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Why Occupational Health mustn’t close down with the office

12 months ago Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) services were performed predominantly within the workplace. With many offices and workplaces now closed in line with lockdown restrictions, employers may believe that their OH&S responsibilities are excused whilst the office doors are closed.

In fact the opposite is true. Whether employees are working from home, on site, or a mixture of two, the responsibility remains with the employer to protect their physical and mental health. With staff now battling a cocktail of hardships including social isolation, enforced working from home and job security fears the requirement is now more pertinent than ever.

The current situation presents a new set of considerations for employers; where mental health, wellbeing, ergonomics at home, exercise and nutrition should now be forming part of the conversation. With employee burnout reaching a two-year high in August, and an estimated annual cost of £45bn to businesses because of lost time due to poor mental health. Businesses are being urged to follow the government advice to ensure they’re ‘future fit’ for the long term new ways of working.

Danny Clarke, who runs Occupational Health platform Simply People commented;

“We’ve been running free webinars to raise awareness of these topics for both business owners and OH&S providers. These have helped business connect and help each understand what’s required legally and how best to support the workforce.
Each session has been oversubscribed, it’s been amazing to see employers engaged in the discussion and understanding that just because staff aren’t on the premises performing work duties doesn’t mean their responsibility is any less. It’s actually likely to be higher!”

More business owners are switching from the viewpoint of occupational health as on-site reactive attempt at workplace risk mitigation, and annual health screenings, to a holistic, continual wellbeing programme that extends well beyond the workplace.

The past 12 months have shown the importance of a continuous health dialog between businesses and their employees. It’s increasingly understood that a happy healthy workforce is more productive, motivated and profitable, and that good occupational health practices make great business sense.