Opinion

Why Costain sees wellbeing investment as good business

Chief financial officer, Costain Group

A lot of businesses talk about health and wellbeing in the workplace, but some struggle with exactly what that means and how they go about improving it. I’m clear about how leaders can invest in wellbeing, and how it underpins commercial success. It makes good business sense.

We know the costs of bad safety and health at work. Work-related ill health and occupational disease caused almost 26 million lost work days in Britain in 2016-17. In the UK, sickness absence costs the economy billions of pounds in lost productivity every year – £8bn alone is due to mental ill-health. Presenteeism – working when ill – costs a further £15bn per annum, maybe more.

I strongly believe any company can make significant gains by concentrating on supporting a culture where employees are healthy, happy and motivated.

Investing in a health and wellbeing programme at Costain was a straightforward business proposition in line with our purpose and values.

Our understanding of wellbeing spans physical health, so everyone is fit and healthy enough to be at their best; mental health, ensuring everyone has a positive sense of worth to fulfil their potential; and social health, letting everyone be comfortable working together to achieve the best outcomes.

This helps us attract and retain the best talent, increases engagement, creates a place where everyone can be happy, healthy and fulfil their potential, and creates competitive advantage.

We’ve trained over 250 mental health first aiders and appointed wellbeing champions on every project

Our purpose at Costain is “to improve people’s lives by deploying technology-based solutions to meet urgent national needs across the UK’s energy, water and transportation infrastructures”. Our approach to work culture and sustainability has enabled us to deliver everything we do more successfully.

It is essential that we work in a smart way, and part of that is looking after the health and wellbeing not only of our 4,000 staff but also extending that care to our supply chain.

So far, we have rolled out mandatory mental health awareness training for all managers and we extended our employee assistance programme to the total workforce of over 20,000 including our supply chain. We’ve trained over 250 mental health first aiders and we’ve appointed wellbeing champions on every project.

An important part of any manager’s role is looking after the health and wellbeing of their team. If they can do that I am convinced that individuals, teams and the business all perform better.

More widely, I’m impressed by the new IOSH Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course. It sets the right tone at the right time.

I think the position of this course, to help line-managers gain competence and confidence in this area, has got to be a good thing for them and a good thing for their companies. It gives the right knowledge and techniques to recognise health risks and the key skills needed to manage people with health and wellbeing issues.

For me, wellbeing has always been more than a nice thing to do. It’s a business imperative, so that everyone can be at their best every day.

Tony Bickerstaff is chief financial officer, Costain Group 

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