Workplace Health and Well-Being: An Interview with Gil Barton
Our notion of work has significantly changed from being a mere activity we engage in for monetary gain, to an integral part of our sense of meaning and satisfaction with life. Indeed, evidence is increasingly highlighting the important influence of the workplace psychosocial environment on health and well-being. At the same time, the adoption of rapidly improving technology means we live in a highly interconnected world with fast-evolving business environments where certainty has become a luxury. Hence, there is even greater pressure on employees to be more creative and produce better results, which impacts mental health and stress levels.
More than ever, there is a need to develop and implement strategies that can improve workplace health and well-being. A workforce is the most valuable asset to any organisation and there exists a persuasive amount of evidence on the relationship between work and health and well-being. Given the amount of time we spend in the workplace, it provides an exploitable opportunity to not only promote healthy living, but also empower employees to be responsible for their own well-being.
The Benefits of Adopting a Workplace Well-Being Strategy
A bespoke workplace well-being strategy can provide a framework to take effective and inclusive approaches to improving both the health of employees and the organisation. A good strategy will yield invaluable benefits, such as reducing sickness, increasing productivity, providing a safe working environment, improving staff morale and work satisfaction, and enhancing recruitment and retention rates.
In a bid to gain more insight into workplace health and well-being, I spoke to Gil Barton, a Corporate Health and Well-Being Consultant and Founder of The Healthy Workstyles Consultancy (HWC).
Q&A with Gil Barton
1. The concept of a Workplace Health and Well-being strategy is relatively new in most milieus. What motivated you to create The Healthy Workstyles Consultancy?
My passion for workplace health and well-being stretches back to over a decade, and I find this area of work very exciting. With my background being in health promotion, I am familiar with the benefits and challenges involved. My desire to design innovative, creative, and collaborative approaches to workplace health and well-being led to the creation of The Healthy Workstyles Consultancy.
2. How does defining a strategy for health and well-being within the workplace boost employee performance and an organisation’s productivity?
A bespoke health and well-being strategy must align with corporate values and culture. It should be “bottom-up” and organic in nature to ensure engagement and sustainability. You cannot “make” people healthy without there being a desire to change unhealthy behaviours, education, knowledge sharing, and understanding the causes of ill health.
In the UK in 2016, over 137 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury. Wales and Scotland reported the highest sickness absence rates at 2.6% and 2.5%, respectively. Furthermore, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, obesity, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases resulted in 39.5 million deaths globally in 2015. No employer can escape the reality of these challenges and rather than being reactive to issues when they arise, being proactive can save time and money in the long-term. After all, a healthy and happy employee is a productive one who will be committed to the company. There is increasing recognition that workplace health and well-being needs to come out of Human Resources and into the boardroom.
3. There is often a clear line between our work and personal lives. Can the effects of good workplace health and well-being translate to the personal lives of employees?
Absolutely! The impact of a good workplace health and well-being programme can go beyond the workplace and have a positive impact on not only the employee. Prevention, self-management, and health promotion are areas that go beyond the workplace and into the family and wider community.
At a basic level, examples of this are:
• Increasing physical activity, smoking cessation, and drug and alcohol awareness lead to a reduction in the associated risks of NCDs. The employee becomes a positive role model within the family.
• Changing job dissatisfaction to job satisfaction can have a significant impact on individual self-esteem, engagement, and, therefore, productivity. A happier and relaxed employee will undoubtedly have a positive impact on their family.
4. Workplace health and well-being are neglected in certain areas of the world, such as developing countries. How can tailored strategies improve these areas?
A well-designed and integrated health and well-being strategy that aligns with corporate values and culture can become a focal point for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Increasingly, there is evidence of corporations implementing CSR health initiatives that are both internal and external. A great example of this is the DROP/FOR/DROP initiative by People Water, which helps develop sources of clean water, improve sanitation and hygiene, as well as improve health in a community. Another example is the Gates Foundation, which has been so successful in philanthropic work, particularly in relation to poverty, inequality, and infectious diseases. There is no doubt that aligned health and well-being strategies and CSR initiatives can make a significant difference to the lives of those living in developing countries.
5. What do you see as the future for workplace health and well-being?
In an ideal world, the workplace of the future will be a happier and healthier one with employee well-being being at the forefront. Long working hours will be recognised as being unhealthy and unproductive. Organisations will value their employees and this will be reciprocal.
Health and well-being strategies within the workplace are a crucial element of developing and supporting employees to be happy, healthy, and productive workers. Health is so integral to both the personal and working life of us all that organisations can no longer ignore its importance. I for one believe it should be prioritised just as much as the mandatory physical health and safety policies. Interestingly, I interviewed Gil months ago and due to my own lack of work-life balance, it has taken me some time to post this. Finally getting this blog up has inspired me to take a look at my own work-life balance. My personal health and well-being is vital to the health of my business. Thank you Gil!