Briton how they are and you know things are really bad if they say “yeah, fine.” “Could be better” portends disaster of a global scale. If we’re like this with our friends, consider what we’re like when an employer asks. Is your chair ok? are your eyes alright? do you need any help with that? will all elicit the reply “everything’s fine, really.” If we can’t answer basic questions like this honestly, then how can we be expected to talk about stress, anxiety, insecurity and worry in an honest way.

Tackling these issues in a neutral space with a qualified healthcare professional as part of your terms of employment would offer a chance to improve the health of all concerned. You’d be seeing the benefits of preventative healthcare, your employers would be able to make the workplace a healthier space, cut down absenteeism and improve staff retention as found in a report published by RAND in response to a survey they conducted in 2014.

It’s important to target these programmes to the individual. Generic programmes to improve a nebulous notion of “health” often fail to hit the mark. People find them boring, embarrassing or irrelevant. Telling people about diet and fitness is all very well but I think everybody knows that they should probably get more exercise and take care of themselves better. Again, it’s finding the time, inclination and motivation that holds them back. On the other hand, if people were given a battery of tests, a thorough exam, not only of themselves but their working environment too, then they would know that their health was being taken seriously and that they are valued as a person as well as an asset.

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