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By Nicky Cornish

Can anyone think of a better way to start a cold, drizzly Tuesday in April than to take part in an interactive discussion on Healthy Workplace initiatives, while tucking into a bacon bap*? *(vegetarian, vegan and gluten free alternatives were available).

That is exactly how a group of us (PKF Francis Clark and other local business people) spent this Tuesday, at our monthly Truro office Breakfast Briefing, where we were joined by Natasha Howard, Project Lead at Healthy Workplace Cornwall.

The impact of sickness

Natasha started off by filling us in on some startling statistics such as:

  • A figure equivalent to the entire GDP of Portugal (£100bn) is the combined cost of sickness absence, lost productivity through worklessness, and health-related productivity losses annually in the UK
  • Costs of presenteeism (being at work while ill) are estimated to be £30bn annually
  • 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence every year
  • One in four women and one in five men in England are defined as being inactive (where inactive is defined as under 30 minutes of moderate activity per week).

After discussing the impact that sickness has on our productivity, wellbeing and ultimately the bottom line for employers, we were left in no doubt that anything we can do to prevent employees falling ill in the first place has got to be a good thing.

The Healthy Workplace Programme

Cornwall Council recognises this and offers the Healthy Workplace Programme, a framework for workplaces to work towards including nine key areas:

They can provide a survey template which employees can complete, explaining what they want from their workplace. Often, there are some really small things which can be cheap and easy to implement, such as the provision of fruit in the kitchens for staff or providing healthy options at the tuck shop.

If you are based in Cornwall, Natasha, or one of her team, can visit your business and develop a healthy workplace strategy with you to engage with your employees and implement different ideas. These can be as simple as mapping out a mile long walk in the area and making sure you go out for 15 minutes at lunchtime, providing training on all sorts of areas such as alcohol awareness, stopping smoking, nutrition etc. Training can be provided to individuals who are interested in becoming mental health first aiders in the workplace.  And the best bit is all of this support and assistance provided by Natasha and her team is free of charge!

Business engagement

We were then shown videos provided by two case studies who have followed the programme: Proper Cornish and Angel. These were inspiring videos which gave us lots of ideas to take away such as Doctor Bike, where you can get your bike serviced while at work; monthly massages in the office; and yoga classes in the workplace, among other things.

We then heard from Ivan Burnard, a partner in our Truro office. He started with a reminder that things have already changed a great deal since he started work at PKF Francis Clark, back in 1985. Computers were just a pipe dream, instead ashtrays took up the desk space and by midday, the office was a cloud of smoke. Lunchtimes were spent down the pub, not taking a walk!

He informed the delegates about our staff survey which is an annual process, reminding people that the important thing is that the results of these surveys are followed up on and actioned. Starting off with the simple, quick changes i.e. replacing the cheapest of the cheap instant coffee with a premium option and the provision of herbal teas. This then moved onto things such as providing bigger fridges so there was enough space for people to bring in their own healthy lunches. Then there were more significant changes. Despite our office building being only a few years old, it did not have any ‘break out area’ for staff so a meeting room was sacrificed, some walls were moved around and some beanbags and a television were purchased.

Then there were other initiatives mentioned, including our Tuesday night Run Club and our sponsorship of the ROC 5k run – the ROC 5k occurs every June and usually involves around 35 colleagues. Entries to the ROC 5k was encouraged by Andrew James (who some of you may have seen modelling the hoodie for the event).

An interactive breakfast seminar

This session was more interactive than previous breakfast events, with a friendly, collaborative atmosphere. Everyone left with a spring in their step, armed with plenty of initiatives to take back to their colleagues.

There was a lot of interest in the Healthy Workplace Programme, who are keen to be involved in your business – no matter how big or small – if you are based in Cornwall. More information can be found here.

You can also see the full slides here.

As always, a huge thank you to Andrew James and the others who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make these events work.

Next up… Andrew is working on the next breakfast briefing and details will appear on our Events page in due course.

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