Bio: Cary L. Cooper, CBE, is distinguished professor of organizational psychology and health at Lancaster...
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I have just returned from the World Economic Forum in Dubai, attending the Global Agenda Council on chronic disease and well-being. The issues and costs concerning non-communicable diseases are significant around the world, whether it is about heart disease, Type 2 diabetes or mental ill health - these are all potentially preventable diseases.
Many of these illnesses can cost the workplace millions of pounds/euros/dollars in terms of sickness absence, presenteeism and lost productive value. In fact, two years ago mental ill health in the workplace cost the UK £25.9 billion.
The UN is holding a summit in New York on 19 September 2011 to highlight the effect of these illnesses, not only for countries but also for companies. The intention is to try and hold a well-being week in the city during the summit and extend the concept in future years to different cities and employers throughout the world.Well-being is a real challenge for employers - and HR professionals in particular - in being at the forefront of making the workplace a healthier and more ‘people sustainable’ environment. Only weeks ago, the prime minister announced the type of items that may be used to assess our gross national well-being. One component of this will be indicators of well-being in the workplace. HR has a real contribution to make here, drawing attention to the evidence base on well-being, including: how much control people have over their jobs and how engaged are they in decision-making; how well they are managed at work; what kind of flexible working options are available to them; to what extent ‘people management’ is a real key performance indicator for managers in the recruitment process or in their promotion; to what extent is it a ‘fun place’ to work; and so on.
The evidence is mounting that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. It is the responsibility of employers and employees alike to look after their health. Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright, comically put it this way: “People who don’t know how to keep themselves healthy ought to have the decency to get themselves buried, and not waste time about it!”