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In this, National Work Life Week, it felt right for me to start a new series of articles on the topic of health and wellbeing.

The words health and wellbeing are ubiquitous in today’s society. Companies and institutions like to pronounce that they have the wellbeing of their employees, students, volunteers at the heart of what they do. But a written policy and a general idea of the notion is one thing, it may seem to tick all the boxes for you as a good and decent employer. But what does it actually mean for youin a practical way?

 In my work, I see many great companies in all sizes and forms, knowing the job inside-out. They have put their heart and soul into putting the processes in place to kickstart and grow a business. But then business growth means taking on employees and all too often, as an employer, they are not quite in tune with the people who work for them. It’s understandable, anyone who has ever started up a business knows that you work at putting in place everything yourself, from the contents of the stationery cupboard to the efficient and caring customer service. But when it comes to the people who do the work in the company, businesses can often get a little lost after the interview and induction.

In this first blog, I’d like to get you thinking about the ways in which you can encourage a culture of physical health and wellbeing in your business. It’s as easy as taking a break.

A good place to start for all employers is an environmental audit. No, it doesn’t have to be as onerous as you may think. It can be as simple as paying attention to the physical habits and routines of the people in your office. We know the importance of physical health and the role that diet and movement plays in this. But do you know or encourage opportunities for maintaining that physical health at work, by both example and encouragement?

A survey undertaken by Reed noted that nearly 70% of UK workers don’t take a full lunch break. I can’t emphasis enough how bad this can be for your company. So here are three simple questions and suggestions to get your audit started:

  1. Encourage your employees to take some time to break away from their computer, both to recharge their bodies and their brains. Make the break room or office kitchen inviting – get good quality coffee for a machine, a range of teas or even just a cafetière. Throw the chipped mugs away, and if you are a more affluent company, order fresh fruit baskets on a weekly basis for everyone to share.
  2. Make a “no-eating at your desk” policy for all, including yourself. Again, encourage a culture of self-care and productivity and have a place set aside for people to get away from their work and unwind.
  3. Do your employees use all their holiday entitlement? If not, why not? It is a good idea to get to the bottom of the reasons to avoid any assumptions about the work culture you may inadvertently by modelling. I advise business owners to reassure their employees that it is expected they take all of their holiday. Also consider giving them Google or Virgin type way of addressing their holidays. Their model is not as simple as giving them free reign on holidays. These large successful companies have performance related targets in place to ensure that excellent work is done. Of course, we do have to watch for serial offenders and that’s why performance management is so important. But if this is not possible for you, consider instead adding one extra day to holidays for people’s birthdays. 

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