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Health and the workplace

In the past, when people thought about health in the workplace, they were mostly concerned with 'health and safety', for instance, minimising physical hazards. Today, traditional health issues, such as noise, dust and chemical hazards, are still vitally important. However, our growing concern with good work-life balance has also made us aware of the relationship between our jobs and our mental and physical wellbeing.

The benefits of promoting a healthy workplace are for employers as well as employees; healthy and motivated workers are more likely to 'go that extra mile': give good customer service, take fewer sickdays and provide commitment and creativity.

Questions and answers

Is work really good for my health?

Yes. Studies show that work should generally be good for your health: it gives many of us self-esteem, companionship and status. Research has shown that this is strongly influenced by the amount of control we have over our working lives. You may also find that having some control over the way you do your job encourages you to feel more committed to your employer.   

What are the signs of an unhealthy workplace?

An unhealthy workplace is usually quite easy to recognise. It often has:

  • poor management
  • a bullying culture
  • poor customer service
  • high levels of absence
  • reduced productivity
  • unreasonably high work demands.

What makes a healthy workplace?

Healthy workplaces usually have a number of common features. These include effective policies for managing people issues (such as communication, absence, grievance and occupational health) and high levels of trust between employees and managers, for instance where workers are involved in decision-making. Other features that you may find in a healthy workplace include:

  • line managers who are confident and trained in people skills
  • an organisation where you feel valued and involved in decisions
  • the use of appropriate health services (e.g. occupational health where practicable) to tackle absence and help you get back to work
  • managers who promote an attendance culture
  • flexible and well designed jobs
  • managers who identify problems at an early stage and seek to resolve them using informal methods
  • managers who know how to manage common health problems such as mental health and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Acas has developed a checklist to help you assess how your organisation is doing against these six indicators of a healthy workplace.

Can Acas help?

Acas may be able to help you improve the health of your workplace. With over 30 years of experience, working with organisations of all sizes, we have expert advisers and services to suit your situation. We created our Model Workplace based on the principles of a healthy workplace. Read more about Acas training and business solutions.

We can visit your organisation to help you understand what needs to be done to address a range of issues related to health and wellbeing and then work with you to develop practical solutions. Find out more.

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