How to stop winter sniffles from sabotaging workplaces

With winter tightening its grip and snow predicted to return across the UK in December, coughs, colds and flu bugs will inevitably rise in the workplace.

While they may not last long, winter sniffles can have a significant impact on businesses.

Around 140 million days of work are lost each year in the UK due to sickness absence[i] and,

according to recent figures published by the National Office of Statistics, minor illnesses such as coughs and colds accounted for the majority (27%) of workplace absences in 2018.

Prevention remains the best cure, so employers can help to halt the spread of winter bugs by encouraging staff to adopt good hygiene. Workers should wash their hands regularly, cover their mouths when they sneeze and dispose of used tissues properly. It’s also a good idea to wipe down desks where an employee has sneezed.

So far, so sensible. But employers who really want to prepare should consider their staff health and well-being strategies.

Maintaining a fit and healthy workforce is essential for any business no matter the industry or area of expertise. It is a topic that often comes under the microscope as temperatures drop and the nights draw in but, really, it is something that businesses should be aware of all year round.

Organisations have long understood that a healthy employee is a more industrious one. Benefit packages offering private healthcare or dental cover have become integral in the fight against absenteeism. Increasingly though, businesses are taking a more rounded view towards employee health that takes the approach beyond just physical wellness by focusing on overall well-being.

A well-being strategy can sound intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. Businesses can start with some very simple approaches like providing Fitbits that encourage staff to keep active, signing up to a cycle to work scheme or even offering discounted gym memberships. All of these things can help drive efficiency.

An effective well-being strategy is also a powerful tool for retaining and recruiting talent. Loyalty to employers is a fading characteristic amongst younger professionals, with the average worker seeking new pastures every four years. A robust well-being strategy can prove both a powerful retention tool for existing staff and a strong incentive when it comes to recruiting.

Even a comprehensive programme of benefits isn’t always enough though and employers need to clearly communicate exactly what is available. Tools such as Jelf’s exclusive employee engagement platform Personify allow staff to view their total rewards online and calculate the value of everything provided by employers on top of basic salary.

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