PATH Yorkshire have invited me to speak at a workshop on 19th July at Shine in Leeds, about the change management processes that will help an organisation introduce a more proactive approach to the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.
The invitation arrives in the wake of a visit to Leeds by HRH Prince Harry during which he spoke about the need for everyone to be more open about mental health issues and accepting that everyone is has an equal potential of having a mental health challenge.
At the same time, I have spoken to employers who whilst keen to talk positively in support of the Prince’s message are reluctant to acknowledge that their employees are at risk or that their way of working may put people at risk. I get an overwhelming feeling that a lot of employers are in denial. So, being asked to continue the conversation about mental health is quite a privilege.
I will be looking at how an individual within an organisation, regardless of whether they are a HR professional or not can build a case for introducing a proactive approach to employee physical and mental health and wellbeing.
We will look at the processes of building the business case and identifying how to position that proposition so that it is readily accepted by a senior management team and implemented.
This event comes at a time when the reluctance of employers to be involved in the management of employee health is having an impact on productivity and the number of employees with health issues is increasing. A recent survey of 2,000 UK workers conducted by PwC found that just over a third (34%) were struggling with a mental health issue, most commonly anxiety, depression and stress. Mental Health charity, Mind, says that a quarter (26 per cent) of staff with mental health issues thought work was the main cause.
Part of the problem is as the Heads Together campaign launched by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge says people are not talking about mental health. There is a way to go before people can feel comfortable about it.
Research published by insurer Legal & General shows that fewer than one in 10 employees would feel comfortable discussing mental health problems with their manager. They just do not have the confidence in their managers, but 78 per cent of those managers think their staff would be happy to have a conversation with them about their mental health. So, it is easy for managers to believe that if the employee is not starting that conversation, perhaps there isn’t a problem?
If the conversation isn’t happening, and there is no published policy about health and wellbeing, and no health-related benefits, more than half (54 per cent) of the employees surveyed by PwC said that their employer did not offer any health perks, such as subsidised gym membership, health screenings or counselling, then neither the manager or the employee knows what the other is thinking. You end up with a situation in which research published by insurer Aviva found that as many as 43% of employees feel that they employers value productivity more highly than the health of their employees.
It all starts to feel somewhat dark satanic mills.
But, if productivity is what concerns you, the PwC research identified that 39% of employees take time off or cut back on the work that they were doing as a result of their health, and 83% described their levels of productivity being strongly linked to their well-being. This results in an absence figure of 27 days per year per employee according to the Financial Times. Add that to an employee’s holiday entitlement and you could be looking at an average employee only being at work for just over 9 months of the year.
Add this to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics which show that overall UK productivity is falling, as measured by output per hour, is estimated to have fallen by 0.5% from Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2016 to Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017; over a longer time-period, labour productivity growth has been lower on average than prior to the economic downturn.
All the evidence over a long period of time identifies that healthier, happier employees are better performers, they stay, they have a long-term impact on cost reduction and have fewer accidents.
So why aren’t businesses more interested in maintaining employee health?
In part, the perception of employees that productivity is more important has an element of truth.
As employers, we do not understand enough about what makes one employee more productive than another or what make one employee more susceptible to illness than their colleagues. What we do know is that successful businesses take a proactive approach to managing both productivity and employee health and absence.
The first step is to make sure that your senior managers are on-board with the approach and that is what we will explore at the event on 19th July.
Well, it has arrived the day on which I arrived in the world! There have been quite a few days like this, not quite too many to mention but too many for me to consider it anything other than a number any more.
It’s supposed to be a special day, your birthday, but somehow just like other celebrations Christmas, Easter, and despite my resolve to do something different I end up doing the same thing by way of celebration as I do every year.
If my birthday falls on a working-day, there will be the ritual trip to the local bakers and purchase of a range of cakes so that everyone in the office and any friendly visitors can fill their face. At lunch-time there will also be the walk to the pub for the team and a slap-up carvery lunch.
Well perhaps not this year?
Being generous on days like today, in the name of celebrations, could be according to the Faculty of Dental Surgery be contributing to the health problems my colleagues have.
Cake and biscuits at work, on celebration days and on those days when someone somewhere in the world is having a birthday are fuelling obesity and poor oral health.
The problem that I am contributing to is caused by the consumption of sugary snacks in-between meals.
Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons, suggests that in order, to cut back on sugar intake eating should be restricted to meal times. Which would mean no afternoon cake break.
The reason for this is that when we eat sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals, the bacteria in plaque feed on these carbohydrates and produce acid which causes tooth decay.
So, no cakes this afternoon.
But the Professor wants to see a cultural change in offices and other workplaces that encourages healthy eating and helps workers avoid caving in to sweet temptations such as cakes, sweets and biscuits.”
Whilst as Beedle says ‘a little bit of homemade cake is going to kill anybody, people are inclined to eat it if it’s there.’ The mantra of all things in moderation seems to go out of the window.
We all, I suppose, need to start to see food as fuel and not consume the calories that are just not worth it.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery suggests keeping a “sugar schedule” to track your intake.
I am inclined to agree, but another former Bake Off contestant, Christine Wallace, from the 2013 series, said: “I think this is yet another example of the ‘nanny’ state trying to shape our lives when it really isn’t really necessary.
So, there will be no cakes in the office this afternoon.
The 2014 series winner Nancy Birtwhistle said banning cake was “not the solution” adding: that she firmly believed that snacking between meals, sugary drinks and junk food are at the root of our obesity and dental caries problem – not the occasional slice of celebratory cake.
So, the cakes are back on. But we will be following the advice of the Faculty of Dental Surgery which has released tips on how to cut down sugar consumption in the workplace:
So, alright cakes, albeit small cakes are on this afternoon.
It seems like a strange thing to celebrate; a record number of people so unhappy about their work that they resort to the tribunal system as the only way to find a solution, but that is what the Departmant of Justice has done.
In a report published yesterday, 31 January 2017 the Department says that more than 92,000 people bought forward workplace disputes to the tribunal system in 2016 – the highest number since employment tribunal fees were introduced.
It is the bit about the figure being a record since the intoduction of fees that it seems is worth celebrating. Fees for taking a case to a Tribubal were introduced in 2013, just three years ago, as an attempt to reduce the number of ‘have a go’ claims so that employers could be saved the costs of dealing with the claim and Tribunals could focus on genuine cases, .
The Department has not compared the 2016 figure to the number of cases brought before the introduction of fees.
There is always going to be a question about the number of workplace injustices that go unchallenged because the workers affected can not afford to stand-up for their rights, but the Government claims that the introduction of tribunal fees has dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved.
The Government are claiming that the introduction of tribunal fees, alongside free mediation services, has dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved. It also claims that thousands more people will be able to access work place justice with the introduction of an extended scheme to waive fees for lowest paid workers.
That means that the monthly income threshold for full fee remission will increase from £1,085 to £1,250 – broadly the equivalent of someone earning the National Living Wage. There are additional allowances for people living as couples and those with children.
The big challenge for the Government in this area as in so many is how does it help not just those on the National Living Wage, but those people who earn just a bit more but do not have access to the financial resources to fund a claim. The people that Prime Minister Theresa May described as the ‘Just About Managing’
Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald said:
It is right that those who can afford to should contribute to the cost of Employment Tribunals, but under the extended Help with Fees scheme, more people would not pay a fee and others will contribute less than under current arrangements.
The extended scheme would benefit the disabled, women, Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals, and the young, who all feature disproportionately among low income groups.
The Government has also decided to exempt from fees a small number of proceedings related to payments made from the National Insurance Fund, as in most cases the applicant is unable to conciliate or recover fees.
While many have chosen not to bring employment tribunal claims, the review found nothing to suggest they have been prevented from doing so, and that higher numbers turning to ACAS is a “positive outcome”.
It also found:
Alongside the Review the Government is also launching a consultation, which seeks to raise awareness of the Help with Fees scheme, and highlight how thousands more would qualify for help.
Ministers will bring forward further plans to improve legal support in a Green Paper by early 2018, while the Prison and Courts Bill, due to be published shortly, will make it simpler to access justice and enable thousands more people to bring cases online.
Help with making access to justice available to everyone, equally is important, but prevention is better than cure and the Government might do better to acknowledge that many employment disputes could be avoided if managers and employees understood how to make their relationship work properly. The UK still has too many unqualified managers and too many workers who have been tutored in the ‘them and us’ culture of industrial relations.
The rise in internet shopping has created a huge increase in the number of deliveries being made by an equally increasing number of delivery companies and independent couriers.
These deliveries are not always made to the customers home address. The problem of having to wait in for a delivery has been eliminated by the increasing number of employers that allow employees to receive their shopping at work.
In some areas of central London as many as 78% of employers have given employees the opportunity to take deliveries at work.
It all adds up to a lot of vehicles on the roads and probably worse parked half on the pavement and half on the road.
Add to that the health issues of the extra pollution that extra vehicles create especially when they are left unattended with their engine running, and you have a convenience for shoppers that results in a lot of inconvenience for every one else.
The problems are not limited to road users and from an employers perspective it also creates extra workload for reception and security teams as they sign for the deliveries.
The solution may be at hand with the launch of a new service in London that allows companies to consolidate all their numerous deliveries into one delivery a day.
It is a similar concept to the centralised distribution centres that are used by the major retailers and which I was involved in introducing when I worked at ASDA.
The supermarkets wanted to reduce the number of lorries arriving at their stores, because each delivery cost money. So they got suppliers to deliver to a central warehouse. In the warehouse the deliveries from different suppliers where consolidated into one lorry load that would be delivered to the store.
It is such a simple solution I wonder why it has taken so long for it to be applied to other types of deliveries.
Now if you work in one of 320 businesses in the area around Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles Daily you can receive both business and by the end of February 2017 your staff will be able to receive personal deliveries via the new service.
It works in exactly the same way as the supermarket model. You arrange for your deliveries to be sent to a central address and then they all arrive at your premises at one time.
You essentially take control of deliveries to your premises.
No more deliveries when important clients are arriving, no more meetings interrupted by someone being called to sign for a parcel, it’s cheaper, it’s greener so the benefits seem multiple.
I am hoping that Bee London Chief Executive Tass Mavrogordato, will expand the service to other parts of the congested cities, but at the moment the mission is to find practical solutions to the everyday problems our businesses face in this midtown area of London.
Looking at the big picture David McNeill, Director of Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement of TfL, says that BeeLondon and TfL have worked together to support businesses in Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles to receive deliveries in a green and efficient way that works for them. This helps business to reduce costs and improve their trading environment – both important factors in maintaining this growing district’s competitiveness, improve air quality and a reduction in congestion. ”
I think it’s great!
Michael Millward joined the BBC Radio York Drive Time show this afternoon to tell them about the Northern CIPD conference that he had attended in York over the weekend.
The Conference theme was positive people so many of the key note speakers and those in the individual seminars had chosen to discuss how the levels of positive attitudes amongst employees often depends on how engaged they are with their employer.
Mr Millward explained that employee engagement might sound like just another HR buzz word, but essentially it can be defined as how interested an employee is in their work and indeed how much they care about doing a good job.
Many studies have identified that highly engaged employees are more productive and take less time off as the result of sickness than employees who can be described as less engaged.
The conference was held at York racecourse, which gave the organisers the opportunity to have Sarah Kreutzer from Learning to Listen, do a presentation on how the techniques that some people describe as horse whispering can be used to demonstrate employee engagement and leadership.
Obviously Michael just had to have a go!
The horse was a former show-jumper and eventing horse called Paco.
Sarah had demonstrated two different leadership techniques using Paco, the first leading from the front showed how Paco would simply follow wherever Sarah walked. The second was leading from behind in which Sarah encouraged Paco to move forward and even to change pace from just behind him.
It all looked so easy said Mr Millward who was set the challenge of getting Paco to jump over a small pole in the centre of the parade ring, by leading him from behind.
But he had not taken account of Paco having a mind of his own and more interest in eating grass than being led from behind.
The more Paco resisted and found that walking around the pole was much easier the more frustrated Mr Millward later admitted he was getting and also the closer he was getting to Paco.
This proximity was the problem; horses are herd animals and gather closer together at times of danger.
Once more round the parade ring said Mr Millward to Sarah, but this time keeping a bit more distance between him and Paco.
Wow! Paco went exactly where he was supposed to and jumped over the low pole.
The lesson explained Mr Millward was that as managers we often delegate a task to an employee and then instead of letting them get on with it we over monitor them. Although what we want to do is be there if something goes wrong, the message that we give our employees is that we do not trust them. They start to feel nervous and resort to the activities that appear to be the easy route and techniques that they are most familiar with.
Let go! Give your employees some freedom and just like Paco they do exactly what you wanted them to do.
It just takes a bit of trust, to create an engaged employee.