Men's Health Week: What can employers do to help?

Tips for addressing male health in your workplace this Men’s Health Week

First published on Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

Last updated on Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

6 min read

The 10th of June 2024 marks the start of International Men’s Health Week. Both men's and women’s health are important, but the statistics regarding men’s health in Canada are particularly worrying. For example:

But why is this the case? Lifestyle, eating and drinking habits, social factors, cultural beliefs about masculinity and manhood, unemployment, and job insecurity—all these things play a part but there’s no one reason behind the overall trend.

The main opponent to progress for men’s health is the stigma against men talking about and addressing their health. So, what can employers be doing to help improve the situation?

Promote open communication

Men can be notoriously bad at discussing their feelings and health issues in the open. This may be down to the cultural belief that men need to be tough and avoid being perceived as weak. But how can employers change these perceptions? Well, while you may not be able to change deeply rooted cultural beliefs, you can help by creating a more open culture of communication at work.

Get to know your workers better so you can spot any early signs of ill health or stress, and create an ‘open door’ culture, letting your staff know they can always come to you for help with any problems. When we build this kind of supportive environment, everyone feels more at ease to talk about what’s bothering them.

Invest in men’s health and fitness initiatives

Let’s face it, the workplace isn’t the most active of environments, and employees are at their desks for most of the day, which isn’t great for physical or mental health.

So what exactly can you do to encourage your staff to be more active?

Investing in health and fitness initiatives is a great way to get staff moving, but to be a hit, they need to be tailored to your workforce.

For example, when it comes to getting men at work to be more active, the health and fitness activities on offer should be tailored to them. A good start is to do a survey of your male workforce to see what they’d be interested in.

Why not consider after-work sports such as a hockey league or a squash club? With men having measurably lower access to social support networks compared with women, these team sports not only help increase their physical health, but can help forge lasting friendships and a circle of support.

Subsidized gym memberships are a good alternative for those who aren't interested in team sports or group exercise. You could also provide healthy snacks in the office to aid weight control and incorporate standing desks or walking meetings to get people moving. Or you could even subsidize wearable fitness tech and bring a competitive element to health and fitness!

BrightHR’s online marketplace offers all customers access to a range of cost-saving fitness perks for your staff. Discover more about our employee perks platform here.

Take steps to reduce workplace stress

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. With men more likely than women to become alcohol dependent, and far less likely to access psychological therapies than women, it’s especially important to lead by example with positive stress management techniques.

So what can you be doing to reduce stress in the workplace? Start by understanding what you can control, and what you can't. Get to know your workers so you can spot subtle signs early, foster open communication, and make sure your workers are taking a break now and again!

Provide flexible working options

A recent study revealed that men of working age are far less likely to share their health struggles or to attend a doctor’s appointment, visit a pharmacy, or attend a dental check-up. This could be down to a number of reasons. One thought suggested by psychologists is pride, and the perception of men being the breadwinner.

With such a perception, men may feel like 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.

Unfortunately, business owners have very little control over the working hours of health services. What you do have control over, however, is your employees’ 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, trusting that they will make up the time later.

What’s more, with appointment times being extremely limited, offering flexible working means your employees can attend that 10.30am appointment rather than risk putting off their health altogether.

Monitor absence

Health problems ultimately lead to increased sick leave, and this can hurt your business. The problem for many companies is that they don’t monitor absences or have policies in place to deal with these situations.

Only by monitoring absence can you start to see the true cost of absence to your business, and from that, you can start to discover any potential underlying health trends.

If a trend is discovered, you can utilize return-to-work interviews, or informal meetings, to uncover the reasons behind any absence. Though you could find that it’s an issue outside of your control, you may equally find that there is something you can do, allowing you to put steps in place to reduce or even eliminate ill-health-related absence.

Need more support this International Men’s Health Week and beyond?

Find out how BrightHR can help your business with HR tools and tips to improve men’s health and communication with your staff.

Please refer to the list below for more resources and organizations designed to support men’s health in Canada:

Canadian Men's Health Foundation The Canadian Centre for Men and Families

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