Turning the Tide – Are More Employers Investing in Workplace Wellbeing?

Absence within the workplace is a daily occurrence for most employers, whether it be a cold, neck strain or stress. However, an employee’s health and wellbeing can heavily affect a workplace, with an estimated 137.3 million working days lost due to illness in 2016. There are measurements in place when returning to work, but are companies investing in their employees’ wellbeing in the first place?

Return-to-work interviews and monitoring absences are essential, but being proactive and preventing the absence before it happens will have a far more positive impact. A person’s wellbeing can be determined by their home life, relationships, and their job. A recent government study showed that employees can be more creative, cooperative, and have better general health if they experience a higher level of wellbeing. Looking after your employees’ can come in many forms and will vary depending on the industry and the type of work being carried out. For example, wellbeing schemes can include healthy eating advice, gym memberships, physiotherapy services,or a health care plan.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are one of the main causes for absence at work within the UK. This is where having a wellbeing scheme could be used to its full effect. Prevention is key, we give staff training to make sure they are doing the best job possible, but keeping their wellbeing at the forefront of the working day could prove invaluable. Precautions can be put in place to bring down the number of people affected by MSDs in the workplace, such as an on-site physiotherapist to help with any injuries that could affect a staff member, ensuring all workstations are assessed and fit for everyday use or even an on-site manual handling course to ensure confidence and good practice. Focusing on people’s wellbeing could be the difference between a day of absence and a productive day’s work.

A survey conducted by Aon Employee Benefits has shown that employers are aiming to promote workplace wellbeing schemes: their Benefits and Trends Survey 2018 showed an increase from 36% to 42%. With that in mind, it shows employers are aiming to take steps in the right direction. Combining return-to-work interviews, the monitoring of data and an appropriate well-being scheme could be the ticket to a healthier and happier workplace.

Lady Exercising in the Woods

BIA UK’s Kenny Butler Published in the British Medical Journal

BIA UK’s very own Kenny Butler has co-authored a study that has made it into the British Medical Journal (BMJ) as part of his work with Active Health UK. The piece has been covered in numerous press including The Sun, The Times and iNews.

Focus on Physical Activity Can Can Help Avoid Unnecessary Social Care

You can read the finished article here but in summary, the study explains how physical activity for older adults can help maintain their health and reduce the spiralling cost of social care.

The cost ramifications and shortage of social care services are rife in the UK and with direct links between “the parlous state of the NHS and the social care crisis”, it’s important for the nation’s future health to address this and reduce the impact.

This write up shows that there is a cost-efficient and effective way to start reducing the social care cost by simply focusing on increasing the amount of physical activity completed by older adults.

Discussion

Within the published piece is a discussion on the effects of ageing and loss of fitness. It is noted that the two are often confused and mistakenly, people tend to think that exercise may make health conditions worse whereas this is rarely the case. By working on strength, stamina, suppleness and skill the benefits for older adults can span cognitive, physical and social aspects.

An important report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges wrote: “Exercise may reverse the decline and keep a person above the threshold for needing increased care”. This is an important statement and indicative of how important exercise can be in reducing social care cost.

The piece then goes on to discuss the role of healthcare and policy in supporting these findings as well as specific statistics around physical activity and health benefits.

Read the full post here.

Manufacturing

Physiotherapists Granted Rights to Issue Fit Notes

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has revealed details of a government announcement that will allow physiotherapists to sign Fit Notes to help people get back into work.

Experts in Musculoskeletal Disorders

The Government issued paper ‘Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability’ outlined a significant focus on musculoskeletal illness and an expansion on those professions qualified to issue Fit Notes. At present, the Fit Note is only able to be issued by GPs and hasn’t taken off as a tool to help employees get back into work. With low usage and limitations it hasn’t been a success yet – but physiotherapists, as experts in musculoskeletal illness and rehabilitation, will be able to issue Fit Notes with skill.

Getting People Back into Work

Another benefit of allowing physiotherapists to sign Fit Notes is to take advantage of their knowledge around how best to adapt the workplace in order for an employee to return to work. This is a factor in why the Fit Note isn’t working as planned at the moment – GP’s aren’t equipped with as much specialised knowledge of how workplaces can be adapted to meet patient’s needs.

The CSP says:

‘The proposal to allow physiotherapists to issue fit notes is excellent news for patients, as is the focus on musculoskeletal conditions, which are one of the leading reasons for sickness absence in the UK.

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

Patients should need fewer appointments as well as getting answers – and back to work – more quickly and pain free.

If you’re curious as to what sort of return as an employer you could generate by using occupational physiotherapists, you can enter your organisational details into our Absence Calculator.

Report Summary: Occupational Health – The Value Proposition

We’ve read and digested a new report by the Society for Occupational Medicine discussing the value proposition of occupational health for employers and have a summary of its main points that relate to our work as occupational physiotherapists below.

Introduction

Health problems among the working population are having a significant socio-economic impact. Population surveys estimate that 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013. Minor illnesses were the most common reason given for these illnesses and accounted for 27.4 million of these days whilst the greatest number of days were due to musculoskeletal problems (30.6 million). This is ample evidence to support the inclusion of occupational health for employees. Other main points addressed in the report include;

1. How is Occupational Health Support Accessed?

In relation to how occupational services are accessed, the report states:

  • Access to occupational health services are restricted to employees of large companies only, but SMEs are by far and away the biggest employers, so these employees aren’t getting the benefits of these services

Supporting Statistics

Only a minority of the UK workforce can access a comprehensive occupational health service. A telephone survey of 2,250 British employers in all sectors of the British economy enquiring about broad health and wellbeing provision reported that 13% of employers provided access to occupational health services to employees in the last year.

2. How is Occupational Health Support Defined?

A telephone survey of 4,950 UK employers examining specifically the use of occupational health support defined comprehensive occupational health support as; hazard identification, risk management, provision of information modifying work activities, providing training on occupational health-related issues, measuring workplace hazards, and monitoring trends in health.

Using this definition, only 3% of UK employers provided access to comprehensive occupational health services. Both surveys reported that more large organisations provide access than small companies too. The range of services was also determined by legislative or statutory requirements within each industry sector.

3. How is the Business Case Made for Occupational Health Support?

“The business case for investing in occupational health within an organisation must be transparent and compelling. The benefits are not restricted to financial reasons and the quality of return on investment economic evaluations are low. The business “value” of high absence needs to be determined by each company rather than just looking at pure financials”.

  • Compelling business reasons for investing in occupational health should include:
    • Legal – the legal obligation employers have for the safety and welfare of their employees. This includes compliance with statutory regulation including The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. As part of this legislation, employers are required to conduct health assessments where occupational health staff can advise on the specific needs of employees and arrange or provide suitable programmes.
    • Moral – Moral reasons for implementing an occupational health plan have usually been taken by smaller companies that know their staff intimately and want to provide a good workplace for them. But increasingly, corporate social responsibility has led larger employers to undertake a moral duty to look after their staff.
    • Financial – sickness absence is estimated to cost UK businesses £28.8 billion each year; an overall median cost of £554 per employee, and anywhere between 2-16% of payroll. Yet when surveyed only half of employers thought that occupational health provided a return on investment. However when examined closely, the costs provide a compelling case for considering occupational health investment.

Below is a table of tangible and intangible costs associated with poor occupational health:

Conclusion

Increasingly employees, customers, shareholders and investors expect employers to demonstrate high standards of corporate social responsibility and to integrate social, ethical and environmental concerns into business operations. Social concerns include employee health and wellbeing; consequently occupational health can play a major role in employers’ corporate social responsibility programmes. In summary:

  • Protecting and promoting employee health is integral to corporate social responsibility
  • Employees think employers should be more proactive in providing workplace health interventions
  • Work-related ill health is a significant cost to individuals, employers and the taxpayer
  • Employer paid interventions may save more money at a societal level (health and social care)

Download the full report here.

career-types

HSE Plans for Improving Workplace Health in 2017

Following on from our recent blog discussing the government’s new emphasis on health as a result of its comprehensive whitepaper, we thought we’d follow up with news on what the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is planning to do to further these aims throughout the rest of 2017.

There are four main subsets of the ongoing strategy as published on the HSE website. We will explain each below:

Helping Great Britain Work Well

This first initiative is working to improve and expand on the already impressive work health and safety record of the UK. Increasing productivity is also a major focus. There are six main subsets to this strategy;

  1. Acting together: Promoting broader ownership of health and safety in Great Britain
  2. Tackling ill health: Highlighting and tackling the costs of work-related ill health
  3. Managing risk well: Simplifying risk management and helping business to grow
  4. Supporting small employers: Giving SMEs simple advice so that they know what they have to do
  5. Keeping page with change: Anticipating and tackling new health and safety challenges
  6. Sharing our success: Promoting the benefits of Great Britain’s world-class health and safety system

HSE Business Plan 2017/18

This second agenda discusses the HSE’s main business plan. In it, the challenge of improving on an already excellent health and safety record whilst adapting to the changing world around us is detailed. Specific priorities mentioned as part of this plan include;

  • Capitalising on enthusiasm and collaboration toward health and safety
  • Ensuring the regulatory framework remains effective
  • Securing effective risk management and control
  • Reducing the likelihood of low frequency, high impact, catastrophic incidents
  • Emphasising ill-health with a focus on respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational stress and mental health
  • Ensuring value for money by reducing reliance on government funding
  • Bringing together effective collaboration and expertise across HSE

Sector Plans

This third plan illustrates how Great Britain’s workplaces have been split into 19 sectors based on industry type and risk profiles. The actions for each sector include;

  • Leading and engaging with others to improve health and safety
  • Providing an effective regulatory framework
  • Securing effective management and control of risk
  • Reducing the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents

Health and Work Strategy Plans

Lastly, priorities in the area of health and work strategy plans include work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease.

To this end;

  1. Work-related stress accounts for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases
  2. Musculoskeletal disorders accounts for 41% of all work-related ill-health cases and 34% of all working days lost due to ill-health
  3. Occupational lung disease continues to lead to an estimated 12,000 deaths a year

These statistics and an eagerness to improve in these areas form much of the reasoning behind their focus.

Conclusion

For each of the 4 areas above, there are ways in which the valuable work we do at BIA UK and the delivery of occupational physiotherapy to our clients can contribute to achieving the goals of the HSE. The aims and initiatives being proposed by the HSE align with our values as a health provider too and we look forward to playing our part in reducing the incidence and effect of musculoskeletal illness in Britain’s workplaces.

A New Emphasis on Health

There has been renewed emphasis on health in the workplace due in considerable part to findings from the recent consultation “Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives”. This important consultation supports a case for action with regard to the workplace through; tackling significant inequality, supporting people into work, supporting healthy workplaces, supporting employment and more. It revealed several findings about the workplace as well as what needs to be done to make this a better, more productive environment for employees.

BIA UK’s Efforts in the Workplace

BIA UK’s emphasis is on keeping employees in work and helping them return to work more quickly through the aid of occupational physiotherapy. We see outstanding results and have reached a return on investment value of up to 11:1 through our efforts.

We support the consultation results fully and are excited to see what change is incited as a result of the findings.

The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

Below, we cover some salient points from the paper and explain how the findings relate to the type of work we do at BIA UK.

  • “Evidence shows that appropriate work is good for our health” At BIA UK we see on a daily basis the improved mental and physical health of employees that have returned to or stayed in work as opposed to going off sick
  • “Reducing long term sickness absence is a priority – 1.8 million employees on average have a long-term sickness absence of 4 weeks or more in a year” BIA UK operates to keep employees in work and reduce considerable long term absence. For one of our clients we reduced the mean musculoskeletal absence length from 17 days to 3 days. Review the case study here.
  • “Access to timely treatment varies across areas; Average waiting times for mental health treatment can differ by as much as 12 weeks across England and some evidence suggests treatment for musculoskeletal conditions can differ by as much as 23 weeks” This is one of the key benefits of inhouse physiotherapy in treating musculoskeletal issues. Employees can get treated faster and at their place of work, lessening time away from work with sickness and also travel time spent going offsite for physiotherapy treatment
  • “Almost 1 in 3 working-age people in the UK have a long-term health condition which puts their participation in work at risk” Musculoskeletal issues affect high numbers of employees – an estimated 9.5million working days were lost in 2014/15 due to such ailments
  • “Over half (54%) of all disabled people who are out of work experience mental health and/or musculoskeletal conditions as their main health condition” Musculoskeletal conditions were the second highest cause of short term absence according to the 2015 Absence Management report from the CIPD

Other Findings and Conclusions

The paper goes on to say:

“There is a lack of practical support to help people stay connected to work and get back to work. This has to change.”

It also includes the following from its list of “wants”:

“We want to: help employers take action to create a workforce that reflects society as a whole and where employers are equipped to take a long-term view on the skills and capability of their workforce, managing an ageing workforce and increased chronic conditions to keep people in work, rather than reacting only when they lose employees.

We want to: ensure people are able to access the right employment and health services, at the right time and in a way which is personalised to their circumstances and integrated around their needs.”

Summary

We have been champions of keeping employees in work and delivering treatment for musculoskeletal illnesses for many years. It’s fantastic to see the government delivering more evidence to support the valuable work we do to improve workplace health in the UK.

We finish with a positive quote we enjoyed from the paper: “Let’s ensure everyone has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them – for a healthier, working nation.”

To find out more about our occupational physiotherapy service and how this can work to reduce absenteeism, presenteeism and save hours you can try our ROI calculator here.

Important Employment Trends for the Health & Safety Professional

Safety Management took a look at a number of workplace trends from the past two years. Ranging from flexible working to zero hours contracts, these all have an impact on health & safety and our working lives.

At BIA UK we often work closely with health & safety professionals as musculoskeletal illness (MSK) forms such a large part of employee absence from work. Today we look at what other issues are affecting the role of the health & safety professional.

Vision Zero

Firstly the article talks of “vision zero”, an initiative designed to put a target of 0 incidents or injuries at work on health & safety professionals. Increasing numbers of companies are adopting this idea in a bid to keep their employees safe and it can be a key challenge for professionals working to achieve it. Websites such as healthandsafetyhub.co.uk openly share their target for 0 incidents and accidents.

Ageing Workforce

The HSE talks of our ageing workforce as more older workers both need and want to work past a certain age. This is now a key trend for those working in health & safety where additional considerations might include an increased likelihood of more serious injury from older workers if involved in an accident compared to younger workers, risk assessment reviews should these need to be adapted in any way and employee consultations to avoid any assumptions about older workers.

Additionally, it’s important to avoid making stereotypes about older workers too as these are often unfounded. Indeed, “62 per cent of over 50s describe themselves as feeling as fit as ever, with structural and (other people’s) attitudinal barriers thwarting their ability to stay involved [at work].”

Zero Hours Contracts

Whereas New Zealand has banned zero hours contracts, the Office of National Statistics has released data stating that the UK has more than 800,000 in force at the moment. The concern for healthy & safety professionals regarding this trend is that employers might take a view of diluted responsibility toward workplace risks.

Flexible Working

Flexible working continues to increase in popularity – with employees wanting this over and above any other perk. Employers are taking time to catch up though and there is considerable disparity between the number of individuals looking for flexible working and the number of positions offering this. This development is cited by Safety Management as having the potential to cause confusion among the profession.

Data and Digitalisation

Lastly, data is playing a growing part in the lives of professionals. Employee monitoring through devices that range from Fitbits to little black boxes under desks that measure occupancy levels needs to strike a delicate balance – promoting productivity rather than being invasive. The digitalisation of the workplace is another trend to consider as automation and AI affect our working day.

In addition to the above there is of course, consideration of the main two forms of sickness to recognise – MSKs and mental health of which the former can be treated effectively with occupational physiotherapy.

There’s a lot to consider in the wider world of employment for health & safety professionals working today – in addition to absence of course!

You can find out more about the effectiveness and ROI of occupational physiotherapy in treating absence by trying out our ROI calculator.

Gym Weights

EMS Training: What It Is & How It Works

EMS stands for Electric Muscle Stimulation and is a training technique used in gyms, beauty centres, sport, rehabilitation and medicine. We take a look at what it is and how it works on the body to improve muscle strength and tone.

What is EMS Training?

As the name suggests EMS training involves sending electrical impulses to the muscles to cause their contraction. By doing so muscle can be gained without harming or impacting the joints and it can be gained quickly through its activation of a large percentage of muscle fibres. Other benefits of EMS include a resulting improvement in strength and speed, body shaping and tightening of connective tissue.

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Welcome to the New Back in Action UK

If you have visited us online recently you’ll have noticed that we’re looking a little different. We’re always looking to align our brand with our core values as an organisation and as such have rebranded our logo and website design. See it below.

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New Evidence for Aging Workforce Supports Exercise as Treatment for Mobility Issues

A new study has elaborated further on prior evidence taken from a study suggesting that exercise programs can ease the burden of mobility issues in our aging workforce. We look at the findings, and how these fit into BIA UK’s existing philosophy.

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