Why Senior Leadership Teams Need Occupational Health

21/04/23 – Blog, Occupational Health

The headwinds are fierce, but we’re all being told, just like we were by D:Ream, that things can only get better. Whilst we all hope this to be the case, leadership teams in growing businesses don’t have the luxury of time and wishful thinking. They want to take action now to preserve their past successes and fortify their business model for immediate strength and future competitiveness. That’s where occupational health comes in.

It’s time to start managing employee health properly

“Employees are our most valuable asset” is a familiar statement that has sadly become a virtue-signalling cliché in the sense that it is said more than it is actually, demonstratively meant. However, in this post-Covid era of altered work-life expectations, shrinking talent pools, hyper-aggressive recruitment markets and the automation of many non-skilled tasks mean this is very much a seller’s market when it comes to employment. So, if you’re seeking mid- to long-term direction, employees are actually your most valuable asset, and you need have a maintenance plan in place or else risk serious depreciation (financial analogy over, but you get the picture).

Occupational health used to mean delivering medical screening and filtering the non-medical from the medically relevant in terms of fitness for duties. It still does provide these business-critical services, but increasingly it also provides total employee health solutions, incorporating mental and physical wellbeing tools, training content and educational material for employees and managers, absence management tools, industry-specific consultancy, and clinical risk-assessment for workplaces.

Health and productivity is often a thorny, misunderstood issue, particularly where union representation is involved, and a relationship with a decent occupational health provider is therefore crucial. In most cases, for a Senior Leadership Team, they will act as your employee health strategist, helping you to minimise risk and maximise attendance and productive hours while improving the employee-employer dialogue.

Occupational Health - Employee Health

So, let’s relate this to some of the key business enablers and challenges in 2023:

Doing more with the same

Few organisations are in a position to hire speculatively at present, and growth, or maintaining current position and profitability, needs to be achieved with a lean, optimised workforce. The elephant in the room here is staff absence, which, depending on age, ranges from from 2.2% to 4.9% (or 4.6 days to 10.1 days per year) due to sickness absence – that’s separate to annual leave. To put that into context, if you offer anything above Statutory Sick Pay, you probably pay the equivalent of c.£500-£1000 for every employee, each year, whilst they are too unwell to work. In addition, staff who are present but operating on adjusted or restricted duties will limit your productive output further.

At Medigold Health we regularly observe organisations with > 6% absence levels, but also those with <2% absence levels.  The crucial difference? The culture that each has towards communicating clear and reasonable policies; early, positive intervention when ill health strikes; using and acting on occupational health advice; and auditing how successful they are at resolving long-term absences, or at least identifying the main drivers of them.

What’s in it for your Senior Leadership Team? Well, from what we’ve seen with the clients we work with, anything from between a 5% to 20% increase in productive hours, plus a better sense of how well-resourced you truly are.

Retention, retention, retention

If you aren’t scared by the recruitment landscape in 2023, then you’re not paying attention. There are more jobs than people who want them, and giving people what they want is harder than ever. Just to be clear, employee health benefits provision isn’t a wage inflation-busting alternative to salary; however, if you already reward your people well and provide career opportunities, then becoming an attentive, fast-acting and health-aware employer is the next best way to secure the trust and commitment of those you rely on every day to make your business what it is. Got an engineer stressed-out by caring for children and elderly parents? An Account Manager who wants to change their diet and lifestyle for the better? Or an MD suffering with shoulder pain? Modern occupational health will help each of these people to build resilience, change their behaviour and recover quicker, and guess what? They’ll thank you for it! (It’s OK, we don’t mind.)

The new contract

Emerging from the wreckage of the pandemic is a new contract which employees from all generations are coming to expect from their employers – that of Good Work. This term is intentionally rather vague as it needs to apply to all work, irrespective of task, nature or rank, but it challenges Senior Leadership Teams across the UK to consider whether the jobs they offer are indeed ‘Good’. Now, if you’re still scoffing, reflect again on the recruitment market and you’ll realise just how important it is that your administrator/ driver/ manager/ developer/ customer service advisor/ technician/ analyst role is considered to be a good one.

Good can mean:

– A driver role with sympathetic shift patterns and planned breaks in line with the working time directive, a well-maintained vehicle which is ergonomically suited to a 10-hour drive, and access for the driver to educational material on sleeping habits, preparing healthy lunches and stretching out tight muscles.

– A general manager role with a 4-1 flexible working arrangement per week, ergonomic laptop and hot-desk set up, responsible Company Directorship to govern work-life balance, online GP access, and educational material to help them pursue fitness goals or get better at switching off outside of work.

A good occupational health provider (or ‘Good’, if you like) will help inform your Leadership Team (both via the services it offers and in identifying areas of health-risk) as it seeks to define what Good Work means, and how to get closer to it. Again, this isn’t all to do with health, but health and wellbeing (both actual and perceived) is a big component.

Help is out there

If you’re anything like the 80% of the UK’s small or medium-sized organisations who don’t currently provide access to occupational health services, this might all seem quite foreign. In simply reading and considering all of the above, you’re already at a competitive advantage; but don’t stop there.

All-in-one occupational health solutions for growing employers are increasing in availability and affordability all the time, thanks in part to new emphasis and funding from the UK Government, who recognises the nascent benefits to the UK economy of providing better in-work support – namely things such as increased productive hours, reduced long-term sickness and lower staff attrition. This help is continuing, and potential credits and tax reliefs on occupational health use will favour those who know what they’re purchasing and why. So don’t wait for the storm to pass – act on employee health by getting in touch with us today and build resilience, efficiency, and supportiveness into your business model in 2023.

Occupational Health - Employee Health

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1000 Companies to inspire Britain 2019
1000 Companies to inspire Britain 2018
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Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Service
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