Men’s health at work is a vital issue. It affects not only the wellbeing of individual employees, but also the productivity and performance of organisations. However, it is often overlooked or ignored in the workplace, leaving many men to suffer in silence or cope in unhealthy ways.
As a workplace wellbeing leader, you have a key role to play in improving men’s health and wellbeing in your organisation. You can do this by raising awareness of the key health issues that disproportionately affect men, equipping them with the tools and support they need to make positive lifestyle changes, and actively tackling harmful stereotypes to help reduce stigma, especially around mental health.
In this blog post, we’ll explore each of these steps in more detail and provide some practical tips and examples of how you can implement them in your workplace.
Why Men’s Health Matters
According to the Men’s Health Forum, men are more likely than women to suffer from serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, they are also more likely to die from these diseases. For example, men account for 60% of deaths from heart disease, 67% of deaths from lung cancer and 58% of deaths from diabetes.
Men are also more likely to experience mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. They are three times more likely to die by suicide. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK.
These statistics are alarming and show that men need more support and awareness when it comes to their health and wellbeing. Poor health not only affects the quality of life and happiness of individual men, but also has a negative impact on their families, communities and workplaces.
According to Public Health England, poor health among working-age men costs the UK economy an estimated £18 billion per year in lost productivity, sickness absence and early retirement. On the other hand, improving employee health can bring a number of benefits for organisations. These benefits can include reduced levels of sickness absence, lower staff turnover, greater employee satisfaction and higher performance.
Therefore, investing in men’s health at work is not only a moral duty but also a smart business decision – it’s a win for everybody.
How to Raise Awareness of Men’s Health Issues
One of the first steps you can take as a workplace wellbeing leader is to raise awareness among your employees of the key health issues that disproportionately affect men, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health.
You can use various channels and methods to inform and educate your staff about these issues. Depending on the communication channels in your organisation, you could look at using methods such as newsletters, posters, webinars & workshops, podcasts or even guest speakers. You can also share relevant resources and information from credible sources such as the NHS, Public Health England, and even other resources such as Men’s Health Forum.
By raising awareness, you can help your employees recognise the signs and symptoms of potential health problems, and encourage them to seek help early. You can also dispel some common myths and misconceptions about men’s health. These often include notions like it is normal or inevitable for men to have poor health outcomes, or that seeking help is a sign of weakness or failure.
Support Men with Tools for Positive Lifestyle Changes
Many of the health issues that affect men can be prevented or managed by adopting healthier habits such as eating well, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol and managing stress. However, many men may face barriers or challenges in making these changes, such as lack of time, motivation, knowledge or support.
You can support your employees to make these changes by providing them with access to wellness programmes, incentives, coaching, counselling, apps or online tools that can help them track their progress and achieve their goals. You can also create a supportive and inclusive culture that promotes healthy behaviours and discourages unhealthy ones.
For example, you can:
- Provide healthy food options in your canteen or vending machines
- Organise physical activity sessions or challenges during breaks or lunchtime
- Provide workplace health checks for staff, to help them get to know their numbers
- Offer flexible working arrangements or remote working options to reduce stress
- Provide smoking cessation services or nicotine replacement products
- Encourage responsible drinking or offer alcohol-free alternatives at social events
- Provide access to confidential counselling or employee assistance programmes
- Recognise and reward employees who make positive lifestyle changes or achieve wellness goals
Tackling Stigma Around Men’s Health
One of the main barriers that prevent men from seeking help for their health issues is stigma. Men may perceive certain societal expectations and norms about masculinity. As such, many men may feel that they must be strong, stoic and self-reliant and that admitting vulnerability or weakness is a sign of failure. This can lead them to suffer in silence or cope in unhealthy ways such as using drugs or alcohol.
You can help break down these stereotypes by challenging them wherever you encounter them. Additionally, you should aim to create a safe and respectful environment where men can express their emotions and feelings without fear of judgement or ridicule.
You can also encourage senior leaders and role models in your organisation to share their own experiences of accessing support for their health issues, especially mental health, as this can inspire others to do the same.
For example, you can:
- Use inclusive and respectful language that does not reinforce gender stereotypes or expectations.
- Provide training and education on diversity, inclusion and wellbeing for all staff.
- Celebrate and showcase diverse examples of masculinity and male role models.
- Provide opportunities for peer support and mentoring among male employees.
- Create a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment or discrimination based on gender or health status.
- Encourage open and honest conversations about health and wellbeing among staff.
- Provide feedback and recognition for employees who seek help or support others.
By taking these steps, you can make a positive difference in the lives of your male employees, and also benefit your organisation. You’ll be able to improve employee engagement, retention, morale and performance.
Men’s health at work is not just a personal issue, but a business issue as well. By raising awareness of men’s health at work, you can show your commitment to diversity, inclusion and wellbeing, and create a happier and healthier workplace for everyone.