Ok, so what does mouth cancer have to do with your job and the workplace? Your initial reaction might be absolutely nothing. You might even be thinking that it’s one of those fluffy health assessments projects that appears at work every now and then, and destined to cause severe embarrassment. Sound familiar?
Well, it’s far more important than that.
Firstly, investing in the health of a workforce makes good business sense. People are the most valuable asset in any company and employers are increasingly realising that working to achieve a healthy and happy workforce is just as important as sealing a new contract or investing in new equipment.
Providing health services at work can also boost morale amongst staff and strengthen trust between managers and employee Staff sickness is the largest cost that most companies have to bear in addition to the productivity issues from absent employees.
According to figures published by the Health & Safety Executive, more than 2 million workers in the UK suffered from work-related illness last year, resulting in around £12 billion in lost revenue… the equivalent of £500 for each employee or around 15% of salary costs. A significant proportion of this is due to lifestyle-related illness.
Let’s think about the two main causes of mouth cancer – smoking and drinking alcohol to excess. How many staff members at your workplace nip out for a cigarette or two during the day? Or does your team regularly go out for few post-work beers or glasses of wine? If so, then, employee health screening and workplace health promotion can offer significant benefits to your company and your co-workers!
New research shows that around 35% of participants inducted in smoking cessation programmes succeeded in giving up smoking. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend the following action employers should take to help employees stop smoking:
- Publicise smoking cessation interventions as outlined in the NICE guidance document
- Allow staff to attend smoking cessation services during working hours
- Develop a smoking cessation policy in collaboration with staff and their representatives as one element of an overall smoke free workplace policy
Take a look at this NICE guide on how to start a smoking cessation programme at work.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that 3-5% of the average workforce is alcohol dependent, and up to 25% drink heavily enough to be at risk of dependence. Unsurprisingly, there is evidence to suggest that alcohol consumption can have a direct impact on workplace.
In fact, a recent study showed that an increase in total consumption of 1 litre of pure alcohol per head of population was associated with an increase in sickness absence of 13% in male employees.
If your company does not already have one, encourage your employer to set up an alcohol-related work policy.
The policy should attempt to:
- Alert staff to the problems associated with alcohol
- Offer encouragement and assistance to all employees who feel they may have an alcohol problem to seek help voluntarily at an early stage
- Offer assistance to an employee with a drink-related problem which comes to light through observation or by the normal disciplinary procedures, for example through poor work performance, absenteeism or conduct
It will also try to create a working environment which understands the problems that inappropriate consumption of alcohol can cause by:
- Promoting and publicising health and alcohol education and information
- Demonstrating a sympathetic managerial attitude towards problem drinkers
Taking part in Mouth Cancer Action is easy. Aside from starting a smoking cessation programme and an alcohol awareness policy, promote regular health and cancer screenings to your local dentist or hospital. Pledge your support and receive some educational mouth cancer posters to display during the campaign. Employees can also be directed to a variety of helplines specifically for working professionals.
Workplace health promotion, as part of a health and wellbeing service has been offered by companies around the world for many years. International research now proves the monetary benefits to companies who buy in this service. Businesses offering this service also find they have a higher retention rate, less staff sickness, increased performance and productivity and increased staff loyalty.
With your help we want to develop a healthy culture at work through providing proactive and positive health initiatives which ultimately enhance employee wellbeing that will be beneficial both in and out of work.