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According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics 131 million working days were lost last year due to sickness. Small businesses in particular can be the hardest hit if key members of staff or management are away from work.
However, you are not powerless to act. There are simple yet effective techniques to prevent and minimise instances of sickness and absenteeism.
Encouraging more healthy living is a two-part process: Firstly, you have a duty of care towards your employees that is part of your business’ legal responsibilities. Secondly, you can create an environment within your business that drives your employees to strive for a better work/life balance, and to take a proactive interest in their health when they are at work.
Use the checklist below to create a positive and healthy atmosphere in your company:
1. Look closely at your entire business to identify areas where health could be better promoted. For instance, the use of computer equipment can lead to MSDs (Musculoskeletal Diseases) the most common of which is RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury. Ergonomically designed desks, chairs and computer peripherals can help to reduce the risk.
2. Encourage working practices that drive employees to take the lunch breaks they are entitled to. Last year over a third of workers didn’t take a lunch break, and report their performance dropped as a consequence.
3. The sedentary lifestyle of office-based workers means that exercise can become difficult to fit into the working day. Be proactive and offer reduced membership fees at local gyms. Or involve your business in charity events such as fun runs or bike rides to get your employees exercising.
4. The mental health of staff is also a concern amongst the business community. In the current recession, staff may find themselves under increased pressure, so it is vital that you watch for early warning signs of those that may be struggling. These include: lethargy at work, irritability, short temper, and a drop in self-esteem and confidence.
5. Sickness is a fact of life for all businesses. Make sure all of your employees know the procedure to follow if they are ill. This will ensure the disruption caused is minimised. And don’t be afraid to send people home if they are ill. This can avoid further infections, which could have a huge impact on your business.
Your business has a legal responsibility to keep its workforce safe, but taking a more proactive interest in the whole wellbeing of your employees will build trust, and allow your company to handle periods of sickness with the minimum impact on day-to-day operations.
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