Health and WellbeingPrioritise employee wellbeing, not just absence numbers

Prioritise employee wellbeing, not just absence numbers

Teresa Boughey, Founder & CEO, Jungle HR discusses ways in which companies can ensure that they are prioritising the wellbeing of their workforce.

We need to move away from sickness and absence and place the focus on health and wellbeing. Often health and wellbeing are viewed as a tick box exercise and/or a legal requirement/obligation instead of an essential way to ensure the inclusive wellbeing of your workplace.  Similarly, it’s important to take care of employees after they return to work from absence and to ensure they are supported.  

Whilst there are, of course, cost implications associated with employee absence, it’s also important to take into account the human factor; to explore the impact of any absenteeism and take care of the people involved. This article will offer guidance on how to put health and wellbeing at the top of your agenda.


A healthy workforce is a happy workforce and leads to reduced absence, higher employee engagement, and improved business performance.  Employee wellbeing should be at the heart of every organisation but it’s still very common for absenteeism to be a key people metrics, as opposed to measuring employee wellbeing.

Whilst absences can and do have a detrimental impact upon the productivity and output of a business, especially if there is only a small team of employees, it is important that the complete wellbeing of employees is prioritised. By considering every aspect of an employee’s wellbeing and what the root causes of any absences could be, you will limit any unnecessary days lost as well as demonstrating to your team that your care goes beyond just when they are already unwell, by preventing any events within your control from ever happening.

Root causes

Getting to the root cause of any absence is important. The focus for many companies when it comes to absence management is to focus on their approach to dealing with an employee once they’ve had a period of sickness absence, rather than focussing their efforts on creating a culture whereby employee wellbeing is central. Many companies align disciplinary procedures with their absence management policies, which can result in employees triggering formal disciplinary proceedings for repeated absences.  Whilst in some cases such action may be justified, in some instance’s absence can be for some other ‘masked’ reason, such as time off to care for dependants or could be due to workplace disputes.

The aim for any organization should be to create a working environment where individuals are free from unnecessary pressures and where every individual is treated with respect and dignity.

Here’s a few places where you can explore health and wellbeing for your employees.



Technological advancements do provide great opportunities for interconnectivity, however the ‘always on’ mentality that’s been created with the constant need to check emails, respond to voice messages and the constant demands of manager requests or client queries can often result in burnout and stress-related symptoms. Companies who introduce initiatives such as Right to Disconnect and/or email free days may go some way towards addressing the long hours culture that is often created and can lead to health and wellbeing challenges. The Mindful Business Charter supports mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, acknowledges the changing working culture patterns, and details a set of principles which focuses on the improvement of communication, respect for rest periods, and appropriate delegation of tasks.

Mental Health

Mental health has for many years gone unnoticed or has been an unspoken area of concern for employees.  The ability for employees to feel safe and talk about challenges that are being faced without the fear of stigma or retribution is important. More recently organisations have started to recognise the benefits of having trained ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ within their organisations, which is a positive step towards acknowledging mental health as a condition which may affect your workforce and putting measures in place to ensure those who are suffering get the support they need.


Health and wellbeing can also be enhanced through the food choices employees make. Whilst it may not always be possible for organisations to offer on-site catering facilities, organisations may wish to consider the catering provisions which are available to employees. Restaurant facilities can be a great benefit to employees however affordability for many can also play a factor in food choices employees make. Sharing meals together can also be an invaluable time for teams to bond, learning to take place and for leadership teams to be visible and connect with their employees.

Get active

Similarly, it’s important for employees to be active. In some jobs, this may seem easier than for others, however regular exercise plays an important role in keeping your workforce well.  Many companies are able to offer on-site gym facilities, or where this is not possible then they arrange discounted/corporate preferential rates with local gym providers.  Some managers also value ‘walking meetings’ whereby they take a stroll with their team combining business with exercise.  There are so many ways in which employees can be encouraged to get active all of which is beneficial for those that participate.

Supporting returners

Sometimes unforeseen circumstances mean that a required leave of absence is sometimes outside of your control, however it is vital they receive high levels of support when they return to the workplace to ensure this is smooth and as easy as can be. Offer returning employees a chance to voice any concerns they have about returning or things they think might be a challenge in a relaxed meeting with their manager, and possibly HR, is important to ensure they receive everything they need.

 The most effective employee wellbeing strategies are those that prioritise stopping any preventable absences from ever occurring, rather than just focusing on mitigating any effects. Some absences are unavoidable but it is important that the right strategies are in place, so any employee feels supported when they are able to return to the workplace.

Health is a gift which we can sometimes take for granted. It’s often not until our health suffers that we pay attention to it. However, health issues (whether it be your own, or the health of family members or friends) can arise at any point in our lives – triggers can be life events, lifestyle choices, genetics or ageing to name but a few.

A healthy workforce will set the tone for the health of your business therefore by switching your strategy from one of absence management to health and wellbeing you will enable your employees to feel safe, to speak out, to reach out for help and to support each other. Ultimately, a healthy workforce is one which is the most productive and motivated.

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