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Five Areas Line Managers Need HR Support To Deliver A Healthy Workplace

Posted by Aaron Keegan on 6-July-2016 09:23:21


Line managers are central to the successful implementation of a health and well-being strategy. They also have a crucial role in creating the culture necessary to support a healthy workplace. Many managers are only trained to focus on the specific tasks relating to their job. However they are in a position to implement the breath of policies and practices that make up a well-being strategy.

It is no surprise then, that managers without the training or skills needed to deal with sensitive, sometimes personal issues, make an effort to avoid these difficult conversations. Make sure that your line managers are comfortable dealing with the six indicators of a healthy workplace that have been identified by the UK’s advisory and conciliation service, ACAS:

  • Are confident and trained in people skills,
  • Employees feel valued and involved in the organisation,
  • Understand how to use appropriate health services,
  • Promote an attendance culture,
  • Help design jobs that are flexible,
  • Aware and equipped to manage mental health problems.

HR must provide the necessary support to line managers to deliver the healthy workplace.

1. People skills. Line managers are confident and trained in people skills. Annual CIPD absence surveys consistently suggest that “poor management style” is one of the top three causes of work-related stress. Little gestures can help make people feel part of the group and enhance engagement. Creating a team within a team is important for health and well-being at work.
By making employees feel valued and involved in the organisation will give them a greater sense of self worth and respect.

2. Training. Education and training is key for managers to understand their role in promoting well-being. They need to know what services are available to staff and when it is appropriate to use them. They are in a position to support employees with the health and well-being challenges they face but are often not equipped or trained to carry out this function. To address this problem many organisations retain a specialised Absence Management Service (AMS) that will provide empathetic support and recommend speedy, appropriate referral as required to the individual.

3. Proper tools. Too often line managers role in attendance is form filling and data collection. This is often under reported as absences notifications are given to them “on the hoof” and may not always be properly recorded. Tools such as an AMS will reduce this headache and then assist the line manager in carrying out an effective return to work interview. This will allow the manager to be proactive in making additional services available to the individual such as occupational health, wellness programme, EAP or physio.
Managers, if they are properly trained and supported can also help identify problems at an early stage and can encourage individuals to address the issue. This is a much more effective use of managerial time than out of date form filling.

4. Strong skill set. According to CIPD research into line manager competencies an effective well-being promoting manager rarely requires extra work. This is a crucial message to managers who are typically under intense pressure. The message should be work smarter not harder. Managing your teams health and well-being is part of day to day management and not a separate activity. Having the proper tools and recognising when it is best to use them can save time rather than fire fighting at a later date. Be proactive rather than reactive. Data from wellness programmes and attendance records can be used to support employees with the right services.

5. Understand the health culture. An organisations culture and its approach the health and well-being can effect its level of presenteeism. This is the cost of lost productivity (typically double the absenteeism cost) due to staff not performing effectively because they feel disengaged, poorly treated, and have multiple health issues. With a recognised Health Risk Assessment in conjunction with a robust Absence Management Service HR can help line managers identify the risks that are effecting productivity by looking beyond a specific sickness or incident. This integrated approach to health and well-being will enhance the culture and performance within an organisation.

Professor Dame Carol Black's 2008 report "Working for a healthier tomorrow" suggests that small changes in the workplace by line managers and supervisors can make a significant contribution to the health and well-being strategy. It is important that organisations ensure that they have the right resources to make this difference while HR have strong management information to monitor compliance with policy and proper use of the tools available.

Download our guide on the 6 Steps to Absence Management. Just click the image below.

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