Healthy workforce, healthy margins

Lynne Reid explains the benefits of keeping your employees healthy

Heart attacks and strokes are the main causes of medical emergencies offshore, according the recently released Oil and Gas UK Health and Safety Report 2015. It cited the top three causes for failing medical assessment by offshore oil and gas employees globally in 2014 as cardiac disorders, hypertension and weight.

The oil and gas industry is calling for global change. Changes to shift patterns, changes to governance and changes to safety measures have all been top of the agenda. But, basic health and wellbeing of individuals is increasingly part of the equation for business success.

Overarching goals of the modern industry are to maintain and improve safety, drive collaboration and future proof technologies. These are pressing issues but take groups of people to solve. Committing to healthy practices can be achieved by every individual. However, with support from an employer and peer involvement willpower can be enhanced and results improved.

A healthy mind
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills conducted a study and released a 2014 report entitled ‘Does Worker Wellbeing Affect Workplace Performance?’ Its focus was to take the subjective topic of wellbeing of employees, evaluate how it is defined and measure its potential impacts on workplace performance. It also sought to plug a gap in the UK workforce picture that previously had little data linking wellbeing with staff performance.

The study worked under the understanding that subjective wellbeing at work is influenced by a person’s own characteristics and personal circumstances combined with the workplace itself, including people, conditions and compensation. It notes that from a policy perspective the features of the job and the workplace are of most interest, but that individual characteristics are also important as they shape each employee’s experience of work.

It was found that subjective wellbeing is affected by the requirements of a job but also depends on the task being clear and predictable. This was termed as ‘environmental clarity.’ Environmental clarity also comes from feedback, which allows employees to be more effective, and also serves as a form of recognition, alongside the likes of promotion and pay increases.

Control and variety is also desirable in the workplace, with low control associated with greater depression and greater control allowing employees to manage the demands placed on them by their job. Repetitive tasks are known to be of low satisfaction and jobs with high satisfaction were favoured over the likes of promotion opportunities. Another key differentiator in the study was the opportunity for skill use. A match in a person’s skill set with a role in employment had a positive impact on job satisfaction, while training and development enhanced this further.

A healthy body
With aspects of wellbeing in mind it is worth looking at the impacts of and the impact on the body in the workplace. There is a spectrum of conditions that afflict workers within the oil and gas industry, from the sedentary lifestyles of office workers to the hard graft of a North Sea roustabout. These physical tolls are compounded by the mental challenges, but with careful management a healthy workplace can be achieved.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that sick days, as a result of current working conditions, cost upwards of £14 billion per year, based on factors including the financial impacts on individuals, their employer and the NHS. This was echoed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which calculated sick days at 6.6 per person up to 2014.

Under HSE regulations, workplaces must provide certain facilities, including toilets and hand basins, drinking water and storage for belongings as part of welfare. Good ventilation, ambient temperature, suitable lighting and enough space are also stipulated in health rules. Some business owners and management go further with additional seating, quiet zones, cafeterias and even gym facilities.

A healthy direction
At MAC we worked closely with employees to implement the NHS Healthy Working Lives initiative. Experts have told us that people work better when they are fit and healthy. This felt like common sense to us and keeping our people safe, healthy and happy has always been a priority. The offshore industry is classed as a major hazard industry where health and safety procedures and incidents are under the microscope. Rough conditions at sea combined with long hours and physical labour can have adverse effects on the body and mind.

MAC is committed to healthy working practices amongst our multidisciplinary team, which routinely travels offshore, and also our talented people onshore. Healthy Working Lives has greatly helped with our aims, and we were pleased to achieve gold in the NHS Healthy Working Lives Awards, a scheme to help employers create a safer, healthier, and more motivated workforce. This is not a one off award, it is a scheme that requires ongoing activities in order to retain the level attained.

Activities ranged from ‘lunch and learns’ educating on serious health issues which are increasingly impacting our lives, such as obesity and stress, to making healthy smoothies together in the staff kitchen. Everyone benefitted from this programme. People lost weight, blood pressure was lowered and as a team we felt better about ourselves. The team has also been hiking in the beautiful mountains of Scotland. The investment of time towards this programme was substantial for a company of our size. But renewed commitment to looking after our health has benefitted every aspect of our business and lives.

There is a lot to be said for working and achieving healthy goals together and I’d encourage more businesses to think about what they can do. We definitely feel better about ourselves and the business. There is a new, tangible energy in our office and it is delivering benefits to our bottom line.

Maritime Assurance and Consulting
Lynne Reid is HR Director at Maritime Assurance and Consulting (MAC). MAC offers a comprehensive range of support services to the marine, construction, drilling and floating production industries around the world. The company has an experienced team of master mariners, marine, electrical and structural engineers and naval architects to service the entire lifecycle of a marine asset.

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Issue 125 October 2015