East Anglia: Firms urged to sign up to Staying Healthy at Work programme

TWO leading Suffolk businesses are championing a campaign which encourages employers to promote good health within their workforces.

Ipswich Building Society and Adnams are backing a new Staying Healthy at Work programme (SHAW) under which employers commit to a simple five-step framework to introduce health and wellbeing practices to the workplace.

The SHAW initiative involves the Employer Network, a collaborative movement of employers who have agreed to work together to improve the health and productivity of individuals, businesses and the community in the East of England, and is being run in partnership by NHS East of England and Business in the Community (BITC).

Gary Theobald, head of human resources at NHS East of England, said: “People in Britain work the longest hours in Europe, with an average of 42.4 hours a week compared to a European average of 40.5 hours, yet the country lags behind the rest of the developed world in most productivity measures.

“Simply put, employees’ level of wellness can sustain or erode their level of engagement or productivity. We are asking employers to join the Employer Network and sign up to the framework to demonstrate a commitment to taking action on wellbeing and to improve the health of businesses in the region.”

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Paul Winter, chief executive of Ipswich Building Society, and Sadie Lofthouse, HR manager at Southwold-based Adnams, have been appointed employer champions for the programme as both organisations have already implemented healthy workplace approaches.

They will share best practice and highlight the benefits of signing up to the SHAW programme including the free support and tips available to increase employee engagement and reduce sick days.

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Healthy workplace initiatives in place at Ipswich Building Society include flexible working policies, a well equipped staff room and garden area for employees to use on breaks, organised NHS health checks in the workplace, yoga groups and a special room dedicated to staying healthy at work which includes a Wii Fit.

Mr Winter, who chairs the programme’s champion group, said: “We believe we have a responsibility to look after our employees’ mental and physical welfare. By putting their wellbeing first, we significantly reduced our sickness absence in 2010 which we believe is a direct result of our ethos.”

Initiatives at Adnams include holistic therapies such as reflexology and aromatherapy, fitness and dietary advice, blood pressure and cholesterol health checks and walking clubs tailored to people’s abilities including a Nordic walking club.

Ms Lofthouse said: “Adnams has been investing in a range of health and well-being initiatives for some years now and have strong evidence on the benefits these bring to the workplace.

“It needn’t cost lots of money; it’s all about inspiring and encouraging your staff. In a small business it is the little things that make all the difference.”

Debbi Christophers, head of business development at BITC, said: “Research shows that a structured workplace health and wellbeing programme can reduce sickness absence by an average 30% to 40% and that engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged ones.

“Businesses should not feel like they have to tackle these issues alone. By signing up to the Employer Network they will be able to join forces with businesses of all sizes in the region which are facing similar challenges to share ideas and resources.”

n For information about SHAW and to join the Employer Network visit www.stayinghealthyatwork.co.uk/employernetwork .

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