• The life sciences industry is no stranger to promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, with businesses in the sector advancing innovative solutions through research and development. But what about the health of those working within the industry? Is the well-being of your staff something you actively look at? Do you encourage your employees to share new ideas and promote opportunities to learn?

    This is exactly what the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) is hoping to address, in issuing new guidelines for improving the health and wellbeing of employees. It is intended that these basic principles can be applied by all employers in all sectors.

    Why is this important?

    NICE recognises that there is great value (both physically and economically) in a healthy workforce and that an employee’s performance and job satisfaction will improve when employers invest in the wellbeing of their staff.

    Statistics from the HSE demonstrate that during 2013/2014, 1.2 million people suffered from a work-related illness, leading to a loss of 28.2 million working days through illness and workplace injury in 2013/014. This cost society an estimated £14.2 billion.

    Increased job satisfaction, greater loyalty and an increased reputation for businesses are some of the benefits advanced by NICE of improving the health of employees through improved workplace practices.

    How can this be achieved?

    The focus of the guidelines is on enabling culture changes in organisations, so that line managers, in particular, are given more flexibility and power to support worker’s health and wellbeing. The NICE guidance includes the following recommendations:

    • Ensure fairness and justice throughout the organisation – managers should be aware that all levels of management have a responsibility to comply with proper procedures and legal obligations. Policies should be fair, and any unfair treatment should be addressed as a matter of priority. Line managers should be able to point employees in the direction of support if they feel they have been unfairly treated.
    • Empower line managers to enhance employee’s health and wellbeing at work – Senior managers should acknowledge that line managers have an important role in protecting and improving the health and wellbeing of those they manage. Line managers should be given adequate training, time and resources to be able to balance the performance needed by the business on one hand, with concern for the well-being of their employees on the other.
    • Develop a positive line management style – “transformational leadership” should be adopted. This means encouraging creativity and new ideas and giving employees the opportunity to learn. Line managers should support and encourage employees and build a supportive relationship by being published and approachable and acting as a mentor.
    • Ensure jobs and work patterns are designed to have a positive effect on health and wellbeing – As far as possible, line managers should be flexible and allow employees control and flexibility over their time. Line managers should encourage employees to be involved in designing their own role.

    Practical Steps Organisational change is not something that will happen overnight, but there are some more straightforward steps that businesses can put in place to start promoting a health workforce including:

    • Have effective policies in place dealing with anti-harassment and bullying, equality and diversity and discrimination;
    • Make sure employees work reasonable hours and take regular breaks;
    • Work with employees to agree personal development plans and provide regular feedback; and
    • Provide training for line managers in areas such as communication skills and managing sickness absence and increase their awareness of support available for employees suffering from wellbeing issues.

    The full NICE guidance on Workplace Policy and Management Practices to Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Employees can be accessed here.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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