Summer brings a new set of challenges to maintaining health and wellbeing in your business.
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We’re in the middle of summer and the evident joys that this season brings: sun, sea and sangria. Holidays, happy days and hay fever. Oh hang on… for every positive that summer brings, there’s a negative: sun and sunburn, holidays and heat stroke, barbeques and bee stings.
I absolutely love the summer season, and most people take and enjoy an annual holiday during the summer months.
However, health and wellbeing can flounder slightly during summer.
Employees have hot commutes to work (oh, the joy of the Central line at 5pm in the afternoon on a summer’s day), if they are not on leave, they are often covering for colleagues, some people are crippled by the effects of hayfever, socialising tends to increase as people go for a beer (or two) after work, and it can be too hot to feel like exercising.
Childcare can also be an issue with 6 weeks of summer holidays to cover, which can be costly as well as a logistical nightmare for many parents. Motivation can also sink; who wants to work when it’s glorious outside?
What can we do to keep our people healthy over summer?
Think about a specific wellness strategy for summer; it’s a special time but there are specific issues which need to be addressed.
• In hot weather, offering some flexible working can have great benefits as it allows the person to avoid the commute and the sticky office. It’s of particular importance if the person has certain health complaints, or is pregnant.
Making sure that the office is a decent temperature is also important; some people are blessed with aircon (although some offices can feel like fridges which is another issue!), if not, investing in some fans in the office will lead to a more cheerful team.
• Ensure that each person going on leave does a decent handover, and that once they have gone on leave, they are allowed to actually take a proper break.
Make sure that they’re not expected to dial in, and if they are in roles where they need to check in, put some guidelines around it. Leaders can send a strong message about taking a break, as people follow their lead. Everyone needs time to recharge, no matter who they are or the role they have in the business.
• If hayfever is an issue, there are a range of remedies that can be adopted including over the counter medication.
It doesn’t seem widely known that private GPs can offer an injection which removes all symptoms of hayfever and arranging appointments with a local private GP during work time can reduce absence and increase productivity, as well as save the pain and misery of throat, eyes and nose all throbbing mercilessly.
• Exercising can be miserable in hot weather, only the keenest runners want to sweat it out under the midday sun. Why not suggest alternatives through your wellness strategy, maybe a morning team workout would be ideal or an early evening walk to a pub.
Focusing on health and wellbeing can give significant benefits: you could suggest a health screen for your staff to get a full body MOT. Screens could be done in the office by a private company to look at key metrics such as BMI, blood sugars, blood pressure.
Similarly, sending out a survey to assess levels of mental health can have huge benefits and allow you to put in specific measures to address any points which might arise.
• Childcare over summer can be tricky for parents. Unless there is a network of friends and family, it can add significant cost to the monthly budget – particularly adding in a summer holiday.
Offering financial health workshops to help parents understand options which may be open for them, and to help with budgeting and planning, can reduce some stresses. If your company is able, allowing more flexible working during this period can help with childcare, particularly if childcare camps are between working hours.
• Keep teams focused with team drinks or picnics: it’s the time to enjoy the weather before the rains and winds of autumn hit, and we start discussing all the issues that Autumn brings… the season of mellow fruitfulness will be here before we know it, so in the meantime, slap on the sunscreen, pick up a lolly, and enjoy the sun whilst it lasts.
By Vicki Field, HR Director at GP chain, London Doctors Clinic.