Our people are our greatest asset.
It’s a great slogan to have and it’s one that is used time and time again on company websites and literature but what does it mean in practice. How do you, in fact, show your employees that not only do you value their efforts, you value them as people? It’s a question which cuts to the heart of employee engagement, and also has profound implications for areas such as employee longevity, productivity and customer satisfaction.
In truth, it’s a question which deserves a far more complete answer than can fit into one blog but one area which is receiving increasing traction is the recognition of the importance of working with employees to boost their overall levels of health. Being cynical, even without the employee engagement angle, the more healthy and fit your employees – the less likely they are to take time off through ill health.
The late autumn has maybe lulled many of us into a false sense of security, but before long inevitably the weather will turn colder, bringing with it a crop of colds and flu. Employers can take a few simple steps to help to contain the spread of illness within the office, firstly by ensuring that areas within an office such as telephones, shared keyboards and so on are regularly sanitised and secondly by encouraging people who are ill to stay at home.
On an ongoing basis, encouraging employees to improve their fitness levels can make a measurable difference. According to UKactive a general lack of exercise, across the UK population is responsible for some 37,000 deaths every year, as well as costing the economy £20billion per annum. Calling for a personal trainer to be put in every GP surgery, UKactive quotes research which indicates that 29% of the UK population can be classed as inactive, failing to do just 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week.
Whilst UKactive is calling for government action, businesses too can make small but significant changes in order to help their employees to increase activity levels. Ideas range from providing access to activity classes in lunchtimes to subsidising sporting activities. Even small changes such as encouraging employees to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour or offering standing desks can make a measurable difference.
In fact, standing desks are becoming increasingly popular not only in businesses but in schools as well. One school in West Yorkshire which ran a standing desk trial reported that taking turns in working at the standing desk improved pupils’ levels of concentration and focus. Having said that, standing desks won’t be for everyone, particularly if they are allied to a treadmill! This brings us on to an important lesson; people are individuals and whilst it is good for employers to encourage improved fitness levels, any attempt to impose mandatory actions will be seen less as care for welfare and more as dictatorial control. The golden rule here, as in so much else is to work in collaboration with your people for a mutually beneficial outcome.