Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Wellness at Work

December 15, 2015

Someone recently suggested to me that employers should give employees maps of the building they work in with suggested walk routes lasting 15 or 30 minutes to bring some daily exercise into their working days. It may have been a flippant comment but it’s actually quite a smart idea.

Keeping workers healthy and happy has become a goal for all sorts of businesses and public bodies. Wellbeing at work (defined by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development as creating an environment that allows employees to “flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation”) can benefit employers as well as employees.

Reducing stress-related time off work can save businesses billions of pounds. Research has shown than motivated employees are more productive.

Two in five (41%) UK workers feel their job has had a negative impact on their health in the last five years, according to a survey published in February by the British Heart Foundation. More than half (55%) saying they have become more stressed as a result of their job over the same time period.

Non-work related mental ill health is the most significant cause of long-term absence in the UK – and musculoskeletal problems the second most significant cause, according to ACAS, citing research by the UK’s Confederation of British Industry

An increase in sick leave is often a sign of underlying problems in a business (bad management, stress, low worker morale etc.) which needs to be dealt with. But I think it’s a generally mistake for managers to obsess about the number of worker sick days. Absenteeism is of less importance to ‘presenteeism’ – being in work for longer than necessary and working when ill.

Maximise the 98% of the time people are at work rather than worrying about the two per cent of the time they’re not.

Can governments help? Yes, according to Dame Carol Black, who advises the UK government on work and health and who spoke at the recent WORKTECH 15 conference in London.

Government departments need to be better co-ordinated at improving public health and encouraging companies and public bodies to improve the wellbeing of their employees or citizens using public services, she said. However, some departments have started to work more closely, she added.

Corporate policy on wellbeing should include a management vision, culture and values, space, technology and services, she said.

Employee engagement isn’t a fluffy, abstract thing. As Dame Carol Black also said, when you go into a hospital for an operation look at the employee engagement score because it relates to your chances of coming out alive.

A corporate wellbeing policy has three aspects: the physical environment (the building and its surrounding) the technology we put in it and the corporate policy. When one of those legs isn’t there it falls over.

Small things can help. Simon Carter, head of property at National Grid told the WORKTECH15 conference, that employers should try to reduce the stress of commuting for their employees by making sure, for example, that they can park their car at work or get into work easily from nearby train stations.

Then help be as productive as possible as soon as they get into work. Decent coffee on site can help as can other facilities. The National Grid, for example, has an on-site dentist for staff, which is an incredibly compelling benefit.

In Cisco there is a lot of emphasis on wellness and wellbeing which makes a massive impact dealing with the demands of a busy work-life . Cisco has really thought about all three aspects – The physical workplace, Technology and Corporate Policy. As an example is currently revamping many of its offices to embrace more activity based working and technology is a key enabler that underpins this transformation.

Wellness at work is well and truly on the corporate agenda – and I believe we’ll only see it creep up further as 2016 unfolds.


Leave a comment


  1. Great idea Tim

  2. Great blog Tim. I think we underestimate the importance sometimes of a pleasant office environment for both ‘wellness’ and productivity. We all know the offices we have been to, where just walking in drags your spirits down. No names !! An engaging office makes a massive difference