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.

How Much Time Should Employees Spend Sitting?

sitting down

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.

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.

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: NHSemployers.org)

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: Gov.co.uk )

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
Email: enquiries@ohbm.co.uk
Website: www.ohbm.co.uk

Keep Your Workforce Well This Winter With Sickness Absence Management

It’s prime cold and flu season, but keeping your workforce well this winter will help your business be more productive and more profitable.

Sickness absence as a year-round issue for businesses. It costs the UK economy £29 billion per annum. But in winter, with colds, coughs, flu and Christmas party hangovers to contend with, sickness absence can seem more virulent than ever before.

OHBM offers sickness absence management services to help you minimise the impact of staff who don’t turn in. We’ll look at everything from helping you encourage healthy habits among your employees, to return-to-work interviews and even helping staff recover more quickly. It all adds up to improvements for your business’ bottom line.

For further details and a free consultation, speak to the OHBM team. We’re committed to helping the North West’s businesses improve profitability, morale and success, even through the bleakest midwinter.

What Is Sickness Absence Policy And How Can It Benefit Your Business?

Sickness absence policy

When you run a business you’ll know that from time to time you’ll have to deal with absent staff for one reason or another. When staff go off sick, you’ll need the right procedures in place to manage the gap in the workplace, and ensure employees are supported in their return to work. This forms your sickness absence policy.

Sickness costs the UK economy around £17 billion every year, when businesses have to hire temporary cover, when work falls behind schedule and when employee morale is damaged by the extra workload.

Your sickness absence policy needn’t be difficult to implement but in order to keep sickness and absence to a minimum and ensure business continues to operate effectively, there are essential steps to take.

These include:

Monitoring sickness absence levels

Your sickness absence policy needs to enable you to record and monitor the amount of workplace absenteeism in order for you to determine how much it is costing your business. Understanding which employees are taking time off and why can help you to find ways to boost employee health – physically and mentally – and reduce time off.

Make sickness absence policy clear to all staff

Employees need to understand the appropriate methods of informing senior staff of their sickness. For example, they may be required to personally phone in, as opposed to emailing or getting a friend or relative to do it on their behalf.

Return to work interviews and instances whereby number of periods of sickness trigger disciplinary action need to be made clear to staff.

Consider workplace health and well-being

In addition to helping staff return to work, your policy should delve into the reason why staff are taking time off sick. This might highlight ways you can reduce stress levels or encourage screen breaks to protect your employees and your business.

Employee absence has a damaging effect on profitability, morale and success. Proactive, effective management is essential to this. A good occupational health service can help you implement your sickness absence policy with ease and speed.

Talk to the team at OHBM about your sickness absence policy today.