According to figures published by the Health & Safety Executive, more than two million workers in the UK suffered from work-related illness last year, resulting in around £12 billion in lost revenue… the equivalent of £500 for each employee or around 15% of salary costs.

A significant proportion of this is due to lifestyle-related illness – a problem not only faced in the UK but all around the world.

Two of the most common of these are smoking and drinking alcohol to excess.

How many staff members at your workplace nip out for a cigarette or two during the day? Or does your team regularly go out for few post-work beers or glasses of wine? If so, then establishing a workplace health promotion programme, which includes smoking cessation and advice over alcohol use, can offer significant benefits to your company and your co-workers!

Workplace health promotion, as part of a health and wellbeing service has been offered by companies around the world for many years. International research now proves the monetary benefits to companies who buy in this service. Businesses offering this service also find they have a higher retention rate, less staff sickness, increased performance and productivity and increased staff loyalty.

Action on smoking

The majority of us are now aware that smoking is bad for your health. Smoking tobacco can lead to many medical problems and is the leading cause of preventable death in the UK. However, what many do not realise, is the damage that smoking can do to the mouth, teeth and gums.

Smoking can lead to bad breath, tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss, and in more severe cases mouth cancer.

It is important that you are able to provide information to employees about the risks associated with smoking and offer them a place to go to quit.

New research shows that around 35% of participants inducted in smoking cessation programmes succeeded in giving up smoking. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend the following action employers should take to help employees stop smoking:

  • Publicise smoking cessation interventions as outlined in the NICE guidance document.
  • Allow staff to attend smoking cessation services during working hours.
  • Develop a smoking cessation policy in collaboration with staff and their representatives as one element of an overall smoke free workplace policy.

Take a look at this NICE guide on how to start a smoking cessation programme at work.

Click here for more information about smoking and its effect on your oral health.

Alcohol policies

The International Labour Organisation estimates that 3-5% of the average workforce is alcohol dependent, and up to 25% drink heavily enough to be at risk of dependence. Unsurprisingly, there is evidence to suggest that alcohol consumption can have a direct impact on workplace.

In fact, a recent study showed that an increase in total consumption of one litre of pure alcohol per head of population was associated with an increase in sickness absence of 13% in male employees.

Alcoholic drinks such as beer, cider and white wine can be very acidic which may lead to erosion of the enamel on the teeth. This can then go on to cause discolouration, pain and sensitivity.

Spirits including whiskey, gin and vodka contain extremely high levels of alcohol and can cause dry mouth while many mixers and alcopops are high in sugar which can cause dental decay. Cutting down or completely removing alcohol consumption is the best long-term solution for the oral health and wellbeing of your employees.

If your company does not already have one, encourage your employer to set up an alcohol-related work policy.

The policy should attempt to:

  • Alert staff to the problems associated with alcohol.
  • Offer encouragement and assistance to all employees who feel they may have an alcohol problem to seek help voluntarily at an early stage.
  • Offer assistance to an employee with a drink-related problem which comes to light through observation or by the normal disciplinary procedures, for example through poor work performance, absenteeism or conduct.

It is also useful to create a working environment which understands the problems that inappropriate consumption of alcohol can cause, by:

  • Promoting and publicising health and alcohol education and information.
  • Demonstrating a sympathetic managerial attitude towards problem drinkers.

With your help, we want to develop a healthy culture at work through providing proactive and positive health initiatives which ultimately enhance employee wellbeing that will be beneficial both in and out of work.

Adopting guidelines for smoking and alcohol use can go a long way in improving employee health, as well as increase productivity and profitability.

Useful links: