Dealing With Stress In Your Workplace?

Workplace stress affects productivity. It affects the physical and emotional health of your employees.

It is a leading cause of sickness absence – in fact, statistics show that stress is behind one in even five visits to the GP as it causes an array of symptoms – some more obvious than others. You can find out more about the symptoms of stress in a previous OHBM article here.

As an employer you should carry out sufficient risk assessments to identify areas of potential stress. And tackle any problems identified.

OHBM uses audit tools to identify stress issues. We can refer at short notice to experienced psychologists for stress management, assessment and treatment programs.

For more information about how workforce stress has the potential to affect your business, contact OHBM today.

How To Stop The Spread Of Infectious Illnesses Throughout Your Workplace

Illnesses and infections such as influenza and norovirus are are very contagious, and can spread quickly in a workplace environment, leading to increased levels of sickness absence amongst employees.

Infection can be spread through indirect contact with a person with an illness. For example, when employees touch phones, computers, or other devices, germs can be spread from person to person with ease. Worryingly, some viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours.

In work environments where many people work closely together it can seem as though the spread of these illnesses is unavoidable. However, there are things that can be done to minimise their spread, and their impact on the sickness absence levels within the company.

1. Regular hand washing
A process as simple as cleaning your hands can seriously reduce the amount of germs spread between people. Eighty per cent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, and by washing hands frequently and thoroughly, illnesses like these could be reduced.

As an employer consider educating employees about the importance of washing their hands after using the toilet, and before having lunch. The WHO provides the following infographic teaching how to properly wash your hands, and advises that the task should take as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

How to wash your hands

How to wash your hands – by The WHO

2. Hand santisation
Encouraging the use of hand sanitiser amongst staff can also help prevent against the spread of illness. Consider installing hand sanitiser in company WCs or distributing bottles amongst staff. Non-alcohol based hand sanitiser solutions form a barrier on hands which protect against germs and bacteria, such as norovirus, for several hours.

3. Encourage infected employees to stay at home
To avoid transmission of viruses amongst employees, it is vital that those infected with the illness don’t return to work while they are still ill. Make employees aware that for illnesses like norovirus they should not return to work for 48 hours after their symptoms have gone. Returning early could be the difference between one employee sickness absence, and a large chunk of the workforce.

4. Keep on top of cleaning
If there is an outbreak of infectious illness amongst your staff it could be wise to draft in professional cleaning staff to clean and sanitise the area asap.

Illnesses do happen, but by following these simple rules for effective hygiene your workforce could protect itself against high levels of sickness absence, and the associated impacts to your business. For further information about reducing sickness absence, contact OHBM.

What Are The Effects Of Sickness Absence On Your Workplace?

Absent staff

1.0 Introduction
1.1 How much does sickness absence cost per year?
1.2 How many days, on average, do employees have off sick?
1.3 Does sickness absence differ across public and private sector organisations?
1.4 What are the main reasons for employee sickness?
1.5 Do men or women have higher level of sickness absence?
1.6 Does the age of employees contribute to sickness absence?
2.0 Impacts of sickness absence
3.0 What’s the answer to sickness absence?
4.0 Conclusion
5.0 Get in touch with OHBM

1.0 Introduction
A few sick days a year might not seem like too much of an issue for a single employee, but combined they make a huge impact on the bottom line of a business, and on the UK economy as a whole. OHBM Ltd has researched and compiled information from some of the latest studies into sickness absence so you can see its impact on UK organisations.

1.1 How much does sickness absence cost per year?
For UK organisations the yearly cost of sickness absence is now in the region of £29 billion, according to recent research by the CIPD. (Source: HR Magazine)

1.2 How many days, on average, do employees have off sick?
In 2013, 131 million working days were lost due to sickness – an average of 4.4 per employee (Source: Part of Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, 2014 Release). However, there have been real improvements over the last ten years. In 1993, around 7.2 days per employee were lost according to the ONS.

1.3 Does sickness absence differ across public and private sector organisations?
Staff sickness is a problem for both public sector organisations but typically, the public sector has seen the highest level of absenteeism. The ONS shows that public sector workers are 24 per cent more likely to take time off due to sickness than their private sector counterparts.

Sickness absence in the public sector has seen a slight increase over the last year. In the NHS it rose by 0.22 per cent in the year from September 2013 to September 2014, figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show. Overall sickness absence has risen to 4.16 per cent in September 2014 from 3.94 per cent in September 2013. (Source:

The highest sickness absence rates of 3.4 per cent were seen within Health Authorities and NHS Trusts. (Source: ONS)

As expected, self-employed individuals were less likely than employees to have sickness absences.

1.4 What are the main reasons for employee sickness?
According to the Office of National Statistics, in descending order the leading causes of sickness absence in the UK are:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions – i.e. neck and back pain (31 million days lost)
  • Minor illnesses like the common cold (27 million days lost)
  • Mental health issues including depression, anxiety and stress (15 million days lost)

(Source: ONS)

Mental health is becoming an increasing concern for workplaces. The Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) Annual Report: Public Mental Health, 2014 said: “More needs to be done to help people with mental illness stay in work, as since 2009, the number of working days lost to ‘stress, depression and anxiety’ has increased by 24% and the number lost to serious mental illness has doubled.” (Source: )

1.5 Do men or women have higher level of sickness absence?
Statistically, women were 42 per cent more likely to have a period of sickness than men, according to ONS research. In 2013, men lost 1.6 per cent of their total working hours because of sickness, while women lost 2.6 per cent.

1.6 Does the age of employees contribute to sickness absence?
As employees get older, the rate of sickness absence increases. However it declines after employees become eligible for the state pension. (Source: ONS)

2.0 Impacts of sickness absence

Sickness absence has numerous impacts on businesses and other organisations, both direct and indirect. These include:

  • Reduction in productivity due to less workers.
  • Obligations to pay the salary or sick pay of absent workers.
  • Having to find, train and pay for temporary cover.
  • The possibility of reduced customer satisfaction.
  • Reduction in motivation and morale from the other staff.

Other employees having to bear the extra workload, which has the potential to lead to overwork, stress, and further sickness absence.
An Aviva study showed that 15 per cent of organisations asked as part of a survey said they struggle to cover the cost of a temp as well as the absent employee’s salary. Twenty-one per cent said service standards also suffer as a result. (Source: Aviva study)

Only nine per cent of respondents to Aviva’s study were able to say sickness absence had no impact on their organisation.

Sickness absence has an enormous impact on the productivity of British businesses. Absences over four weeks account for 20% of sick days in the UK and these can be extremely disruptive. However, short term absence, which is an absence that lasts up to 28 days, can also be difficult to manage, particularly where there is frequent short term sickness.

3.0 What’s the answer to sickness absence?
It is possible to manage sickness absence effectively, and often prevention is better than cure. Putting the right policies in place will allow you to spot issues and offer support.

OHBM Director, Allison Caine says: “Businesses see a significant reduction in long-term absences when working collaboratively with an occupational health service like OHBM Ltd. We work closely with many diverse organisations, taking the time and effort to understand their culture and business needs so that the service is tailored to their specific requirements. By providing the service on the client site we are able to observe the work processes first hand, discuss specific job concerns and advise on possible alternative duties with the manager where appropriate. This is reflected in the management reports when advising on fitness for work and whether any reasonable adjustments are required to support the employee back into the workplace, in accordance with the disability provision of the Equality Act 2010. Most cases require only one or two assessments before the case is concluded”.

Early intervention case study
When it comes to preventing sickness absence, and encouraging employees back to work, the key to resolving the problem is ‘the sooner you can refer your employee to occupational health, the better.’

Allison says: “Early referral to occupational health is crucial in identifying how employers can best support employees with health conditions which impact on their work. At OHBM Ltd we encourage clients to ensure the occupational health assessment is always carried out face-to-face within 3-4 weeks of absence.”

“We have recently been working with a social housing group who were experiencing the long-term absence of an employee who could not carry out his role due to a back problem. The company sought help from OHBM Ltd, who advised of the type of alternative work which could be carried out while the employee was recovering. By accommodating this, the individual was able to return to work 6 weeks earlier than the current Fit Note expired. The social housing company achieved a saving of around £3,000.”

Getting employees back to work early with occupational health advice and support is beneficial for both staff and business, as is working to prevent sickness absence in the first place by promoting good health. When employees feel supported, they recover more quickly and experience a greater sense of wellbeing. In turn, companies reduce their overtime payments and cut the number temporary staff used.

Dame Professor Black, in her report, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow said: “Good health improves an individual’s quality of life, and a focus on their well-being can also add value to organisations by promoting better health and increasing motivation and engagement of employees, in turn helping to drive increases in productivity and profitability. In other words the benefits of health and well-being extend far beyond avoiding or reducing the costs of absence or poor performance. But this requires a changed perception of health and well-being, and a willingness from both employers and employees to invest resources and change behaviour.”

Future articles will discuss various aspects of Dame Professor Carol Black’s reports.

Choosing an Occupational Health Provider

OHBM’s Director Allison Caine offers the following advice on choosing an occupational health provider: “It is imperative you choose a professional occupational health service whose staff are trained to Consultant Physician and Registered Specialist Nurse level. They are career specialists and most have many years of experience with expert knowledge of the workplace and so are ideally placed to advise on workplace adjustments and fitness for work”.

“At OHBM Ltd we quickly establish good working relationships with HR and key managers, our professional staff take time to understand the business, its processes and culture which ensure the professional reports are both informative and workable.”

4.0 Conclusion

With 131 million working days and a reported £29 billion lost to illness in just one year there is much to be done to reduce the level of absence in the workplace. The implications of sickness absence on the workforce are numerous, ranging from financial through to motivational and customer service issues.

Your occupational health provider can help you to put policies and procedures in place to help your organisation reduce sickness absence, uncover underlying issues, and get staff back into the workplace with as little disruption as possible.

5.0 Get in touch with OHBM

This whitepaper was compiled by OHBM; the Manchester-based occupational health service that supports businesses to increase productivity and reduce the cost of absenteeism and poor performance.

To take the first step in improving the health of your workforce, contact us today for a free, no-obligation review, using the details below.

Telephone: 01625 268 609

Contracts, Conferences and High-Calibre Staff: An Update From OHBM

OHBM - Creating a healthier workforce

2015 may just be a few months in, but we’re already in full swing at OHBM and expecting a busy and productive year.

Only two months into the year and we have already welcomed another two new contracts, and there are more in the pipeline for the next month or so. On top of this, we gain a regular supply of work from employment law solicitors who use OHBM as a trusted provider in the occupational health field.

If you’re looking for an occupational health specialist to help within your business, whatever your sector, please don’t hesitate to contact us for advice.

NEC Health and Wellbeing Conference

On the 3rd and 4th of March, we were pleased to attend the Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference at the NEC.

Attending conferences and events like this is vital for our sector as it enables us to listen to informative lectures and stay abreast of the latest developments in occupational health, which is beneficial for our clients moving forward.

Work with OHBM

At OHBM we work with a network of qualified occupational health specialists who are located across the country. We are always on the look out for high calibre, qualified staff who share our passion for the health and wellbeing of work-aged people.

If you are a doctor or nurse with specialist qualifications in occupational health, and you feel you can meet and exceed our unwavering high standards, please do get in touch with us.

Thank you to both existing and potential clients for taking the time to read this blog. We wish you all the best for your business as we move into spring 2015.