Returning to a safe and healthy workplace

When it comes to workplace health, where does HR’s responsibility lie? HRD speaks to Leanne Scanes of Vitality Works

Returning to a safe and healthy workplace

Workplace health and safety is everyone’s business, but HR must have a driving role in ensuring that it’s carried out properly day to day. It’s a substantial task in itself, notes Leanne Scanes, Head of Innovation & Product Excellence at Vitality Works – enough to consume anyone’s workday.  

“First and foremost, you have the occupational health factors,” explains Scanes. “That covers all of the risks that you might think of, like safety equipment, hazard reduction and meeting legislative requirements. There’s an increasing emphasis on mental health considerations and workplace wellbeing, too.”

Employees are individuals with different needs, notes Scanes, and they need to be treated as such.

“Everyone has their own respective pressures,” explains Scanes. “So as HR professionals, we need to be reaching them on a personal level. Unfortunately, the tendency has been to realise that there’s a problem once the employee’s hit their crisis point, rather than having proactive input earlier.” 

There’s no question that these are very real challenges, often beyond the scope of an HR department’s ability to deal with – particularly once you factor in budget and time constraints. But Scanes posits that third-party partners can effectively fill the gap, and help bring better health and wellbeing services into the workplace.

“The advantage third-party partners tend to have is that they’re working across a whole host of workplaces and industries,” Scanes says. “They’re well-positioned to have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening on a variety of fronts – new innovations, case studies and best practices.”

Scanes points to Vitality Works’ own response to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.

“I think we’ve all heard a few horror stories about companies buying a few thermometers and calling it a day,” says Scanes. “But when you consider how much knowledge has changed around the situation even in the last few weeks, it’s not totally surprising either. Companies don’t always have the ability to stay up to date on everything, let alone implement solutions.”

Accordingly, Vitality Works have been providing a risk screening and phone triage service for clients. As more companies are returning to work, it’s geared at identifying employees potentially at risk of COVID-19 and then taking appropriate action to protect other employees.

“It can be run with our team coming on-site, providing training for existing employees or simply carried out online,” explains Scanes. “We’ve got a team dedicated to staying up to date with best practice around the pandemic, so HR departments can safely delegate the details.”

In addition to risk screening and triage, Vitality Works provides a variety of other onsite and virtual solutions to assist workplaces and promote health and wellbeing – both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“These are uncertain times,” says Scanes. “We want to ensure that companies have the necessary tools to navigate them.” 

Sourcing outside expertise can be crucial – but Scanes notes that third-party providers are also able to bring an outsider’s view of the business. This is particularly important when it comes to evaluating the success of a given program.

“Given that HR departments are often fighting for budget, having effective evaluation parameters is critical if you want to ensure that you’re getting good value from a program,” says Scanes. “It also allows for greater confidentiality; employees can have greater freedom to speak about their experiences.”

Ultimately, Scanes explains, it’s about providing a better environment for employees, and furthering the benefits to them. As more businesses look to return to the workplace, Scanes notes that this is an ideal time to be reflecting on what sort of culture the company is building, and how it can better address shortfalls within HR into the future.

“HR leaders need to look at how to help employees thrive in their workplace,” says Scanes. “If you don’t have the tools or the time to do it internally, then there’s sure to be an expert who can help.”

To find out more about Vitality Works and their risk triage and screening services, click here.

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