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Health, work and wellbeing (HWWB) - Is work good for your health?

Wednesday 02 April 2008

Yes, work can be good for your health. As well as a financial reward it gives many of us self-esteem, companionship and status.

Healthy and motivated people will:

  • go that extra mile
  • give good customer service
  • take fewer 'sickies'
  • provide commitment and creativity.

But work can also be bad for your health. According to Government figures, two million people suffer an illness they believe has been caused or made worse by their work.

This can take the form of stress, anxiety, back pain, depression and increased risk of coronary heart disease. So what's the difference between a healthy workplace and one that makes you feel ill and stressed out?

Acas believes that there are six indicators of a healthy workplace:

  • Line managers are confident and trained in people skills
  • Employees feel valued and involved in the organisation
  • Managers useappropriate health services (e.g. occupational health where practicable) to tackle absence and help people to get back to work
  • Managers promote an attendance culture by conducting return to work discussions
  • Jobs are  flexible and well designed
  • Managers know how to manage common health problems such as mental health and musculoskeletal disorders.

Don't worry if you can't 'tick' all the indicators in this list - it does not mean you have an unhealthy workplace. These are guidelines only and you must decide what works best for you. For example, while larger organisations may offer formal training in people skills, smaller businesses might rely on mentoring or briefing from managers.

Acas has devised a checklist to help you assess how well you are doing against our key indicators. This can be found on page 20 of our new advisory guide to 'Health, work and wellbeing'.

We can also offer specific advice on:

  • Stress - one of the six causes of stress identified by the Health and Safety  Executive is lack of control over one's working life.
  • Having a 'difficult conversation' -  Visit our training page for courses on Having a difficult conversation
  • Managing attendance: tackling absence is often about prompt management intervention. For further information please visit our managing attendance page
  • Managing conflict: getting to know your employees can help you identify the sources of conflict. For more information please visit our managing conflict page.
  • Discipline and grievances: policies for dealing with grievances and disciplinary problems provide a vital safety net for when things go wrong. For more information please see our advisory handbook
  • Communication and consultation - See more: information on

If you would like Acas help with Health, Work and Wellbeing in your workplace please email stating your enquiry and where in Britain your organisation is based. Please note that this email address is only for enquiries from organisations seeking assistance with Health, Work and Wellbeing. If you are an individual with an enquiry you may find that our free and confidential Helpline is able to assist you - please call 08457 474747

Also see: Acas urges UK businesses to keep healthy, pdf icon Advisory booklet - Health Work and Wellbeing [647kb]