The 12th of June 2023 marks the start of International Men’s Health week and whilst everybody’s health is important the statistics regarding Men’s health are quite worrying. For example, did you know that:
- One in five men die before the age of 65
- 67% of men are overweight or obese
- 75% of premature deaths from coronary heart disease are male
- Middle-aged men are twice as likely to have diabetes as women
- Four in five suicides are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35
But why is this the case? Lifestyle, eating and drinking habits, social factors, cultural beliefs about masculinity and manhood, unemployment and job insecurity, these all play a part and there’s no one reason behind the overall trend.
So, what can employers be doing to help improve the situation?
Promote open communication
Men are notoriously bad about talking openly about feelings and health issues. This may be down to the cultural belief that men need to be tough and to avoid being perceived as weak. But how can an employer change these perceptions? Whilst you may not be able to do anything about deep rooted cultural beliefs you can do something to creating a more open communication culture in work.
Get to know your workers better so you can potentially spot any early signs of ill health or stress, create an ‘open door’ culture and encourage staff to come to you with any problems you may be able to assist them with. By creating this kind of culture workers will feel more comfortable approaching you about their issues.
Men’s Health and fitness initiatives
The workplace isn’t the most active of environments and employees can be sat at their desk for much of the day, which isn’t great for physical or mental health. So what are you doing to encourage your staff to be more active?
Health and fitness initiatives are a great way to get staff moving, but to be successful they need to be tailored to your workforce. For example, when it comes to getting the men active offering a Zumba class after work isn’t going to get many takers. To encourage men to undertake health and fitness activities they need to be interested in them. Why not consider after work sports such as a five-a-side league or a squash club? Subsidised gym memberships may encourage those who may not like the thought of team sports or exercise in a group. You could provide healthy snacks in the office to aid weight control, incorporate standing desks or walking meetings to get people moving, or you could even subsidise wearable fitness tech and bring a competitive element to health and fitness.
Stress is one of the leading causes of workplace absences and the effects of stress can have a major impact on health. High blood pressure, sleep issues, depression, increased risk of heart attack, diabetes, increased susceptibility to infection and disease to name a few. But the effects don’t stop there, behaviour is also affected and stress can lead to increased drug, alcohol and tobacco use, over or undereating, social withdrawal and exercising less often.
So what can you be doing to reduce stress in the workplace? Understand what you can control, and what you can't. Get to know your workers so you can spot subtle signs early, foster and promote open communication, make sure your workers are taking a break now again and lead by example.
Find out more about reducing stress with our 6 ways of combatting stress in the workplace.
Providing flexible working options
Men of working age are less likely to attend a GP, to visit a pharmacy or to have a dental check-up and this could be down to a number of reasons. One of these could be due to pride and the perception of men being the breadwinner. With such a perception men may feel they are unable to take time away from work, and with health service opening times usually limited to working hours, it’s the perfect storm.
One potential solution is for health services to change their hours, however, you have no control over that. What you do have control over, however, is your employee's hours and the ability to offer flexible working. By offering flexible working you make it acceptable for people to take some time away from the office to visit health services and that you trust that they will make up the time at some point. What’s more, with appointment times being extremely limited offering flexible working means your employees can attend that 10.30am appointment rather than wait for a more convenient time or leave it all together.
Health problems ultimately lead to increased sick leave and this can have a negative effect on your business. The problem for many companies is that they don’t monitor absences or don’t have the policies in place to potentially deal with these situations. Only by monitoring absence can you start to see the true cost of absence to your business and you can start to discover any potential underlying health trends. If a trend is discovered you can then utilise return-to-work interviews, or informal meetings, to uncover the reasons behind any absence. You may find it’s an issue outside of your control, however, you may also find that the reason is well within your control and you put steps in place to reduce or even eliminate some ill health related absence.