January, signalling a new start, sees many people casting off the excesses of the festive season and adopting new healthier regimes...at least for a short while anyway.
This seasonal trend should not be dismissed exclusively as the month of the C-list celebrity fitness video - as a short period of austerity to be endured before normal service resumes. It should provide us with a sobering (excuse the pun) reminder of the importance of good health and of the crippling costs of illness.
A recent report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) estimates the cost of long-term sickness absence at £4.17 billion to private sector businesses in the UK. With an ever worsening obesity problem and an ageing population, the UK and its businesses have an expensive problem to deal with.
There are many things that businesses can do to mitigate the expense of sickness and staffing issues, which will also have the additional benefits of improving employee engagement and reducing attrition. Practical initiatives such as standing desks, fitness classes scheduled into breaks, onsite gyms, the Bike2Work Scheme, healthy vending machines and work canteens that offer only balanced options will all help to foster an environment that promotes the well-being of your workforce.
Ensure that your core company message espouses these healthy values too. Creating a culture where exercise and healthy eating are normalised will go some way to counteracting the damaging effects of the sedentary lifestyles and regular consumption of junk food which are all too prevalent in many workplaces.
Investing in your employees' mental health is equally as important as catering for their physical requirements. An estimated one in four people now experience mental health problems at some point in their life which causes over 70 million working days to be lost each year. Exercise is proven to have huge benefits for people's mental health. Company-supported access to therapy should also be considered. In times of cutbacks and austerity, company benefits such as these are often the first to go. However, the Cebr report reveals that intervening early to provide support at the first signs of a health problem reduces the duration and associated costs of long-term sickness absence.
Demonstrating a genuine commitment to promoting the health of your employees will be the gift that keeps on giving.