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Environment Agency (Cornwall)

National organisation

Why we became a healthy workplace:

The Environment Agency’s wellbeing ambition is for our employees to be healthier as a result of working here. One of our seven values is to ‘Stay safe and grow’ and we explicitly promise that we will invest in the wellbeing and development of our staff. This drive comes right from the top of our organisation – our CEO spearheads our culture – while our managers at all levels are also encouraged to carry out local initiatives to help achieve our ambition. 

In Cornwall we joined the Healthy Workplace Award scheme in 2016. This provided us with a fantastic amount of external support which really helped us kickstart a local health and wellbeing programme – the support covered stress, mental health first aid and physical activity opportunities, along with a big focus on healthy weight.

Recent health and well being activities:

For our healthy weight initiatives we had specific support from a specialist at Workplace Health. In the first phase in early 2017 they carried out eat-well workshops related to the Government’s Eatwell guide (targeted to both office workers and field workers and tailored as appropriate) across all four of our Cornwall sites, and individually weighed staff. In the follow-up sessions later in the year, the workshops focused on sugar and food labelling and we re-weighed staff.  The quantifiable results have been amazing, including a doubled percentage of staff classed as ‘healthy weight’, a 30% reduction in staff with obesity, and one member of staff successfully losing 22lbs in the 3 months between weigh-ins.

The anecdotal responses have been extremely positive as well, with our field-work staff in particular getting on board and adopting healthier lifestyle choices in their work as well as demonstrating lots camaraderie and supportive competitiveness.

Our healthy weight focus has been supported by physical activity interventions at work, with an area leadership commitment to deliver our stay safe and grow culture. This has included an awareness campaign about the risks of prolonged sitting to our office staff, encouraging active behaviours at work (such as standing meetings, providing adjustable standing/sitting desk and promoting lunchtime walking and running groups) and providing shower facilities to support staff with cycling to work.

We are definitely starting to see a business return on our investment in employee wellbeing - we have people reporting higher energy levels and improved productivity and we have seen a reduction in our sickness absence rates. Our culture has empowered me to progress these initiatives locally and the whole organisation is benefitting as a result.

Steve’s top tips for employers:

         Help enable healthier food options (such as providing facilities for people to heat up a lunch that they’ve brought from home)
         Provide accessible support related to weight management, supported by a specialist
         Make sure your employees know that management supports active behaviours (particularly at lunchtimes, to break the culture of working through lunch)
         If possible, provide showers – it’s all about making your work facilities conducive to being active

- Member of staff
Sickness Absence

Stress related conditions and musculoskeletal disorders are now the most common reported causes of sickness absence from work in the UK. 

Mental Health

The total cost to employers due to mental health problems among their staff is estimated at nearly £26 billion each year. That is equivalent to £1,035 for every employee in the UK workforce.

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