Inspired by an article in the Lancet from 2016 titled ‘manifesto for a healthy and health-creating society’, the CMHA is focused on how businesses can protect and promote health. In short, how businesses can create health.
What does that mean?
We know that high pressured business environments can contribute to people becoming unwell. Whether that is through long working hours, unclear role expectations, the physical environment, a lack of physical activity, or poor line management support. Figures show 26.8 million working days were lost in 2017/18 due to work-related ill health. Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for the majority of those days, with 15.4 million working days lost.
Moving towards creating health is more than providing interventions for people when they become unwell – which many businesses do. For example, some of our members now offer on-site psychologists, counsellors or Mental Health First Aiders who are trained to notice signs of stress and provide early support and signposting. Many also have strategies in place to help prevent people from poor health in the first place. Examples include campaigns and activities to promote healthy behaviours, agile working policies and provision of various wellbeing benefits. All of these interventions have been hugely impactful and have improved the health of many, but there is an opportunity for businesses to do more and move towards becoming health creating environments.
Health creation at work is the next stage on from preventing illness. Workplaces creating health is the direct opposite of workplaces contributing to or causing sickness. Creating health involves making health and wellbeing a boardroom agenda and embedding health into business strategy. It involves a business-wide understanding that good mental health of employees is crucial for good decision making at all levels and therefore a factor in upholding market integrity. Health creating environments will mean high engagement and productivity because our workplaces will become part of our personal wellbeing toolkit; providing us with human connection, new learning, purpose and meaning, autonomy and financial health.
In a health creating environment, business success considers both human flourishing and business prosperity. For some, health creation might mean redesigning working environments so that they are not just fit for purpose but instead they energise, inspire and motivate people. For others, it might be about redesigning job roles and teams to address factors such as the long working hours culture. In other cases, it could be providing the opportunity for people to enhance personal development so that people feel work is part of their personal wellbeing toolkit and that their jobs help them to keep learning and feel connected – both of which are key factors for wellbeing.
Our members are reporting that clients are requesting diverse teams and inquiring about the culture of the organisation by asking questions about the wellbeing support available to the team working on their contract. Forward-thinking businesses can, therefore, enhance their reputation by considering these important components right from the outset to remain competitive. It could involve showing clients that the wellbeing of your own people is part of the unique selling point (USP) of the business. Demonstrating this thoughtful, positive approach to clients can only add to business reputation and build long term relationships. Knowing that a business values its people sends a strong positive message to its people too; which can only add to attracting and retaining talent.
Improving health for all
I also think that businesses are a cornerstone of society. With the NHS under significant strain, businesses, as part of society, can play a role in improving health for all by ensuring that their workplace is a health creating environment. I believe the collective effort of the CMHA and its members can lead the charge on this new thinking and pioneer approaches to create workplaces where people go to work and get healthier – both physically and mentally.
Work can give people meaning and purpose which are factors critical to our health and wellbeing. The City Mental Health Alliance community aspires for businesses to be places where people are valued, and where they can bring their whole selves to work. Where people tell their friends and family that they go to work because it enhances their life beyond a salary.