The ‘Health’ in safety and the ‘safety’ in health

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Health and wellbeing – an essential employee and employer benefit

We know there are around 131 million days lost due to ill health and an estimated £9 billion spent on illness and associated costs at work. It’s staggering. We know that MSK –musculoskeletal – issues (31 million days lost)  is the top health at work issue followed by colds (27 million days lost) and stress, anxiety or depression (15 million days lost). Source: Public Health England.

We know the emerging trends. On average over 7 hours is spent sat down (including driving to and from work) with the USA National library of medicine suggesting over 8 hours in its study. Being sedentary is a threat. MSK and stress feed off the prolonged time we spend sat down, often under pressure.


Just like improving work practices, office ergonomics, RIDDOR protocols and so forth, wellbeing deserves the same focus. It’s the elephant in the room, the darkening shadow, the intangible becoming the tangible. The statistics reveal its sinister intentions.

Working lives are busy. Time is a precious commodity. Exercise is the chore, but regular movement is key to combatting some of these statistics. Public Health England’s campaign is about movement. Active 10 is just that. Packaging walking into a 10 minute window. There is a free website for any organisation to utilise full of free resources, facts and top tips on healthy workplaces. active 10


Forget gyms and marathons. Think stairs, using the toilet on the top floor, an active commute or getting up and walking to your colleague’s desk instead of using the phone or instant message facilities. It arguably has more benefits in small regular movement patterns than that one gym session with no movement for the rest of the day.

And lets not forget the talent war currently on in Germany’s ‘Silver Economy, where blue chip business such as EON and Daimler are using H&W to lever employee loyalty and look after their employees. Not to mention the benefits of being active and having access to a H&W programme in terms of keeping people in work longer and mitigating some of the potential issues of a rapidly ageing workforce,

So not only is Health and Wellbeing transcending HR policy, H&S and Pay and benefits it is seen as a vehicle to remain competitive and aid communication. Lets be honest corporate fitness challenges such as running and obstacle courses are the new ‘GOLF COURSE’ in terms of networking, collaboration and business deals.#

Japan is another economy heavily reliant on an ageing workforce and to help manage that the office environment oozes movement with a movement based start to the day and regular breaks. They value that the human body responds to movement well so promote it. In the UK we have normalised sitting and removed movement from our lives. Although the evidence base is quickly gaining momentum to reverse that trend.


Public health has struggled for years to convince the Nation to lead healthier lifestyles – with some spectacular failures. Seen as though we spend 35% (of our waking lives over a 50 year lifespan) at work it offers the perfect vehicle to instigate culture change.

Breaking the ‘it’s how we do things around here’ attitude and turning it toward a more proactive health and wellbeing approach is one such solution to turning the tide on the elephant in the room. The ‘safety’ of knowing we are tackling poor health at work is yet another key component of the preventative levers that span across the health and safety, HR an Pay and benefits agenda.

I am qualified to coach running and resistance exercise, and do this in some workplaces, but really the BIG TICKET stuff to culture change isn’t the exercise classes and even onsite gym (although both are beneficial).

The big ticket items are normalising activity (re in Japan movement takes place in the office not a gym environment). No one bats an eyelid. Its as normal as brushing your teeth a habitual activity.  Why gyms don’t always work


And in today’s world of social media madness quirkiness plays its part in employee engagement. Stair use instead of the lifts, regular walking breaks and walking meetings are all a great way to enthuse staff and encourage movement – forget the gym in this instance.


Or gamifying movement can help people to stay motivated and instigate long term behavioural change. See our shopping centre trial earlier in year at Meadowhall – Sheffield. Meadowhall fitness sensors



What we can conclude is that Health and Wellbeing is a safety measure beyond enforcement, but activating a strategy to keep business safe from high ill health rates, protecting employees, attracting the best talent, been an innovator and thus gaining that competitive edge. Why wouldn’t you nurture that?

For all health and wellbeing strategy, delivery and evaluation contact me at



Andrew Picken

Health and Wellbeing Consultant

National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine (Sheffield)





Twitter: @AJPConsultant

Facebook: manbeast28 / Healthinbusiness28

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