Evidence is growing on the links between mental wellbeing and productivity

IOSH President

Recently, I took time out to play a game of badminton with members of staff at IOSH and it was a great experience for many reasons. 

Spending time with colleagues in a fun environment, away from meetings, gave me the opportunity to get to know them a little more. I felt good because I had carved out time to focus on my physical fitness. Mentally, it cleared my mind and gave me positive thoughts for the busy afternoon of work ahead.

It’s incredibly easy to talk ourselves out of leaving the desk and doing something recreational away from the office during the working day. If you’re conscientious, finding time for a healthy pastime during working hours feels indulgent, or selfish even. We can become work “martyrs”, ploughing through tasks, eating lunch at our computer and turning down invitations to a break because we’re “just too busy”.

And yet, as safety and health professionals, we know better. The evolution of our profession has brought many advances in recent years. Among them is the greater focus on promoting positive wellbeing as part of our role to protect co-workers. It has been well documented, but there are strong links between activities such as sport and mental wellbeing.

Physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety. There is also growing evidence of links between mental wellbeing and productivity. Indeed, improved wellbeing has been identified as a driver for preventing work-related injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders.

This is why we are seeing a trend towards the introduction of mental health and wellbeing strategies, with more than three quarters of organisations having them in place by early 2020.

In this edition of IOSH Magazine, IOSH’s head of advice and practice, Duncan Spencer, comments on a survey by IOSH and Management Today on the support, or lack of it, given to line managers to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. 

If mental wellbeing is about feeling positive about you and the world around you, clearly an organisation-wide commitment must be made to providing opportunities to support this.

It is understandable in our profession that strongly regulated areas, such as accident prevention, demand our attention. At board level, there remains a tendency in many organisations to focus primarily on avoiding breaches that can lead to prosecution. But I can make two points here: first, a strong wellbeing programme can contribute to reduced accident rates; and second, we can expect regulators to pay more attention in future to the duty of care of employers in reference to mental health.

The more we as a profession understand wellbeing and how to enhance it, the greater influence we will have in creating healthier, more productive work environments.

About the badminton game with staff: don’t ask me who won because everyone is a winner. But I will let you in on a little secret. I used to play for UCLA badminton school team competing at national level 35 years ago.


Vincent Ho is President of IOSH

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