What could you do with 131 million days?

What could you do with 131 million days?

I was reading just the other day that, on average, in 2013 every single UK employee took 4.4 days off sick each! Added together, that works out at 131million days lost to sickness absenteeism!

And that’s not the whole story, as the figure excludes the many people who struggled to work ill, but were far less productive than they could have been, a condition often referred to as ‘presenteeism’.

Now, logic tells you that a sick and unproductive team is not going to be good for any business. So it’s no surprise that, faced with this situation, increasing numbers of UK-based organisations are investing in wellness programmes and activities pointing to evidence, primarily from the US, which shows that well executed wellness programmes can return two to five times the cost of the programme through increases in employee engagement, productivity, recruitment and retention.

But where do you start?

Over the last year, I have been leading the development of what is now called ‘The RBI Living Well Programme’ at my company, driven initially by my passion to help people get healthier through eating well and getting fit. Here are some lessons and tips to help you get started too:

1. Gather data

Start by focusing on finding out what the real issues are for your employees right now. In other words, start collecting and analysing data. When it comes to wellbeing, there are so many things you could do, but it’s unlikely you can do them all at once even if you had the resources to execute them all. We started by sending all 2k employees a simple survey to find out what their issues were and what level of awareness there was of existing wellbeing initiatives. We got a very good response and the results helped us group employees based on specific problems and validate and prioritise ideas to help us focus our limited resources.

2. Extend your resources

Creating a wellbeing programme when you already have another full-time job isn’t easy, so you need to be able to tap into resources that are already available to the business. Fortunately health and wellbeing are topics that many people are interested in, some more so than others, and through the survey mechanism and personal networks, we were able to identify people with knowledge and skills that could be leveraged. Connecting this ‘tribe’ of wellbeing champions and enabling them to spread the wellbeing message through different teams and offices has and continues to be very important.

3. Use multiple channels to connect with employees
As well as the tribe of champions, businesses can spread their wellbeing message through multiple channels to help employees find out what’s available to them. RBI actually provided a whole range of initiatives to support employee wellbeing, with gym discounts, volunteer days, onsite physio, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and more. However awareness and usage was pretty low so, to help, we brought everything together under the RBI Living Well banner and promoted it via video; email and an internal social media network to amplify the message.

4. Organise a wellbeing fair
Without question, there’s nothing quite like a large, high energy event to get the wellbeing message out to the business in a big way. Wellbeing fairs have grown in popularity and at RBI, we organised the first RBI Living Well Fair in the Sutton Office back in November 2014 which was well received; and organised a second one last week (May 2015) in our central London office, which also went down very well. The fairs are designed to offer ‘something for everyone’ and can include talks on hot topics like sleep, sugar, mindfulness and stress resilience; a markeplace of local practitioners as well as a range of fitness activities (a 5k run for instance); and one-to-one ‘know your numbers’ services to make it easier for employees to access personal insights. The fair is also a useful platform to promote other aspects of the programme to kick-start healthy habits.

5. Make it fun

Being healthy does not have to mean ‘eating what you don’t like and doing what you don’t want to do”; not at all. Thinking of tactical campaign ideas to engage employees can make a massive difference. Last week, for instance, in the run up to the RBI Living Well Fair on Wednesday, we launched the RBI Living Well 50 Days of Wellbeing Challenge, an initiative with very low barriers to entry. Staff were asked to pledge to doing something everyday for the next 50 days to enhance their personal wellbeing and then share their pledge and updates on any social media of their choice using a hashtag. The 50 Days Challenge started on May 13th with 340 pledges.

6. Think holistically

Finally, wellbeing has a broad definition and covers everything that could impact the physical and psychological wellbeing of employees. A big part of this is the office environment which makes a huge difference to how we feel. Upgrading offices can be expensive, but simple changes like the presence of plants, collaborative spaces and table tennis tables can make a big difference.

So in summary, true workplace wellbeing is a partnership between employee and the business. As individuals, our health is our responsibility without question, but there’s increasing evidence to show that businesses that place employee wellbeing at the centre of their business culture, see absence through sickness go down and productivity, engagement and creative ideas go up, which, from a business perspective, can only be a good thing.

The Book
Success without Stress: How to Prevent Burnout and Build Resilience for Optimal Health and Peformance

Stress-related illnesses account for a massive chunk of the 131 million days lost to sickness.

Over the last year and a half, I have been researching and writing a new book all about stress and resilience, which, at times did not do my own stress levels too much good!

However, the good news is that I have finally finished it which is a huge relief and you can download a free sample chapter here.