Platform: Protecting the backbone of your company - Why don’t more firms realise that it is in their best interests to ensure that staff are happy and healthy, asks Claire Walker

The London Chamber of Commerce released a report this January estimating that UK firms lose 80 million working days a year through workers becoming ill with anxiety or depression, equating to pounds 5.3 billion in lost revenue.

The London Chamber of Commerce released a report this January

estimating that UK firms lose 80 million working days a year through

workers becoming ill with anxiety or depression, equating to pounds 5.3

billion in lost revenue.



These figures are worrying, but not as worrying as the free helpline the

Chamber set up. Rather than targeting stressed individuals, the helpline

was set up to help companies unable to cope with these problems in their

workforce.



If it is true that ’companies do not know how to deal with burn-out’, as

the Chamber suggests, then it is time we learnt. PR companies are no

exception - anyone working in the PR business knows it offers an

exciting and fast-moving environment. The downside to this is that it

can also be a stressful environment, unless it is managed carefully.



If we do not take some responsibility for the health of our employees,

we run the risk that their damaged health becomes our damaged

business.



After all, every PR agency is worth no more or less than the value of

its people. PR consultants often enjoy nothing more than the challenge

of a difficult job. But if in rising to that challenge consultants work

stressfully long hours, or eat unhealthy snack food, or skip meals

altogether, their health is in danger.



A caring employer needs to understand the links between poor health,

pressure and stress, and take an enlightened view that stretches beyond

financing traditional medical care once the problems occur. But while

such plans are undoubtedly helpful to staff, they must be secondary to

preventing problems in the first place.



A health and well-being programme may require financial commitment, but

should be considered as essential an investment as money spent on

pitching for new business. It is not the place of the employer to preach

to their staff about a healthy lifestyle. But if they do offer a health

programme, they may be surprised by how many choose to participate.



The best programme will combine traditional and alternative methods.



The value of traditional exercise must not be underestimated as a way to

combat stress and encourage a rounded lifestyle.



Companies should encourage employees to form sports teams: not only is

this fun for those involved, but it also promotes fitness and

teamwork.



Similarly, a company can invest in corporate gym membership, which gives

staff the incentive to exercise. Employees who are fit and healthy will

work at their peak.



There are also less obvious methods that have value. It is easy to

arrange for osteopaths to come into the office and watch employees

posture while working. Often the most subtle adjustments can have

profound effects on back pains and discomfort. Designated relaxation

hours can be built into the working schedule, even if it is only an hour

at the end of the week to unwind from work.



Other alternative approaches include aromatherapy and acupuncture. When

it comes to health, it is worth considering all angles.



We would all like to create happy working environments, but this is

often seen as less important than creating a driven, business-like

workplace.



This is understandable: we are, after all, businesses. The danger is

that if we place too much emphasis on hard work, we lose sight of the

well-being of our staff. But if our employees are happy and healthy,

staff turnover and absenteeism are reduced and the work they produce is

of a higher quality. Anyone who ignores these benefits may find

themselves losing people and business to those who do not.



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