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08 Sep 2022
by Nick Pahl

Align wellbeing with wider business goals, says Nick Pahl of SOM

Nick Pahl, CEO at the Society of Occupational Medicine, outlines why wellbeing is critical to business success

Align wellbeing with wider business goals, says Nick Pahl of SOM.jpg


There are big changes in the work we do and how we do it. Wellbeing is now a focus – important for employee happiness, but also critical for business results. 

In the future, leaders and companies must implement solutions to support wellbeing. This should begin with culture – the norms, values, assumptions, and shared belief systems within an organisation. But culture does not just happen – it needs to be actively reinforced and nurtured. 

The most common workplace health problems are mental health and musculoskeletal (MSK). Employers need to ensure they create mentally healthy workplaces. Staff can experience stress or mental health problems regardless of their seniority or experience, so it is important that managers are able to access support, particularly if they manage someone with a mental health problem. The role of line managers is pivotal, but they often lack training, skills or the confidence to effectively support others. Looking after their health also needs to be a priority. 

Focusing on effective interventions 

The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) launched Occupational Health: The Value Proposition report in March. It discusses three reasons (legal, moral, and financial) why employers provide workers with occupational health (OH) services and summarises the evidence for effective health interventions in the workplace. It finds that OH enhances employee health, productivity, and business performance. 

Lord Blunkett, the SOM patron, said: “Employers who invest in employee health and wellbeing stand to reap many benefits such as from reduced sickness absence, increased productivity and recruitment and retention.” 

However, not all workers have access to occupational health services and people with disabilities and long-term health conditions continue to be disadvantaged in terms of gaining and maintaining employment. Nevertheless, access to OH is not a level playing field. Large employers are five times more likely to have access than smaller ones. SOM is advocating universal access to OH. 

There are new risks and challenges. Many over-50s drop out of the workforce before retirement age; ill health is a significant cause but also continual organisational change is a factor. There is huge potential to reduce this drop-out and increase productivity by focusing on this group, eg by offering hybrid working. 

Keeping abreast of changes 

New tools are emerging to help with this challenge. For example, the recently launched ‘MSK Aware’ website is a positive addition to MSK support – which emphasises prevention, promotion of good MSK health, and on supporting those with existing problems to cope as well as they can in the workplace. SOM also hosts a MSK-at-work network. 

Neurodifferences at work also needs to be a focus – a new guide from the SOM outlines what to look out for, different options available for support and the legal duties of employers for people with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Tourette’s syndrome. The guide was informed by research evidence, the latest guidance from regulatory bodies, current practice and case law.

This article is taken from the REBA Employee Wellbeing Research 2022.


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