A healthier future

first_imgWorkplace stress is increasingly recognised as a contributing factor toemployee absence and illness. Investors in Health (IIH) is one response to theproblem. By David Ryan & RogerWatsonIt was estimated recently that 200 million working days were lost in the UKthrough sickness, and that workplace stress was a major contributor.1 The cost of absence from work is more than £10bn a year – a problem thatshould be addressed both for the good of employees and in order to increaseworkplace productivity.2 The problem has also been recognised by the Department of Health through theNational Service Framework for Mental Health, where specific reference was madeto a “healthy workplace” which “can promote mentalhealth”.3 Investors In Health (IIH) is a health promotion initiative in the workplace,based on the principle of NHS/local employer partnership. IIH aims to addressthe health and well-being of staff, and the role that organisations can play increating and ameliorating the stress and strain experienced. What is Investors in Health? The IIH programme has been developed by drawing widely on the expertise ofNHS specialists in OH and mental health, health promotion and public health. Originallyan NHS-funded initiative, IIH and its certification mark are now administeredby an accreditation society (IIH Publications and not-for-profit company). IIH has developed standards of good practice and accredits companies againstone of three levels of award. The programme is open to private, public andvoluntary sector organisations of all sizes. The aim of IIH is to put workplace health and well-being on the agenda ofevery local employer, at board level. To achieve this, its objectives are toraise awareness and concern within organisations about: – the health of the organisation – the prevalence of stress-related occupational illness among employees – the cost of occupational illness in lost productivity, loss of creativityand commitment, poor retention rates and the loss of key skills – corporate risks such as litigation, and the failure to meet statutoryrequirements, such as health and safety and disability legislation – corporate image and quality standards. Through its programme, IIH aims to achieve reductions in stress-relatedillness and to promote mental health and well-being in the workplace. IIH sees it as desirable to encourage a positive corporate culture inrelation to employee health and to identify and foster good management practiceconsistent with national standards of good practice in HR management. Toachieve this IIH provides information on the access to relevant resources,encourages a positive approach towards those with disabilities and endeavoursto alter public health attitudes by employer initiatives in the workplace. Developing the programme IIH was developed over three years. In the first stage, IIH developedstandards of good practice for health promotion in the workplace by thoroughand systematic review of available research evidence. The framework componentsof the standards address management practices that protect employees’ health,management practices that mitigate ill health, and practices that promoterecovery back to full and effective employment. Consequently, audit mechanisms,audit tools and indices for outcome measurement have been developed. The programme was then piloted with a local private sector employer (BemroseBooth Printing) and the local NHS Community Trust (Hull and East Riding CommunityTrust), with further product development and field testing with a group ofeight local employers in the Hull region. In 2003, the IIH accreditation andaward scheme was finalised, with the preparation of regulations, assessmentprocedures and the preparation of a guidance manual and resource pack forpotential applicants. For companies becoming involved in IIH awards, three levels of complianceare available, corresponding to the level of achievement of IIH standards. In addition to seeking accreditation and awards, the participating companiesare asked to commit themselves to membership of a benchmarking forum. This isnot mandatory but is viewed as helpful to companies in achieving fullengagement with the IIH programme. Evaluating IIH An evaluation of the scheme was carried out in 2002 involving 11organisations taking part in the programme field tests. The purpose of the exercise was to see how participating companies ratedtheir involvement in the processes of IIH, and to take advice on any changes oramendments required, rather than to attempt a formal outcome evaluation orcost/benefit analysis. Questionnaire responses provided information about how organisations foundout about IIH and how companies achieving engagement found the process of joiningIIH. The expectations of the company about what membership of IIH meant and thelikelihood of achieving those objectives were also surveyed. The participantswere asked to rate various aspects of IIH and to provide comments on thepositive aspects of IIH and to point to any improvements that could be made. In fact, only three of the individual respondents to the questionnaire hadbeen personally involved in getting the company to join IIH, but they all viewedmembership as being positive and identified with the ethos of IIH. Most respondents expressed satisfaction with a wide range of factors, suchas the guidance, support and interaction with other organisations provided byIIH, although some respondents believed the ethos of IIH was alreadyencapsulated in their companies and therefore questioned the value ofcontinuing involvement with the project. In the same way, time commitment for individuals was a concern for somerespondents. Clear guidance on the measurement of successful compliance withIIH Standards was requested (this has since been addressed via the productionof an accreditation manual). Particular strengths of the IIH programme were described by participants andincluded interaction between the different types and sizes of organisationsinvolved, which was useful in providing new perspectives for participants. The contributions of NHS members of the original steering group to thebenchmarking process was viewed as a valuable asset to the group andbenchmarking participants developed a sense of ownership of the IIH programme.There was also a lack of bureaucracy and a view that the IIH scheme wasflexible. The IIH support team was positively evaluated in terms of responsiveness toenquiries and the support provided. Respondents said that the best advicenewcomers to IIH could get was to ensure that there was commitment at the topof the company hierarchy to ensure that sufficient resources were madeavailable to implement the programme. Conclusion Workplace stress is a major health and economic issue and this has beenrecognised by the Government through the Development of Health and the Healthand Safety Executive. IIH is one response to workplace stress and (although it has parallels toInvestors in People) is unique in its corporate approach to health andwell-being. Programmes like IIP seek to value workers in their roles, trainingand contribution at work. It seeks to enable workers to survive the stress thatis entailed in meeting demanding targets, working long hours and theconcomitant strain that this puts on personal and family life. IIH is still inits early days but the initial indications from field testing are promising. The IIH awards scheme now offers organisations accreditation at one of threelevels of achievement and the use of the IIH certification mark. References 1. Confederation of British Industry (1999) Focus on Absence, CBI, London 2. Health and Safety Executive (2002) Work-related Stress, HSE, London 3. Department of Health (1999) A National Service Framework for MentalHealth, DoH, London Contacts– Project director, Investors inHealth, c/o Community Mental Health Centre, Manor Road, Beverley, EastYorkshire, HU17 7BZ– Roger Watson, professor of nursing, University of HullFull details of the IIH award scheme and its regulations can bereviewed on the IIH website. Go to www.investorsinhealth.org Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. A healthier futureOn 1 Jul 2004 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more