On 4 June 2014, we will be celebrating the launch of the new Workplace Wellbeing Charter standards for England and so I am revisiting the issue of healthy workplaces and the need for all organisations to work to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff.
We all know that having a healthy workforce can reduce sickness absence, lower staff turnover and boost productivity. This is important not just for businesses and staff, but for the economy as a whole. It is a commonly used phrase but staff are any organisation’s greatest asset, and raising their productivity is an obvious way of improving organisational performance.
Workplace charters provide employers – of all sizes and sectors – with an easy and systematic way of driving these improvements in workplace health. Historically, there has been a patchwork of different programmes across the country, each with their own standards and reporting requirements. Some large organisations were unhappy that they were receiving different advice across their different sites with a lack of national coordination. For other businesses, the challenge was more around the lack of local support, as workplace charters are only available in certain localities. That is why PHE commissioned the charity Health@Work, along with Liverpool City Council, to establish a set of national standards in this area.
Building on their own workplace wellbeing charter the Liverpool team has brought together the best parts of other schemes from across the country. The result is the first ever set of national standards for workplace wellbeing. The Charter comes in three levels – commitment, achievement and excellence – each containing different standards that need to be achieved.
For newer organisations, the ‘commitment’ level can act as a useful checklist to ensure legal obligations are being met. More established organisations can use the ‘achievement’ and ‘excellence’ standards to drive forward their improvements in staff wellbeing. Each of the three levels will consider, in different ways, issues such as leadership, mental health, physical activity, smoking, alcohol and substance misuse, healthy eating, absence management and health and safety.
We encourage current providers of workplace wellbeing schemes to gravitate towards these new standards during the course of the year – bringing greater national consistency. This will allow employers to benchmark their performance, not just within their locality but across the whole country. Businesses will get a better feel for how well they are doing on improving staff health and wellbeing, and be able to seek inspiration and advice from other similar organisations.
For those areas of the country where no charter scheme exists, businesses can still make use of the toolkits and other resources, which are provided for free on the Charter website. You can find more information on these – and the standards themselves – here.
Featured image via NHS Image Library. Used under Crown Copyright.