Tiredness hits productivity for UK businesses (20/07/2017)

Almost two-thirds (66%) of UK workers claim tiredness negatively impacts on productivity at work, research has revealed.

The study of 1,123 workers by Willis Towers Watson (WTW) also found that more than a third (36%) of workers are struggling to get a good night’s sleep because of their job.

Of the respondents who struggled to nod off, more than half cited difficulty in winding down after a stressful day at the office as the main reason for sleeplessness (55%), followed by job worries (45%), early starts (41%) and late-night working (35%).

The research closely follows the launch of the world’s largest sleep study, which made headlines last month after a recruitment drive for 100,000 volunteers. Scientists in Western University, Ontario, hope the study will help them to gain a better understanding of the effects of sleep deprivation on brain function.

Speaking about the new research, Mike Blake, a director at Willis Towers Watson Health & Benefits, said: “The work environment is no longer confined to the office, with the stress of heavy workloads creeping into home life.

“Whilst companies may benefit from a perceived ‘increase’ in productivity in the short-term, ongoing stress, coupled with lack of sleep, can risk having an overall negative impact on operational performance.

“And the launch of the worldwide sleep study is a clear indicator that fatigue will become a more prevalent and serious workplace issue that employers can ill afford to ignore.”

Despite 65% of workers saying tiredness has become a bigger workplace problem over the past five years, WTW’s research revealed that just 17% of employers proactively educate their employees on the effect of sleep on general wellbeing.

Blake said employee-focused health and wellbeing programmes can help companies address the growing issue of fatigue at work.

“Employers who become more attuned to the needs of their workers outside the office are more likely to retain a happy and healthy employee base,” he added.

“Companies should aim to identify and tackle potential issues before they become a problem.  Open dialogue is key to establishing a positive workplace culture that addresses and mitigates stress and fatigue.

This will allow managers to identify dips in productivity and tackle the root causes before more serious issues arise, such as absenteeism and presenteeism.

“By placing an emphasis on the importance of sufficient sleep, workers will also feel more comfortable approaching managers about fatigue and solutions can be found, such as meditative practices, review of workloads or flexible working hours.

For more information about the Willis Towers Watson Health & Benefits Barometer 2017, click here.

Research highlights presenteeism challenge for UK employers (28/06/2017)

More than half (51%) of UK workers claim their workplaces are affected by a culture of negative judgement around sickness absence, research has revealed.

The study of 1,123 workers by Willis Towers Watson also found 54% of workers believe they are put under pressure to return to work before they have fully recovered from illness or injury. This could contribute to greater levels of presenteeism – turning up for work when unwell – which is thought to affect productivity, morale, and recovery from illness.

Fear of a negative impact on job prospects is the biggest reason workers feel under pressure to return, cited by 50% of respondents, followed by worries about letting colleagues down (46%), and worries over workload and deadlines (35%).

“Presenteeism can have a significant impact on performance and employers may leave themselves exposed to greater long-term problems if they do not make adequate provision for illness and injury when it first occurs,” said Mike Blake, Director, Willis Towers Watson Health & Benefits.

“Businesses are faced with a fine balancing act. They must do their best to tread the line between managing staff back to work as quickly and efficiently as possible while also ensuring they do not work through health conditions. There is also a clear employee engagement issue here – under the umbrella of a more positive sickness culture, businesses should work to educate employees on appropriate procedures for handling sickness, establish strong communication in cases of absence and ensure staff are aware of the treatment options available to them.”

Another potentially concerning finding for businesses is the fact less than half (47%) of UK workers believe their employers provide adequate specialist support, care and advice to help them return to work following a period of long-term absence.

Of those workers who have taken more than four weeks of continuous absence at any point within the last five years – who made up 19% of all respondents – a third (33%) claim they did not receive regular communication or support from their employers while off work.

Blake added: “Good communication with employees is important if employers are to better understand prevailing health issues, provide appropriate support and make workplace adjustments where necessary. This kind of open dialogue is key to establishing a positive culture around absence.

“Services should then be put in place to address need and tackle negative trends. Case management is one service that can provide the support to ensure these benefits are used appropriately, coordinating input from different sources and liaising with both employer and employee to develop an effective return to work plan.”

What exactly is a ‘millennial’? 7 ways to look after millennial employees

7 ways to look after millennial employees

So, what exactly is a ‘millennial’?

Although the word has reached common usage, there is no strict definition as to what defines a millennial.

However, the term is widely assumed to refer to people born sometime between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. It’s the demographic cohort that follows Generation X and has become associated with a certain set of behaviours and habits.

Driven by the digital age, millennials are thought to seek instant gratification and be on the look-out for adventure. They see themselves as global citizens and are passionate about values.

In the workplace, they are seen to be driven by flexibility, personalisation and progression, as well as a desire for a strong work-life balance.

So how do you cater for this demographic and do you need to tailor your benefits offering to suit? Here are seven tips to consider.

Take an holistic view

Compared to previous generations, millennials generally appear to take a broader view of their health and, consequently, put more thought into daily decisions concerning factors such as diet or exercise.

This means employers looking to engage with millennials might want to consider increasing their focus on employee wellbeing to support these life decisions.

Initiatives such as cycle-to-work schemes, free fruit, healthier lunch options, discounted gym memberships and health checks might be particularly well received, helping to supplement more traditional benefits.

The benefit to the employer is that this feeds into a more proactive approach to employee healthcare, helping to reduce the risk of illness by having a positive impact on overall health.

Gamify it

Gaming comes as second nature to millennials. This generation has grown up with computer and mobile games, so they understand the concept and derive great pleasure from them.

Therefore it might make sense for employers to apply ‘gamification’ to employee healthcare. Gamification involves the application of typical gaming mechanisms – such as point-scoring and competition – with the goal of incentivising health improvements.

A number of apps and wearable technologies take this approach, allowing the user to track fitness improvements and earn rewards when they achieve certain goals. But employers may even take a more simple approach, applying an element of friendly competition to schemes that encourage weight loss, healthy eating or regular exercise by offering prizes to the employees who make the greatest improvements.

Provide quick information

Information is easy to come by in the digital age. Millennials are used to having the answers to everything at their fingertips and will often do a large amount of their own research before making any decision.

So, employers should consider how they communicate health and wellbeing schemes to ensure they are meeting the needs of this generation. Regular communication, providing information on everything from benefits availability to health advice, can help to boost employee engagement an uptake of schemes.

But it is also important to consider how this information is delivered. Millennials do an increasing amount of their browsing on mobile devices and tablets, so the bread and butter of face-to-face briefings and email bulletins might be supplemented by information delivered via appropriate healthcare apps.

Offer plenty of choice

Following on from the desire for greater – and more frequent – information, millennials like to think of themselves as more informed than previous generations. This means they like to make their own choices based on the information they have gleaned.

So, while previous generations may have been more willing to be led on employee benefits, it might be more appropriate to provide younger employees with an increased number of options, allowing them to personalise their package.

Employers may approach this by gathering feedback from staff on what they want to gain from their benefits before implementing a carefully-managed selection that meets both employee and business goals. An appropriate technology platform through which employees can make their choices is also a key consideration.

Be a little flexible

Work-life balance is more of a focus for millennials than previous generations, perhaps due to the increased amount of discussion around this topic in recent years.

Thinking beyond health and wellbeing initiatives, employers may want to consider a more flexible approach to working practice as a way to boost morale and mental wellbeing. Millennials may be particularly receptive to arrangements that allow them to avoid the pain of waiting in rush-hour traffic or provide the opportunity to work remotely.

The advent of new technologies, such as video conferencing and cloud-based office software, mean it is easier than ever to meet this demand. As a result, flexible working may increasingly be viewed as an important part of the overall wellbeing mix alongside benefits and healthcare schemes.

It’s good to talk

Studies have shown that millennials are more aware of mental health issues but also that they are more prone to depression and anxiety than previous generations.

Therefore, it is perhaps more important than ever that organisations put the proper framework in place to offer constant support and advice around issues of mental health. Management may be offered training in empathy or the identification of mental health issues in order to help them better cope with the changing demands.

It may be appropriate to consider benefits such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that provide staff with access to a 24-hour telephone helpline and counselling support, allowing them to discuss any issues with trained professionals.

Similarly, mindfulness courses may be a low-cost way of helping employees to find coping mechanisms for everyday issues.

Provide regular feedback

Millennials have been found to crave regular feedback more than other demographics so it may be appropriate to establish a practice of regular one-on-one manager meetings.

This will help to keep them group engaged and motivated, providing them with goals to aim towards in work and health, as well as the encouragement they need to reach them.

By offering regular feedback and providing the opportunity to discuss workplace issues, management can make adjustments to help millennials better perform their jobs. Research by the American Psychological Association found millennials feel the effect of stress more than other generations. This group are said to be more prone to workplace stress so a proactive approach may help to address any early signs and put measures in place to mitigate the risk.

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Top five tech trends shaping the future of employee health and wellbeing

Research from Willis Towers Watson has revealed that employees are eager to embrace new technologies to help manage their health and wellbeing.

Forward-thinking employers consequently have an opportunity to capitalise on this trend by adopting, offering, and utilising the latest digital-health tools. By doing so they can encourage employees to make smarter health-related decisions, promote workforce engagement and take a more strategic approach to health and wellbeing programmes with employee-generated data insights.

From wearables to telemedicine, we examine some the latest technology developments that are shaping the future of employee health and wellbeing.

1. Wearable technology

According to the Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, 47 per cent of UK workers regard wearable devices that monitor fitness activity as important tools for managing their health and wellbeing.

Not only can wearables, such as Fitbits and Apple watches, enhance the personal life of individuals, they also offer significant potential for helping shape workplace health and wellbeing strategies by enabling the collection, analysis and sharing of user information.

Data insights such as heart rates, sleep patterns, fitness routines and other daily health-related behaviours can be useful in helping businesses identify areas of risk and empowering staff to take positive action.

This can not only help in the design of wellbeing programmes, it can enable a more proactive approach to absence management, tackling worrying trends before they become a problem. Furthermore, in the longer term such insights may also help in reducing claim and benefit costs.

2/ Mobile apps

While some health and fitness apps draw data from wearable technology, a wealth of standalone apps, designed to help employees take control of their physical and emotional health, continue to be developed.

As employees invariably carry their phones with them during the day, these apps can offer an effective way to make health and wellbeing part of their daily routines.

Many are aimed at managing general wellbeing, providing guidance to employees on vital activities or routines such as taking breaks, stretching or hydration. Others however are targeted at more specific health concerns, such as building emotional resilience or improving mental health with tools for stress management. These include everything from mindfulness sessions to time management advice.

An NHS accredited and approved apps library is available to help guide decisions on app recommendations and adoption.

3/ Digital health aggregators

The widespread and effective use of wearables and health apps in the workplace calls for systems that make it easier for employers to harness their true value and potential.

Software platforms are being developed that aggregate data from a variety of different wearables and health apps. These can enable employees to use their own wearables, compete with colleagues using different technologies and more easily participate in employer-led health initiatives.

Furthermore, they can help employers to collate employee health and fitness data to assess risks and more strategically implement health and wellbeing programmes. The future may see the emergence of personalised benefit programmes for individual employees.

4/ Online training

A growing trend towards online coaching around health and wellbeing offers employees the opportunity to access guidance and training wherever and whenever they have time, or are in the mood to do so.

Furthermore, advances in e-learning technology look set to improve levels of engagement by taking greater account of how employees best respond to the information they’re provided.

E-learning tools are becoming increasingly modular, interactive and tailored for the individual, helping make information more accessible. Online assessments help reaffirm employees’ understanding of a range of topics, covering everything from stress management to nutrition.

5/ Telemedicine

Virtual access for employees to GPs is becoming an increasingly common offering from medical insurers and cash plan providers.

The provision enables consultations to take place via webcam or video link from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. These can help overcome some of the hurdles associated with the traditional, face-to-face, family doctor appointments, including protracted waiting times and arranging leave of absence from the workplace.

Employee appointments with a virtual GP service can usually be arranged within a couple of hours and can help accelerate early intervention to address employee health issues. The services can include integrated health tracking apps, the electronic delivery of prescriptions and medication reminders.

‘Artificial Intelligence’ doctors are now being developed, capable of making diagnoses using data algorithms, and these also have the potential to find their way into the future workplace.

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Top seven benefits for supporting JAM (just about managing) employees

Politicians and civil servants have coined a new buzzword – JAMs, a term that refers to individuals and families who are ‘Just About Managing’.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered a helpful definition in her first speech: “You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can ‘just about manage’ but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.”

Employee benefits can play an important role in helping JAM workers – particularly those that are often overlooked – maintain or improve their health, wellbeing and living standards by covering or contributing to essential costs.

According to a study on perceptions of benefits and wellbeing schemes from PMI Health Group, only 44 per cent of employees are happy with the benefits they receive and only 37 per cent said their employers make provisions to look after their health and wellbeing.

Although employees may have a tax liability on benefits, this will not always be the case. Moreover, a tax liability can be outweighed by the benefits the employee receives. PMI Health Group reveals some of the cost-effective options available for employers.

1/ Cash plans

Cash plans are low cost policies, costing from as little as £1 per employee per week, used to provide an easy way to pay for essential healthcare – when individuals are ill, and when they’re not.

Cash plans will pay individuals cash benefits for time spent in hospital, either as inpatient or for consultations, or for pre-defined treatments such as dental, optical, private consultations, physiotherapy, chiropractic, and osteopathy.

Higher end cash plan benefits can play a key role in absence management, from high-tech scans and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, to access to wellbeing websites, online health risk assessments and discounts for gym memberships.

2/ Dental plans

One of the most commonly claimed for treatments on cash plan – dental charges – can be covered in isolation under dental plans.

Group dental plans cover employees for both preventative and restorative dental treatments. They can also cover the cost of more serious and costly accidents and injuries.

To maintain good dental health, dental costs are, in the main, unavoidable. With the number of NHS dentists on the wane however, there is an increasing likelihood that increasing costs may cause JAM employees to neglect their teeth

At an average cost of around £10 per employee, per month, dental plans are proving an increasing popular employee benefit. Furthermore, they encourage people to see the dentist regularly, leading to better dental health which is increasingly being linked to general health and wellbeing.

3/ Employee Assistance Programmes

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide confidential advice, support, and counselling to staff with personal or work-related issues.

Problems faced at work or at home can affect an employee’s performance during the day or even result in stress-related absence. EAPs can help tackle these problems.

Costs vary but at around just £15 per employee per year, they offer one of the most affordable benefits on the market. What’s more, they represent an employer’s commitment to taking preventative and protective measures to reduce health risks in the workplace, in line with the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974.  

4/ Financial education

Financial stability is the biggest factor affecting people’s wellbeing, according to a recent research report by health and wellbeing charity Central YMCA.

The impact of personal finances is likely to be even more acute among the JAM population, but financial education programmes can help by enabling them to better manage and make the most of their money.

What’s more, by reducing stress, employers may benefit from reduced levels of sickness absence and higher levels of workplace productivity.

Financial education can cover a wide range of areas from benefits, such as share plans and pensions, to tax planning and savings strategies. Employers must ensure, however, that when providing financial advice, they employ the services of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated advisers.

5/ Group Life

Group Life insurance premiums have the advantage of not being treated as a benefit in kind for employees.

In the event of an employee death, the benefit pays a tax free lump sum to the employee’s family.

Benefit levels on these Death in Service’ schemes will, as a rule, pay up to four times an employee’s annual salary, depending upon the scheme. This may negate the need for an employee to pay for a separate life insurance policy to cover mortgage payments and other financial commitments.

6/ Group Income Protection

Long term illness can cause considerable financial strain for employees. A Group Income Protection policy offers a reassuring safety net, paying a proportion of an employee’s salary in the event they are off work due to long term sickness or injury.

The employee can also benefit from rehabilitation schemes provided by the insurer. In addition, as with Group Life, the employee has no benefit in kind tax liability to worry about.

7/ Voluntary discount and voucher schemes

Voluntary benefits such as retail and leisure discounts can help employees’ take home pay go that little bit further – and such discounts may not be available to employees elsewhere.

Gym membership discounts or access to online discounting websites, where employees can get money off everyday shopping from high street brands and cash back on their purchases, can prove popular.

Such schemes may go a long way to boosting morale among JAM employees and promoting good workforce relations.

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Are you prepared for salary sacrifice changes? 5 things to consider

The abolition of tax incentives on the majority of salary sacrifice schemes was one of the biggest stories to come out of last November’s Autumn Statement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that, from April 2017, most benefits offered via salary sacrifice will be subject to the same tax and National Insurance (NI) contributions as a cash salary.

Given the current popularity of salary sacrifice, this will have wide-ranging implications for a large number of businesses.

In many cases, employers will be faced with difficult a decision on whether to continue with existing arrangements without the tax advantages or to provide equivalent benefits without the salary-sacrifice element.

Here we take a look at five key considerations for employers in the wake of the changes to salary sacrifice.

What exactly do the changes mean and when do they take effect?

Salary sacrifice allows employees to receive benefits by ‘sacrificing’ a portion of their pre-tax salary, effectively paying for the benefits from their gross income.

Thus employees avoid paying tax and NI on the sacrificed amount, while the employer saves on its own NI contributions. Following the changes, benefits provided via salary sacrifice will be subject to the same tax and NI contributions as cash salary. Companies will also have to pay employers’ NI contributions of 13.8% on those portions of salary that can no longer be sacrificed.

Changes come into force from  6 April 2017 although arrangements for cars, accommodation and school fees are protected until 6 April 2021. Salary sacrifice arrangements already in place before 6 April 2017 will continue to benefit from tax and NI incentives until 6 April 2018 or the end, change, or renewal of the contract.

Pensions and pensions advice, childcare, bikes-for-work schemes, and ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) will continue to be allowed.

Employee communications

Good communication is key to managing the transition.

If your organisation intends to continue offering the same benefits, it is important for employees to understand exactly how the changes will affect take-home pay. Essentially, if benefits are still offered on a salary sacrifice basis, it will equate to the same impact as the employee paying for them from their net salary.

This will undoubtedly lead to a large number of questions from employees – and potentially considerable workload for HR and Reward teams – so it makes sense to anticipate questions and prepare factsheets in advance.

It may be also be appropriate to canvas opinion among employees – perhaps through surveys, focus groups and briefings – regarding which benefits are viewed as most desired or essential in order to start shaping a long-term offering that meets need.

Reviewing uptake of benefits

It would be advisable to do a ‘stock take’ to assess take-up, usage and value of benefits. Some benefits such as health assessments may not be taken annually so it may be prudent to look at more than one year of data.

Analysis could look at the return on investment (ROI) offered by existing benefits, based on factors such as reduction in benefits spend, premium reductions, uptake, engagement and staff appreciation.

If benefits cost more to the organisation than the perceived value received by employees then they may not be working effectively enough.

On the one hand, benefits must offer choice and flexibility while covering the entire employee lifecycle. But on the other hand, too much choice can be a negative and it may be better to offer a smaller pool of more targeted benefits.

Rethinking the employer-paid/voluntary mix

After reviewing uptake and popularity, the next step is to re-examine the mix of benefits that are employer-paid versus those offered on a voluntary basis.

Given changes to the cost of benefits caused by the changes to salary sacrifice, it may be a suitable time to re-evaluate how benefits are paid for.

Benefits defined as ‘essential’ throughout the review process and consultations with staff might be offered on a company-paid basis as they offer the necessary ROI. They could then be supplemented by a range of voluntary benefits, which allow the employee to benefit from choice and flexibility while paying a lower cost than equivalent consumer products.

This might mean an unravelling of existing flexible benefits schemes to provide a more strategic selection of benefits that meet the needs of both employees and the business.

The business case

Given the increasing cost of providing benefits for employers, it makes sense to identify which offer value for this extra investment. This means a shift away from providing benefits simply as an employee perk and a greater focus on designing schemes to meet business needs.

When making plans, employers should be aware there is a lack of clarity surrounding some arrangements, in particular excepted group life policies and income protection.

In current salary sacrifice arrangements, the premium is paid before tax so the benefit is subject to benefit in kind tax (BIK). But it has not yet been made clear whether they will continue to be subject to BIK when purchased from taxed income. If so, income tax will have been levied twice, on the original income and the benefit.

HMRC is expected to issue a statement of clarification late January.

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CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016: the key findings

CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016: the key findings

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Absence Management Report is the UK’s definitive annual study on employee absence.

It provides crucial intelligence on sickness absence trends, policy and practice, offering businesses fascinating insights that can be useful in shaping health and wellbeing strategies.

More than 1,000 HR professionals nationwide were surveyed for the 2016 edition of the report and we have scoured its findings to provide you with five of the most interesting.

Absence at lowest level for seven years

This year’s report revealed a fall in absence across all sectors – manufacturing and production, private, public, non-profit – to the point where it has reached its lowest level for seven years.

The average level of absence is 6.3 days per employee per year, compared to 6.9 days last year and 7.4 days in 2010, while the median cost of absence per employee has fallen slightly to £522.

The largest decrease in absence was noticed in the non-profit sector, where it fell from 7.8 days per employee to 6.9. But absence continues to be highest in the public sector (8.5 days), where employees average over three days more than their private sector counterparts (5.2). Absence also tends to be higher in larger organisations, regardless of sector.

Stress is still a big problem

Stress remains the number one reason for long-term absence, cited as the most common cause by 29 per cent of employees.

And the situation only appears to be getting worse. Almost a third of respondents report stress-related absence in their organisation has increased over the past year.

The study found workloads and volume of work are the number one cause of stress, cited by 55 per cent of respondents, followed by non-work factors (such as relationships/family) and management style, selected by 33 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

As a result, there is an onus on organisations to put schemes in place to address the problem. These could range from flexible working to employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that provide access to 24-hour counselling support.

Mental health issues on the rise

Another problem related to the prevalence of workplace stress is the increase in reported mental health problems. Overall, two-fifths of companies claim to have seen a rise in the past 12 months.

The report claimed both mental health problems and stress-related absence are strongly linked to a long hours culture and less common within organisations where there is a stronger focus on employee wellbeing.

And while 55 per cent of respondents agree that their organisation is effective at supporting people with mental health problems, only 24 per cent agree staff are well informed about the common mental health risks and symptoms.

This highlights an education gap, which organisations may look to plug through greater education and engagement around the topic, aligned with a culture of openness.

Wellbeing more than just a buzz word?

There appears to be a growing recognition among businesses of the importance of employee wellbeing initiatives.

Almost half of respondents in the survey report an increased focus on wellbeing compared with the previous year, while just three per cent report a decrease.

The most popular wellbeing benefits are counselling, which 56 per cent of organisations claim to provide to all employees, followed by employee assistance programmes (52 per cent) and advice on healthy eating (34 per cent).

However, almost three-fifths of respondents claim their organisation’s approach to wellbeing is more reactive than proactive regarding wellbeing, showing there remains room for improvement in putting wellbeing at the centre of absence management and benefits programmes.

Presenteeism a growing concern

‘Presenteeism’ is the phenomenon of staff attending work when unwell and it appears companies are becoming wise to the negative effect it can have.

Almost half of respondents (48 per cent) report their organisation has taken steps to discourage presenteeism over the past 12 months, compared to 31 per cent in 2015 and 32 per cent in 2014.

The study found a link between presenteeism and stress-related absence or mental health problems, providing a strong reason why organisations should discourage the practice. More than half of those who had noticed an increase in presenteeism also saw an increase in stress-related absence compared with less than a third of those who hadn’t.

Organisations that noticed an increase in presenteeism were also twice as likely to see a rise in mental health problems.

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A third of businesses fail to offer support for dementia sufferers (09/11/16)

One in three British workers (33 per cent)(1) say their employer fails to offer any additional help or support for dementia sufferers.

In a study commissioned by PMI Health Group, part of Willis Towers Watson’s health and benefits team, seven per cent of employees said they either have, or work alongside someone who suffers from, dementia. More than half (54 per cent) of these workers, however, said they received no education or training on the condition from their employer.

“The number of people developing dementia is increasing year-on-year(2) and although it is commonly associated with old age, there are currently more than 40,000 people in the UK under 65 suffering from the condition,” said Mike Blake, Director at PMI Health Group.

“Employees can be affected as both sufferers and carers but companies can make a difference by introducing clear policies on how they can provide support and improve staff awareness.

“By establishing an inclusive, dementia-friendly, working environment, companies can give carers and employees with dementia the opportunity to continue playing an active and important role in the workplace. Furthermore, those diagnosed with the condition would be more likely to report it to their employer and seek support.

“Measures can include early intervention from occupational health professionals and the inclusion of information about dementia, and local support services, in staff newsletters and noticeboards.”

For more information on steps to consider when introducing, or reviewing, dementia policies, please see PMI Health Group’s guide to supporting employees affected by the condition.

(1) From research conducted among workers that have, or work alongside colleagues that have, dementia.

(2) According to the Alzheimer’s Society there will 150,000 more people with dementia by 2025.

Employee mental ill health: tips on spotting the signs

Spotting the signs of stress or mental ill health among employees can be vital to the effective management of staff wellbeing and sickness absence.

The workplace can, after all, have a significant impact on our mental health, either as a cause of problems or as a facilitator of wellbeing.

Where employees are struggling to cope, early intervention can hold the key to preventing situations from escalating into more serious, and potentially longer term, problems. Line managers will usually be well placed to monitor employees’ work activities, behaviour and general wellbeing, enabling them to identify early warning signs of stress or mental ill health.

Although symptoms will vary, there are a number of tell-tale signs – often be linked to a change in behaviour – that managers should be aware of.  These early warning signals can be categorised as being either physical, psychological or behavioural.

Physical symptoms

Physical pointers to cases of mental ill health may include the following:

–          low energy or fatigue

–          frequent headaches, back, chest or joint pain

–          a change in weight or appetite

–          physical shaking or verbal trembling

Psychological symptoms

Psychological pointers to cases of mental ill health may include the following:

–          aggression or extreme mood swings

–          a lack of motivation

–          unusual emotional displays, such as crying

–          confusion or memory lapses

–          indecision and a lack of self-confidence

Behavioural symptoms

Behavioural pointers to cases of mental ill health may include the following:

–          increased incidents of sickness absence

–          poorer workplace performance

–          poor time keeping

–          irritability or bouts of anger

–          an increase in drinking and smoking

–          withdrawal from social interactions

Addressing the issue: an intervention strategy

There is good evidence to suggest that earlier intervention leads to better outcomes. But how do you go about it?

Engaging with a problem calls for establishing open communication with the employee in a sensitive and supportive manner and then developing an appropriate action plan. This plan might include signposting advice and support, such as the employee speaking to their GP, undertaking OH assessments or arranging counselling through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). For more information, see our guide on possible treatments for tackling mental health issues.

Workplace triggers for stress should also be identified and addressed as required. For further advice on protecting employees from the harmful consequences of stress and anxiety, see our guide on implementing an effective stress management programme.

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Almost half of Brits would welcome use of wearables in workplace (18/10/2016)

British business could be set for a wearable revolution after research found 45 per cent of workers would welcome the introduction of the technology by their employers.

Wearable gadgets, such as fitness bands and smartwatches, have experienced a huge surge in popularity, with the global market expected to hit US$5.8 billion by 2018, a 800 per cent increase on its 2012 value.1 This popularity provides businesses with an opportunity to use the technology to collect valuable data on employee health.

The study commissioned by PMI Health Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, discovered almost one in 10 British employees (nine per cent) are already offered wearables by their employers, with the figure reaching 26 per cent in London.

“Wearables have become commonplace in recent years and their popularity provides employers with a golden opportunity to collect valuable data that can be used to improve health and wellbeing,” said Mike Blake, Director at PMI Health Group.

“Already, we have seen several examples of businesses operating company-funded wearable schemes, where employees accept devices in the understanding that the data generated will be shared with their employers.

“Such initiatives can form part of wider health and wellbeing programmes, helping businesses to identify areas of risk and empower staff to take positive action. Not only could this enable a more proactive approach to absence management, tackling worrying trends before they become problematic, but it could also help to reduce claims and health insurance costs in the long term.”

The research also found only 40 per cent of British workers would object to sharing personal health-related data generated by wearables with their employers.

“Businesses will find it encouraging that only a minority of staff are opposed to sharing wearable data as part of wellbeing schemes,” added Blake.

“But even when objections are raised, such barriers can often be overcome through clear communication and consultation with employees. It is important for companies to outline what data will remain anonymous and underline that data will not be used in a discriminatory or unfair manner. In cases where data has been used to secure a reduction in insurance premiums, employees may also benefit from reduced contributions themselves, which will help to further smooth the process.”

1 Wearable Technology Market – Global Scenario, Trends, Industry Analysis, Size, Share And Forecast 2012 – 2018, Transparency Market Research