The November moustache-growing movement known as Movember has been gaining momentum since it started back in 2003. With its focus on men’s health from both a physical and mental perspective, this is the perfect time for employers to encourage their male workers – and their female colleagues and friends – to start investing time and care into their health and well-being.
When a man suffers a health setback, so many other people can be affected too. From family and friends to work colleagues, the impact can be significant. This is why it is vital for employers to take every opportunity to inspire an open culture amongst their workforce when it comes to identifying and sharing issues, and Movember is the ideal time to do just that.
A healthy workforce is a happy and productive workforce. So many health issues, both mental and physical, are preventable. Early identification in some cases literally saves lives, and in others can help to avoid a great deal of distress.
Looking at men’s health statistics, it is actually quite shocking to learn that one in five die before they reach the age of 65. That means only four make it past retirement age when life is supposed to begin. In addition, 75 per cent of premature deaths from heart disease are male, and three in four suicides are committed by men.
A proactive approach to men’s health in the workplace could actually help to boost the lifespan of your male workforce. So, what practical steps can employers take to help? Let’s take a look.
Bring common health issues into the open
Coronary heart disease is the biggest single cause of death in the UK. A lack of fresh air, balanced diet, healthy weight, regular exercise and measures to reduce stress are all contributors to poor heart health. It is important therefore to think about how your workplace helps staff in this respect, and how much it hinders it.
Everyone over 40 is entitled to a free NHS health check. Be sure to make your staff aware of this and encourage them to attend because it offers people a very good idea of their risk of heart attack, alongside some tailored tips to reduce it. Males over the age of 65 are also entitled to attend an abdominal aortic aneurysm screen which assesses the risk of the aorta bursting, something that is six times more likely to happen in men than women. Again, ensure your staff are aware of this free screening.
The second biggest killer of men, and women, is cancer. The NHS is running a Be Clear on Cancer campaign, designed to highlight the most common symptoms, and there is plenty of literature available that you could share with your workforce. Evidence suggests that men are more worried about wasting a GP’s time than women, so encouragement to make that visit is essential. Always ensure that any genuine request for permission to take time off for a GP appointment is granted.
Mental health is also a major area that needs serious consideration by employers. Mental health issues that go unchecked can lead to suicide, and that is a fact. Another fact is that suicide is the main cause of death in men under the age of 35. At work, poor mental health can lead to reduced concentration; this can result in increased accidents and lowered productivity.
Mental well-being is not just about eliminating stress, it is about knowing how to deal with it. Encouraging staff to take their breaks; to leave work on time and to use their annual leave allowance will all help. You can also educate your workforce about stress-reducing activities, such as spending time in nature; getting involved in a sport or hobby; getting together with friends; enjoying a good night’s sleep; volunteering… and be sure to promote an open culture where staff feel comfortable talking about any issues they are facing in such a way that they don’t feel they are at fault.
Take steps to encourage smokers to quit and staff to get active
It is common knowledge that one of the best things anyone can do to reduce their risk of cancer is not to smoke. Encouraging the quitting of smoking is something an employer can get involved in. Again, literature promoting the free help available is a good idea, but support is even more important.
Colleagues could help in this respect, for example by offering a tea or coffee to help quitters relax when otherwise they might feel like they need a cigarette. Maybe you could get a give-up-smoking movement going where a few smoking workers get together to encourage and support each other. It’s also important to keep a check on workplace stress too, so as to reduce the situations in which a cigarette may be craved.
Getting your workforce active is another proactive step you can take. Research on the causes of death suggests that inactivity is responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity. The NHS recommends two and a half hours of moderately aerobic activity per week, in other words, exercise that leaves you a little breathless such as cycling, brisk walking or sport.
Think about offering something to your workforce to promote activity. Discounted gym memberships are great, but you need to take things a step further and create a culture in which it is considered acceptable to be active during the working day. Lead by example. Senior staff using their breaks to take walks or visit the gym will really help in this respect. A fluid working environment should also be encouraged so that staff don’t feel awkward about getting up from their workstations and moving about during the working day. This kind of freedom doesn’t just promote physical and mental well-being; it is also a proven booster of creativity and productivity.
Why not organise a sporting event that gets everyone involved? As an incentive, make it a fundraiser for a favourite charity nominated by your staff. Make it a regular thing, and your workers’ natural competitive streaks may push them to regularly train between events.
Men’s Health Campaigns
Men’s health campaigns like Movember are a great excuse to bring men’s health into the spotlight. Coming up next year is Men’s Health Week, running from 10th to 16th June 2019. Click here for more information. Why not take every opportunity possible to promote good health and well-being in your workplace? The benefits are for everyone.