Wellbeing Archives - Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd
Posts Tagged :

Wellbeing

Two-thirds of employers feel a greater responsibility for the mental wellbeing of staff

According to research from GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector, employers feel a greater responsibility for supporting staff across the four key areas of mental, physical, social, and financial wellbeing as a result of Covid-19.

In research conducted from 14 – 26 January 2022 amongst 501 HR decision-makers, due to the pandemic:

  • 59% of employers felt an increased responsibility for supporting the mental wellbeing of staff
  • 57% felt the same increased responsibility for physical wellbeing
  • 56% of employers felt an increased responsibility for supporting the social wellbeing of staff
  • and 50% also felt the same increased responsibility for their employees’ financial wellbeing

In light of the pandemic, and this sentiment to take greater responsibility for employee wellbeing, two fifths (40%) of employers increased their communication about the support available to staff. Thirty-four per cent encouraged engagement and utilisation of support, and just over a quarter (27%) said that they had made it easier for employees to access support and benefits remotely, such as via apps and online. A quarter extended support beyond the individual employee to include family members, and 22% invested in new employee benefits to provide extra support.

Employees report deterioration in wellness

Further GRiD research, conducted amongst 1,212 UK workers between 14-18 January 2022, highlights the fact that employers were correct to take steps to provide and communicate support and benefits to staff. Thirty-eight percent of employees stated that their mental health had deteriorated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 27% saw their physical health deteriorate and a further 27% had concerns about their financial health.

Forty-two percent of employees expect more support from their employers to help them cope. This employee presumption means employers need to assess whether their current employee benefits are up to the task of getting the wellbeing of staff back on track. Many staff are anticipating that their employers will provide on this front, and employers would do well to deliver, particularly in light of how employees feel their health has deteriorated .

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “As is evident in the research, employees feel most vulnerable in terms of their mental wellbeing, and employers have rightly assessed this as being an area in which they can step up and take more responsibility. However, employers should be wary of solely prioritising one area of wellbeing over another.

Mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing are inextricably linked and so employers must address all four areas when providing post-pandemic support for staff. Employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness have proven really popular because they provide financial support when people have been directly affected by the pandemic, as well as extra embedded services designed to support health and wellbeing.

“As the UK adjusts to the new norms of working life, adopting this holistic approach to staff wellbeing will ensure that all employees are as well-looked after as possible, and this will have long-term benefits for the business too.”

70% of workers feel optimistic about returning to the workplace

As pubs, shops and other workplaces re-open, the success of the vaccine rollout has helped workers feel much more optimistic about their return to work than they were following November’s lockdown, according to Aviva’s research of more than 2,000 employed adults across the UK.

Aviva’s third Employee Back to Work Index shows that 71% of workers surveyed agreed that the rollout of the vaccine made them optimistic about returning to work, compared with 50% after November’s lockdown who said that news of a vaccine gave them optimism about returning to work. Two-thirds (64%) of employees surveyed said the vaccine will make them feel safer at work.

Another piece in the puzzle of opening up safely is regular testing of workers for Covid-19. Aviva’s research shows that three-quarters (75%) of employees would feel comfortable to be tested for Covid-19 in order to work. Only 7% of employees said they would be uncomfortable with such a requirement.

Aviva’s Employee Back to Work Index comes as the UK takes its next steps out of lockdown, and captures the attitudes of full-time or part-time employed adults working in a wide variety of industry sectors across the UK on their feelings about their health and safety in the workplace.

Returning to the workplace – safely
Businesses have had to adapt at pace in the face of continually changing Covid restrictions. In some instances, this will mean that operations have fundamentally changed, including the role of employees in carrying out their duties. Aviva’s survey found that 23% of employees surveyed said their job had changed as a result of new business operations due to Covid, but that they were not offered any training on their new role, compared to 11% who said their job had changed and they had been offered training.

Likewise, employees who have been absent from the workplace since the beginning of the January lockdown could benefit from refresher training. Overall, 60% of employees surveyed who had been off during previous lockdowns said that their employer had not offered them refresher training to ensure they are able to continue to do their job safely.

Homeworking
Working from home looks set to stay for many employees. Of those employees surveyed that are currently working from home, 40% said that after lockdown restrictions have ended, they will split their time between home and their usual workplace, while 30% said their employer has told staff that they should continue to work from home. Just one-in-four (24%) said their employer expects all employees to return to the office on a permanent basis after pandemic restrictions ease.

Only 52% of employees surveyed who have been working from home said their employer had taken steps to ensure their home office is set up safely to prevent injury or strain. However, 40% of employees said their employer had not taken any steps to make their workstation safe, potentially putting them at unnecessary risk of injury. Employers should ask employees to complete a homeworking assessment and if the employee is likely to continue working at home into the longer term, then more rigorous assessments might be required.

Cyber risk not being addressed
Working from home has also increased the risk of a cyber attack. As Covid forced businesses to work remotely and – increasingly, digitally – cyber attacks increased, with 46% of UK businesses reporting a cyber breach or attack in 2020. However, Aviva’s survey found that just under half (48%) of employees working from home said their employer did not take any steps to reduce their cyber risk.

What risks do you face as you come out of lockdown?
Aviva asked workers what risks they believe they face as they come out of successive lockdowns. Workers could choose multiple responses. While it is positive to see the gradual increase in the proportion of workers saying ‘there is no biggest risk’ (now at 26%), there are still a number of workers who are concerned about Covid-19, and a significant and growing number of workers who say lockdown has impacted their mental health.

Chris Andrews, Director of Aviva Risk Management Solutions, said: “The vaccine rollout has had an enormous benefit to employee confidence in returning safely to the workplace. Our research found that 80% of employees who have been working or furloughed feel confident their workplace is safe and that their employer has standards that they meet to keep employees and the public safe. This is a significant, positive step in our journey back to working normally.

“There are, however, a number of risks that businesses must address to ensure that the return to the workplace is wholly successful. Training for employees who have been off work for some time is essential to reduce the chance of injury upon return. Likewise, those employees whose jobs have changed as their business has adapted to Covid restrictions should also receive training on their new ways of working. And if working from home becomes the norm, employers need to do more work to ensure their employees are safe at home and have the appropriate tools and environment to work effectively.

“Businesses also really need to consider how they can protect their organisation from cyber attacks while their employees work from home. Cyber attacks come in many forms, and increasingly target employees through phishing and social engineering fraud. It’s clear from our research that more needs to be done to help employees understand and identify the various forms of cyber attacks while working from home to protect the business.”

Safe For Work app enables staff to report coronavirus symptoms to employers

Employers can now keep a written record of the daily health status of each employee using a new symptom tracking app.

The Safe For Work app, developed by London-based Filter Digital, has been designed to give colleagues working together the reassurance that everyone who is at work, is, in fact, safe to work.

It’s available now on the iOS App Store, Google Play Store and Web as a progressive web app and is intended to complement a company’s existing health and safety procedures.

Safe For Work allows employers to design a custom bespoke questionnaire for their employees to complete before they attend their place of work, whether that’s an office, shop, factory, warehouse, etc, to check all are well and reporting no symptoms of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

Questions could include “do you have a temperature?”, “have you got a new, continuous cough?”, “have you travelled abroad or had close contact with anyone that has travelled in the last 14 days?”.

The app can be used on any mobile device or browser, allowing employees to communicate honestly, clearly and privately about their health so that they don’t inadvertently place colleagues at risk.

The questions posed are Yes/No by default – the results can then be used by management or HR to determine whether the employee is safe to work that day, or if the responses breach the businesses health and safety guidelines.

Filter says the Safe For Work app can be used easily by both employers and employees and can be set up to the individual needs of any company or process.

Oliver Morrison, CEO at Filter, said: “In this unique and challenging time, we wanted, as a solutions led business, to contribute some good. We recognised that the rules and practicalities of ensuring staff are safe for work had changed and aimed to provide an additional support measure to help reassure employers and employees that everyone who is at work is safe to work.

“We’re delighted to have rapidly developed Safe For Work, a convenient symptom reporting tool and have made it available for free to any business or organisation to use.”

For more information visit, https://safeforworkapp.com.

Increasing uncertainty ‘placing strain on UK business leaders’

UK business leaders are struggling to cope with the pressures of a rapidly changing world, with increased competition, political uncertainty and greater scrutiny all making it much tougher at the top.

That’s according to a study of 1,000 workplaces published in Thinking On Your Feet, a report by the commercial arm of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, RADA Business, which found that 81% of senior leaders said they were often placed in situations where they found it difficult to remain calm.

More than a third (37%) of senior managers, directors and C-Suite said that high-pressure scenarios made it harder to prepare and express their thoughts.

When asked what situations affected their ability to relax and act authentically, 31% of business leaders admitted that board meetings with very senior people was a leading factor. Video conference calls (30%) was found to be one of the second biggest causes of nervousness faced in the workplace, followed by training sessions (30%).

Small group meetings (27%) was also a big issue hindering leaders’ abilities to think clearly and act authentically, with telephone conference calls appearing next on the list (27%).

The study also reveals that leaders struggle to exhibit an air of calm when they feel under pressure, with not maintaining eye contact (30%) slouching (25%), and physically shaking (21%) being identified as the most common physical side effects.

As a result, many leaders seek extra training and guidance on how to successfully adapt to change and proactively alter their management style to respond to changing scenarios.

Rachel Griffiths, Client Director at RADA Business, said: “In any given moment, on any given stage, it is the role of a leader to create and sustain a genuine connection with their audience. It is this powerful leadership performance, rather than an outstanding PowerPoint presentation, that encourages people to follow you and make positive change.

“Maintaining leadership performance through times of uncertainty demands a greater need to remain present, to align your physical, emotional and intellectual state. This is particularly challenging in the moment when you find yourself needing to think on your feet.

“Under pressure, leaders tend to focus on the content of what they’re saying, losing their personal connection with others, as well as an awareness of how they’re coming across. In the eyes of their audience, they can lose credibility by speeding up their breathing and appearing tense, with no vocal presence – showing a lack of confidence.

“Actors practice improvisation to develop their ability to give their strongest performance in the moment. When leaders become proficient in the same practice, they become able to manage their state, remain connected and develop a deeper level of resilience and self-reliance in their leadership.’’

Dirty office desks ‘raising risks of staff illness’

Twenty-eight per cent of telephones, 31% of keyboards and 36% of computer mice are not cleaned at all within the workspace, increasing the risk of Heterotrophic bacteria, E. coli, Helicobacter pylori, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

That’s according to a survey of 650 UK office employees conducted by GCC Facilities Management, which highlights that the items touched the most are neglected during cleaning.

And while it may appear many members of staff are turning a blind eye to office hygiene, a very similar percentage of employees are suffering the consequences of poor cleaning management.

32% stated, due to poor cleanliness, they are using their own personal items to avoid communal chattels. This ranged from mugs, tupperware and bowls.

Worryingly, almost one quarter of employees are suffering financially due to inadequate sanitation in the workplace. 23% said they have used their own personal funds to supply cleaning equipment for the sole purpose of the office.

Communal areas received the highest praise from those surveyed. 39% were satisfied with the condition of the toilets while only 16% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

The kitchen scored a satisfaction rate of 38% and the communal fridge was just behind at 37%. As not just a social hub, but the space in which food is prepared and consumed, there is still a concerning 13% who were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with its’ cleanliness.

Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, the Health Clinics Medical Director of Bupa UK, said: “Surfaces and equipment can harbour dirt, viruses and bacteria that can remain active for months. Without regular office cleaning and good personal hygiene – e.g. antibacterial handwashing – there’s an increased chance of these surface germs transferring to you and giving you illnesses like flu, food poisoning and diarrhoea. If you fall ill, it’s best to take time off work to fully recover and reduce the chance of any harmful germs spreading to your colleagues.”

Claire Maclean, Managing Director of GCC Facilities Management, added: “The findings show that desk cleanliness is easily neglected, despite the health risks that it carries and the knock-on effects it could have for businesses in terms of sickness, reduced capacity and absences. 

“More needs to be done to firstly raise awareness of the health risks that dirtier working surfaces can have amongst office workers and secondly, businesses should take more action to ensure that their staff are working in a clean and healthy environment.”

‘Sick building syndrome’ back with a vengeance

The UK’s offices are making us all sick again, according to a survey from business technology specialists Remark Group.

Sick building syndrome (SBS) was, Remark says, largely believed to be a phenomenon of the nineties, but new findings in its ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’ 2019 survey show that it may well be making a comeback.

In the survey of over 1,000 UK office workers, findings revealed that 86% get headaches at work, with almost a quarter of people (23%) saying they get them every day. Worryingly, nearly all office workers (91%) report that they suffer from tiredness or lethargy at work, with 41% saying they suffer every day.

Other symptoms are also rife, such as dry, itchy or watery eyes (78%), dry throat (76%) and itchy or irritated skin (70%) and only 11% of people describe their sleep quality as good during the working week, with a quarter reporting that their sleep quality was poor.

Shockingly, 80% think that poor indoor air quality could be having a negative impact on their health with the same amount reporting it could be having a similar effect on their productivity at work. Furthermore, 57% think air quality is affecting their mental/physical health.

Environmental psychologist and workplace wellbeing expert Dr Nigel Oseland said: “Whilst sick building syndrome is still spoken about, it is not as prevalent as it was in the 1990s, when it made the headlines. Office wellbeing is of paramount importance and it is clear that a person’s work environment can impact significantly, not only on their health and wellbeing, but also on their performance.

“It is therefore crucial that today’s businesses focus on creating healthy buildings which encourage wellness and productivity. They can do so, by monitoring air quality in the office and embracing new technologies to ensure that the work environment promotes workplace wellbeing.”

He added: “I am shocked by the results of this survey, but not entirely surprised. Whilst we are producing some great-looking, modern offices we need to pay more attention to basic human needs, to the so-called hygiene factors, such as good indoor air quality, temperature control and noise reduction. The various disciplines within the workplace industry need a concerted effort for a marked step change from sick buildings to healthy buildings. Everyone has the right to work in a healthy workplace.”

Remark asserts that UK offices have a strong culture of meetings, with almost 90% of people having up to 10 per week and 72% spending up to 11 hours in meetings every week – 34% of these meetings taking place in rooms without windows. 

Nearly 90% of office workers say they find themselves nodding off or losing concentration in meetings, whilst one in four of us say meeting rooms aren’t facilitating productivity or collaboration, and half of people leave meetings thinking they weren’t successful.

Indeed, Remark conducted research amongst its own employees to determine whether or not poor indoor air quality affected an employee’s productivity and/or wellbeing. Results showed a considerable drop in productivity levels when windows were closed, which coincided with the rise in CO2 levels. 

Penelope Harrall of Remark Group said: “Remark’s office is located outside the city centre and close to open space, so it’s interesting to see that even here we have an issue with indoor air quality. 

“Today’s office environments can drain happiness, health and even productivity but ensuring that air quality is regulated can reduce symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and eye irritation, while increasing productivity and general wellbeing.

“The sensors we used monitored nine different elements, with the most important being humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide. By using air quality sensors, you can maintain the right level of air quality and enable all employees to benefit from a comfortable working environment.”

The survey also found:

  • Only half of people (47%) have temperature control in their office;
  • 30% of people don’t have access to open space near their office;
  • 30% won’t open windows as they are worried about exterior air quality;
  • 56% are worried about air quality in the area in which they work.

There are multiple solutions to poor indoor air quality. For some companies, simply opening the windows and adding more plants into the office is a great solution. Air purifiers can assist in removing contaminants from the air in a room to improve air quality. There are also living plant walls that combine the benefits of nature with technology.

Greener office spaces boost bottom line and staff productivity, says WorldGBC…

A report from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) reveals the impact building owners, designers, developers and employers are having by investing in greener office spaces.

Released under the organisation’s ‘Better Places for People’ campaign, the document pinpoints the global drive behind implementing green and healthy office operation and design, and showcases 15 buildings that are ‘leading the way’. 

As a result of improving noise levels, layout, lighting and indoor air quality at its office in Doncaster, Skanska cut sick days by two-thirds; in turn saving the company £28,000 in staff costs in 2015.

Terri Wills, CEO of the WorldGBC said: “While our earlier work presented the overwhelming evidence between office design and improved health and wellbeing of workers, this report breaks new ground by demonstrating tangible action businesses are taking to improve their workspaces. The results are clear – putting both health and wellbeing, and the environment, at the heart of buildings, is a no brainer for businesses’ employees and the bottom line.”

The report identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices which can impact on the bottom line:

  1. Indoor air quality and ventilation – a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability.
  2. Thermal comfort – staff performance can fall six per cent if offices are too hot and four per cent if they too cold.
  3. Daylighting and lighting– a study found workers in offices with windows got 46 minutes more sleep a night than workers without them.
  4. Noise and acoustics – noise distractions led to 66 per cent drop in performance and concentration.
  5. Interior layout and active design – flexible working helps staff to feel more in control of their workload and encourages loyalty.
  6. Biophilia and views – processing time at one call centre improved by sven-12 per cent when staff had a view of nature.
  7. Look and feel – visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction.
  8. Location and access to amenities – a Dutch cycle to work scheme saved €27m in absenteeism.

Beth Ambrose, director within the Upstream Sustainability Services team at JLL, and chair of the WorldGBC Offices Working Group added: “The business case for healthy buildings is being proven. All over the world, companies, both large and small, are redesigning their offices, changing working practices and trialling new technologies, to improve the wellbeing of their staff, tenants and customers.” 
Access the full document here

Workplace wellness ‘shifting up the boardroom agenda’…

A recent White Paper published by the world’s leading global real estate advisor, CBRE, has revealed the five key trends that are driving wellness in the workplace and pushing it higher up the corporate agenda.

From allowing ‘greater flexibility’ to managing stress levels, theWellness In The Workplace: Unlocking Future Performancereport claims these trends are producing a ‘seismic shift’ in the workplace. By the year 2040, the CBRE predicts the workplace will drastically change; characterised by autonomy and ‘greater choice’ for employees. Furthermore, technological and societal changes will shift the approach individuals and organisations will take regarding wellbeing, health and wellness becoming a priority.

 

Access the full report here