Police Scotland Lose 53,428 Working Days To Stress

Stress management

New figures show that the Police Scotland have lost 53,428 days to stress and stress-related conditions in just the last 2 years alone, according to information compiled by Scottish Labour.

In just the months of January to March, the most recent data available, there were more than 10,000 days of absence recorded throughout the police workers in the country. This is an increase of 84 per cent on the same period last year.

Conditions leading to absences were cited as depression, stress and anxiety, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Stress and the associated medical conditions are a very real concern for modern businesses and organisations in the UK, as these statistics show. When staff take time off due to stress, their employers have to ensure business can continue as usual but this may lead to additional costs or put strain on other members of staff who have to take on extra work.

That’s why it is imperative that employers don’t just have a plan of action to help mitigate the effects of sickness absence, but that they put in measures to try to prevent stress in the workplace.

Preventing stress in the workforce

In previous posts on the OHBM blog we’ve already covered ways in which organisations are looking to reduce stress levels. There are some innovative ideas in circulation, including using micropigs and laughter yoga, in addition to the more usual encouragement of exercise, healthy eating and more.

At OHBM we offer several services to help your business overcome the effects of stress amongst the workforce. As experts in our field, we use audit tools that allow us to clearly identify stress issues within your workplace – for both individuals or groups of employees. We are able to refer members of your workforce at short notice to a team of experienced psychologists. Services include stress management, assessment and treatment programmes.

Stress, depression and anxiety are very real conditions which could affect any organisation large or small. Talk to the team at OHBM to find out more about how we can help.

Stop The Spread Of Illness At Work [Video]

Illness and infection can be a real headache for employers because germs can spread between staff in close quarters through a simple sneeze, the touch of a hand, or even by using the same equipment.

When contagious illnesses like flu or norovirus strike your business, they can lead to staff absence due to sickness, which reduces the overall productivity of your workforce. With a missing employee or employees, other staff members may have to pick up the slack, so they become overworked and are more susceptible to illness. Alternatively, the company may have to take on temporary staff to cover sickness absence, which could be an unexpected business expense.

So what’s the answer? Encouraging sick employees to return to work too soon can mean they are still contagious so illnesses spread all the more easily, but your business needs the man-power.

That’s why preventative action to reduce the spread of illness is important. Communicate the necessity of simple tasks like handwashing and sanitising through internal communications channels like posters and emails. You could even send employees a link to the video above.

For information about processes and procedures regarding sickness absence, get advice from your occupational health specialist. At OHBM we are more than happy to help you find ways to ensure your business suffers as little as possible from the effects of sickness absence. Just give us a call on 01625 268 609 today.

Is Britain Facing An Epidemic Of Steroid Use?


Anabolic steroid use is a growing issue amongst the UK’s young, image-conscious men, according to a report published in the Telegraph. The newspaper says experts suggest the country could be facing a “health time bomb” from this problem, which is under-represented by official stats.

The long-term use of anabolic steroids has been linked to health issues including depression, heart problems, and cognitive damage. Other side-effects are immediate, including aggression and high blood pressure.

Perhaps even more worrying is the rate of HIV infection due to the use of steroids which are injected into the body. At a 1.5 per cent infection rate, these figures are as high as for injectors of drugs like heroin. So rife is the problem that some gyms are placing needle bins in their changing rooms.

Readily available

Once mainly used by professional sportspeople, steroid use has become more prolific in recent years, as young men attempt to build their muscle. The media has been blamed in many respects, as displaying toned bodies, with big muscles, as aspirational images.

The side effects of steroid use can be extremely detrimental to health, and in the work environment. Remember, this is a class C drug and it is prohibited, despite the ease with which it can be acquired.

If you are concerned about the health and wellbeing of an employee or employees who you think may be taking steroids, it is important to get advice from your occupational health specialist. Side effects and poor health related to drug use can lead to issues amongst staff, including aggression in the case of steroid users.

At OHBM we offer an array of services, including a 24 hour ‘Call out’ Drug & Alcohol testing service and fast-track to specialist Drug & Alcohol rehabilitation. Talk to us today for expert information.

Is Stress A Fact Of Life For Public Sector Employees?

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Eighty-five per cent of employees in the public and voluntary think stress is a fact of life, according to the “Clockoff survey”. The research took into account the opinion of more than 3,700 people in the public and voluntary sectors including the police and the NHS, NGOs, social housing and more.

The results of the survey show that 93 per cent of people say they are stressed at work a lot of the time, some of the time, or all of the time. Breaking that down, nine per cent say they are stressed all the time they are at work, and almost every one of these respondents said they work over and above their working hours.

Survey respondents claim to work an extra seven additional hours a week on average and less than a quarter of respondents get a main break of 30 minutes or more every day.

The Clockoff survey found that 46 per cent of people strongly agree they have to work beyond their hours to keep up with their workload, 31 per cent agree and just three per cent strongly disagree.

Respondents reported physical and psychological symptoms of stress as headaches, poor sleep, mental health issues and digestive problems.

Workplace stress and overworked employees appear to go hand in hand according to the survey. Stress in the workplace can lead to an array of problems including workplace absence, which causes a negative effect on productivity, workplace morale and more.

To find out more about how your organisation can tackle workplace stress contact OHBM for occupational health and advice today.

How Much Time Should Employees Spend Sitting?

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New UK research shows employers the recommendations on how long staff should spending sitting down in the workplace. A study by Active Working CIC published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states people should try to spend around two hours a day standing up during working hours.

Data quoted within the research paper suggests that on average office workers spend up to 75 per cent of the day sitting, with more than half of that lasting 30mins or more. This sedentary behaviour is common in a vast array of jobs, with many workers spending their days tied to a computer screen. Even common tasks like getting up to get documents from filing cabinets are being eradicated as employees can do more without having to leave their workstations.

The health impacts of leading a sedentary lifestyle are well-publicised, with the onset of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease increasing due to lack of movement.

What counts towards the “standing” goal?

Though the experts recommend standing for two hours a day, this doesn’t necessarily mean it all has to occur at once. These periods of standing or walking can include anything from getting up to visit to WC, to taking a walk at lunchtime or even simply getting a drink from the water cooler. Anything that breaks up long stretches of time spent sat in a chair counts towards the goal.

However, two hours of standing is actually only the first step. In fact, the researchers long-term recommendations include a goal of four hours of standing in a working day, or around half of the time employees spend at work.

How to encourage standing at work

Workplaces can encourage periods of standing in the workplace by helping employees to understand the benefits of getting out of the chair. Technology is enabling even phone-based employees to be more mobile with cordless handsets and headsets that allow staff to move around more easily. There are also sit-to-stand desk solutions which enable workers to increase the height of their desk to a standing height while working.

Other businesses may choose to encourage active living with health, wellbeing and exercise groups at breaks or lunchtimes, getting staff on-the-go at available opportunities.

Improving the health and wellbeing of your staff all adds up to happier, healthier, more productive employees who take less time off sick – and that’s just good for business.

Can Micropigs Reduce Stress?


Stress is one of the leading causing of sickness absence within UK businesses, so as an organisation taking steps to reduce the stress of your workforce can help you access a range of benefits. Typically, businesses looking at improving employee well being embark on initiatives such as healthy eating and exercise to prevent stress. Occupational health specialists also recommend quick referral to counselling or other services to help employees already struggling with stress or other mental health issues.

However, some organisations in the UK are employing innovative and unique methods to help individuals reduce stress. We recently reported on a hospital who are using laughter yoga to relax staff, but this week Nottingham Trent University, in preparation for the tough exam season, has announced its interesting pet therapy plans. The university has set up a micro pig room to help students relieve stress by cuddling up to these tiny piggies.

The university isn’t alone in its stress-busting efforts. Exeter University opened a pig room earlier in the month, while other universities like Leicester and Bristol have chosen puppies for their pet therapy. In addition to providing a welcome break from revision to alleviate exam anxiety, the rooms will raise money for charities.

Does it work?

Interaction with a gentle, friendly animal is said to have a number of benefits for health including:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • releasing endorphins which calm you
  • improving cardiovascular health
  • lowering physical pain
  • and potentially even reducing the need for medication

So will we see more organisations and businesses embark on pet therapy to reduce stress in the office? Could the quick stroke of a pig calm your customer service reps when they’re dealing with angry customers, or help execs chill out before a tough presentation? Watch this space.

Mental Health: What Are Your Responsibilities As An Employer?

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Common mental health issues such as stress can have consequences as diverse as increased absenteeism to feelings of negativity breeding throughout the workplace. This is particularly if colleagues are having to pick up slack from an absent employee.

So what are your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to mental health?

Under the Health and Safety at work Act 1974, your business is required to ensure employees’ health, safety, and welfare in the workplace – as far as is reasonably practical. The HSE expects businesses and organisations to ensure suitable risk assessments take place in order to gauge the stress levels of staff members. Plus, the 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations mean employees are required to assess health and safety risks in the workplace for third parties.

The role of occupational health

In line with the HSE, an occupational health professional like OHBM will use audit tools allow your business to identify stress issues within your workplace. OHBM’s audit tools are suitable for use for both individuals and groups of employees.

If there is a risk, the health of the employee should be monitored regularly. With OHBM, members of the workforce can be referred at short notice to our experienced psychologists. Here, they can access stress management, assessment and treatment programmes.

To find out more about your obligations as an organisation when it comes to mental health and stress in the workplace, speak to the team at OHBM. We are more than happy to help.

How does your business deal with drug and alcohol issues in the workforce?

It’s a subject you might not want to think about, but drug and alcohol problems are a real concern for today’s businesses.

More than 9 million people in England are drinking more than the recommended daily limits, and alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the UK – after smoking and obesity. Nine per cent of men and four per cent of women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence, yet only 6.4 per cent of dependent drinkers access any form of treatment.

In the workplace, harmful drinking can occur in a number of ways, from excessive drinking in leisure time, and inappropriate drinking in work hours or before shifts, to binge drinking during or after work activities. According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol can have an array of negative effects in the workplace, including absenteeism, neglect of details, more frequent mistakes, decreases in the quality and quantity of work, and inconsistent performance.

It is a also widely believed that alcohol is the cause of numerous accidents in work. The International Labour Organisation estimated up to 40 per cent of workplace accidents are related to alcohol use.

So how can your business help employees who are drinking to much, or are addicted to other substances? Contact OHBM for information about our fast-track to specialist drug and alcohol rehabilitation, our 24 hour testing service, and support with your workplace policies.

Watch the video below for further details.


Hospital Offers Laughter Classes To Cut Staff Sickness Absence Levels


Hospital managers at a UK hospital have launched a number of different initiatives in a bid to improve the health of employees and cut staff sickness. The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust now offers free laughter yoga therapy, hypnotherapy weight loss and healthy eating cookery classes.

This move was in response to an increase in staff sickness and long-term absences over the last year. Reports showed an increase in sickness absence rates at the hospital from 3.4 to 4.5 per cent in the six months from last August. There are more than 10,700 staff within the Trust, who will have access to these well-being activities.

What is laughter yoga therapy?

Laughter yoga therapy involves voluntary, rather than spontaneous, laughter. Working in groups, participants use eye contact and playfulness techniques, with prolonged forced laughter becoming both contagious and real. It is based on the premise that participants elicit the same benefits from making themselves launch as they do from spontaneous bursts. Incorporating yogic breathing, the activity is said to bring increased levels of oxygen to the brain and body.

Studies have shown laughter yoga boasts benefits in terms of mood, cardiovascular health. There are reports pain thresholds becoming higher after laughter and that it has a role in social bonding.

There are also other free and discounted therapies and activities, aimed at promoting a healthier lifestyle amongst staff. These include exercise classes, sports activities, rambling and more.

Why is health and well-being important?

Sickness absence can be a difficult cycle to break. In environments where employees are frequently off sick the remaining staff suffer too, as their workload gets heavier. With an increased workload and more pressure in the workplace, remaining employees may suffer from stress, or increased illness and infections from being tired, overworked, and run-down. In a situation like this, negativity also breeds amongst the workforce.

Putting preventative measures in place to encourage healthy habits such as exercise and healthy eating can help reduce sickness absence levels. It can also promote a feeling of wellbeing and happiness throughout the business, which breeds productivity and staff loyalty.

At OHBM we can advise HR and management, and support employees, to help your business manage sickness absence proactively and effectively. Our concise reports help you make informed decisions about individual staff members, and we can work with you on either a regular or ad-hoc basis.

Contact us for a free, no-obligation discussion about your business.

3.1 Million People Over 50 Live With A Serious Illness

Pre-palcement Screening

More than three million people in the UK are currently living with a serious illness, according to a new study. The report raises concerns for employers who could be put under greater pressure to accommodate older workers’ health needs and those living with illnesses as the age of retirement rises. As an employer, how could you help this age bracket in the workplace?

The report by Engage Mutual is called “Fluctuating conditions, fluctuating support: Improving organisational resilience to fluctuating conditions in the workforce” and has been created alongside The International Longevity Centre UK. It estimates that there are 3.1 million people in the over 50 age group living with a serious illness in the UK – the equivalent of 13.9 per cent of this age bracket.

As life expectancy increases and the age of state pension goes up, the working population will see a growth in the number of older workers in coming years.

If this trend of living with serious illness continues, the report predicts the count of people over 50 living with a serious illness could hit 3.4 million by 2025. And this pattern of growth may even continue further, as the generation of baby boomers reach their seventies.

But if those aged between 50 and 80 stay healthy for longer the results could stabilise. The report suggests that the percentage of over 50s living with a serious illness could decrease to around 12.5 per cent from 13.9 per cent if they stay healthier in their golden years.

What can businesses do?

Organisations that treat staff as a valuable company asset reap a wealth of benefits, including having healthier and happier employees. When employees are healthy and happy they show greater levels of loyalty in addition to being more productive. Therefore your employee’s health should be at the centre of your business. Helping your employees stay healthy now could impact your staff and organisation positively as workers get older.

At OHBM we can put an occupational health policy in place within your business. This means that rather than waiting for problems to occur, we will help you offer preventative measures that help you promote health and well-being among your workforce. As the report shows, this could be key for older, more experienced workers as the age of the working population rises.

Talk to OHBM today for further details about how we can provide a free, no-obligation review of your organisation that will allow you to start implementing positive change immediately.