Business leaders in the Herefordshire Enterprise Zone have been urged to look after the well-being of their workers – and avoid the costs associated with ill-health and sickness.
Councillor David Summers, who represents the Dinedor Hill ward on Herefordshire Council, has written an open letter to employers on Skylon Park reminding them that physical and mental ill health has detrimental effects on a business as well as employees themselves.
He said: “Absenteeism and low productivity can often be attributed to poor mental health – therefore, they are preventable. A good welfare and well-being initiative will have a positive influence on employees.
“In the workplace or in everyday life, it is well documented that a sound mind and body will contribute greatly to a healthier life style.”
Councillor Summers, whose ward covers the business park, urged employers to invest in well-being initiatives to support their workers, including making use of existing resources.
He said: “There are a number of groups within the health care community ready, willing and able to help you develop well-being initiatives.
“A small investment of time or money could equate not only to an increase performance and productivity but a reduction in absenteeism. How you as an employer address this will affect your bottom line and possibly your future.
“Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, even the common cold, can be influenced by the mind. The connection between physical and mental health is frequently invisible, but they are recognised by many experts as inseparable.
“It is readily apparent that good mental health is crucial to the overall well-being of society as a whole. The economic cost of mind-related illness in all its many forms is second only to the suffering experienced by those who are affected.”
Councillor Summers said it was estimated that one in four people would suffer a mental health issue. Those people are often characterised as non-productive, but in practice they could often be over-achievers, trying harder and seeing their work as a much-needed positive experience.
He added: “Rather than give up on them, it is far better to see them as caring hardworking employees.
“Stress and worry affect all of us at some time or other. Over time, the stressors that herald a problem become so normal, they are hard to recognise. For many, stress is a daily occurrence, and its big brother – depression – frequently takes a hold without being noticed. Ideally, there needs to be a system in place that allows some breathing space.” He acknowledged that identifying people at risk of mental health crises was difficult, but said a well-being strategy could improve the health of workers and so improve the health of the business.
You can read the open letter PDF here.