Bosses must make work happier and healthier, health chiefs say

Work related stress Image copyright AndreyPopov/ Thinkstock

Managers across England must "raise their game" to create happy, healthy workplaces, England's chief health advisers have warned.

Guidelines from the health watchdog, NICE, urge employers to make sure their staff work reasonable hours and take regular breaks.

NICE says healthier workplaces will not only benefit staff, but also increase the productivity of businesses.

Figures indicate work-related illnesses cost society about £13bn a year.

'Lack of control'

The estimates, for England, Scotland and Wales, suggest about 27 million working days were lost to illnesses, including stress and back pain, in 2012-13.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence's (NICE) guidelines, designed to address this, are intended for employers, managers and employees.

The document suggests bosses must take responsibility to ensure staff are appreciated for the work they do.

And employers should allow their workers opportunities to be more creative and explore new possibilities.

Managers are also urged to add flexibility to rotas where possible, so staff can have more control over their own time.

Prof Gillian Leng, NICE's deputy chief executive, said: "Employers and managers need to recognise the value and benefits of a healthy workplace and what a difference it can make, not only to their employees, but to the productivity of their business.

"Each year more than a million working people in the UK experience a work-related illness.

"It is not only the physical hazards of work - long, irregular hours, lack of activity or repetitive injuries - that damage people's health.

"Other factors such as a lack of control over work, conflicts, and discriminatory practices can also have an effect."

Responding to the guidelines, Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: "Health-promoting workplaces are obviously good for millions of employees and ultimately for taxpayers too, so the time is right for all employers - including the NHS - to raise our game."

The Department of Health said it should not be hard for workplaces to put the new guidelines in place.

Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry acknowledged the importance of employee wellbeing and said most businesses recognise this.

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at the confederation, suggested offices designed to deliver different working environments, or encourage flexible practices could help retain staff and enhance productivity.

But the potential for flexible rotas and other measures would vary from company to company and decisions would need to be taken by individual companies, he said.

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