Blog Post

Supporting the mental and physical health of frontline public workers

Alex Carlton

Account Manager - UK Public Sector

Frontline workers are those who directly interact with customers or the public, and are essential to operations across various industries. These individuals, including healthcare workers, retail staff, hospitality employees and emergency responders, face distinctive challenges and pressures in their daily roles that necessitate organisational wellbeing support.

Serving as the backbone of numerous vital industries, frontline workers labour tirelessly while providing support to the public - often enduring long hours and excessive pressure. This is particularly evident in the public sector, where research by the CIPD shows employees are more likely to feel exhausted at work. Absence levels also remain considerably higher in the public sector at 10.6 days per employee, compared to 5.8 days in the private sector. These figures underscore the persistent challenges faced by frontline workers in demanding roles across industries.

The wellbeing of frontline workers is paramount, not only to the individuals’ personal health and happiness, but to organisational success as well. By prioritising frontline workers’ welfare, companies can undoubtedly expect increased productivity, job satisfaction and staff retention. It’s high time organisations foster a nurturing work environment that makes frontline workers feel genuinely supported, both physically and mentally.

The physical component

With long hours, and frequently high-intensive labour, frontline workers often have physically demanding aspects to their roles. Without periods of rest, these physical tasks can take a significant toll on the body, leading to burnout, injuries and chronic health issues if not properly addressed.

To proactively get ahead of this issue, organisations must take steps to promote the physical wellbeing of their workforce, encouraging their team to prioritise their safety above all. This includes:

  • Providing ergonomic workstations and proper equipment to reduce strain and risk of injury.
  • Enforcing adequate rest and break periods to allow for recovery and rejuvenation.
  • Providing access to healthy food options and hydration stations to encourage better nutrition and energy levels.
  • Encouraging physical activity and exercise through on-site fitness classes, gym discounts, or organised group activities.

Offering training on physical wellbeing and safe practices for labour-intensive roles.

By investing in the physical health of frontline staff, companies can cultivate a more resilient, productive workforce capable of succeeding in demanding roles over the long term.

The mental component

Beyond the physical side of their roles, frontline work often involves high-stress environments, which can take a significant mental and emotional toll. Just as a physically strained worker cannot operate at full capacity, neither can an employee who has been pushed mentally to the point of burnout.

Fostering a supportive work culture where open communication is encouraged and mental health is destigmatised is crucial, and organisations must be taking measures to support this in their team. This includes:

  • Making employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and confidential counselling services readily available to provide a safe space for workers to seek help and guidance.
  • Offering stress management training and mindfulness practices can equip frontline workers with valuable coping mechanisms.
  • Implementing regular mental health check-ins or counselling sessions to proactively identify and address issues before they escalate.
  • Providing training on emotional regulation and effective communication to help frontline staff navigate challenging interactions with customers or colleagues.

The mental wellbeing of frontline workers should be seen as a critical priority for organisations who want to create a workforce that can sustain in high intensity environments.

The social component

A positive and inclusive work environment is essential to the wellbeing of workers. By prioritising the social aspect as part of their workplace wellbeing strategies, companies can create a supportive community where frontline workers feel a sense of belonging and inclusion, ultimately contributing to their overall wellbeing, job satisfaction, and success in their roles. Organisations should cultivate a supportive social environment by taking the following measures:

  • Creating employee resource groups and affinity networks to provide a platform for addressing shared concerns or interests related to workplace wellbeing.
  • Establishing dedicated spaces for social interaction and relaxation, such as break rooms or outdoor areas.
  • Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to ensure that all frontline workers feel valued, respected, and included.
  • Promptly addressing any issues of harassment, discrimination, or toxic behaviour to maintain a healthy and respectful workplace culture that supports the overall wellbeing of frontline staff.

A holistic approach

Addressing frontline worker wellbeing requires a comprehensive, holistic approach prioritising physical, mental, emotional and social welfare through supportive organisational measures. With growing appreciation for the wellbeing-productivity link, building a culture of care is essential. This entails developing solid strategies with clear objectives and measurement, maintaining well-paced initiatives to sustain engagement, leading with empathy and compassion for staff needs, and communicating clearly to reduce anxiety.

During relentless change and increased pressure on services, prioritising employee wellbeing and mitigating workplace stress proves crucial for a happy, healthy and resilient public sector workforce. Investing in frontline worker welfare offers tangible benefits - improved job satisfaction, productivity, attendance and retention. By valuing this backbone of vital services, employers create a win-win scenario while addressing the unique challenges their essential staff face. The time is now to make frontline wellbeing a true priority. Learn more about the Public sector and frontline workers here.

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