CityWell, Working Well Together
One of the last century’s greatest achievements is now one of this century’s greatest challenges. A bold statement perhaps, but increased life expectancy has now reached the point that our ageing population is unsustainable.
By 2020 it is predicted that the number of those over the age of 65 in Britain will have increased by 12% to 1.1 million. It is also expected that those reaching over the age of 85 will rise by 18% to 300,000 and there will be an unprecedented 7,000 centurions. When looking specifically at London, this trend is also reflected as those over the age of 65 are the fastest growing cohort.
Analysis around this issue is multifaceted and complex. The concept has introduced a number of new questions to be addressed when coordinating future planning strategies, not only in a practical sense in terms of how these values are continually measured and monitored, but also what this will mean for the working population and for ongoing pension provision.
Firstly though, it is essential to clearly distinguish the differences between life expectancy as a measure and healthy life expectancy rates. The former seeks to measure the total number of years lived and the latter seeks not only to capture the quantity, but also the quality of living those years in good health, free from functional limitations which require assistance.
To respond effectively to this increasingly demanding financial and cultural shift, both the healthcare system and workplace wellbeing provision has needed to adapt, readjust priorities and focus on prevention, resilience and early intervention. For many organisations this has required a complete review of provision and strategy, shifting from being reactive, focusing on treatment and tackling illness.
Of course this is not to undermine the importance of providing support where it is necessary and in those cases, time is often sensitive, therefore being responsive and providing effective treatment is critical. However, the predominant emphasis is to empower individuals to help themselves and intervene before mental and physical conditions become unmanageable.
Public health evidence demonstrates that the most significant factors which lead to poor health are lifestyle factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and excessive consumption of alcohol. Therefore as the majority of workers spend a significant proportion of their lives at work, the workplace is the ideal environment to positively influence these lifestyle choices and promote healthier working-practices.
At the City Corporation, as part of CityWell, our new employee health and wellbeing programme, we have embraced a preventative and proactive approach. To guide our strategy, we have taken inspiration from the New Economics Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, a simple set of principles that can be applied to enhance our everyday lives. These are: take notice, learn, connect, give and be active.
CityWell was launched in April 2016 with the aim to establish a resilient health and wellbeing programme which will continue to adapt to the changing needs of city workers in years to come. In addition to tracking sickness absence rates, our measurable objectives are to see in return higher levels of engagement and productivity, whilst also continuing to attract and retain the highest calibre of talent.
The City Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation, a historic institution which pre-dates parliament with a large number of corporate, service and institutional departments. We are also spread out geographically, predominantly working within the square mile but with a number of sites spanning the breadth of London and beyond. With such a variety of sites and occupations, clear corporate values and behaviours are essential to our success. We believe that good physical health and mental wellbeing are as integral to the success of the organisation as any other aspect and wellbeing should be considered at all levels of the decision-making process.
The CityWell employee programme will be implemented in three stages over the course of the next year. Each phase will focus on a key determinant of health: mental health, physical activity and social wellbeing.
Since receiving the ‘achievement’ award for the Healthy Workplace Charter in 2014, we have not only created a comprehensive and holistic employee programme, but also established some meaningful partnerships with a number of organisations, including Public Health England on their ‘One You’ campaign, Barclays and the Lord Mayor’s Appeal on the ‘This is Me’ campaign, the City Mental Health Alliance on their data set project, MIND and Time to Change, the British Heart Foundation, StepJockey and Living Streets on their ‘Try 20’ campaign.
Although the programme is now launched, we are still very much at the beginning of this journey to integrate wellbeing into the cultural fabric of the organisation. At the City we pride ourselves on not just defining what we do, but how we do it. Our ambition continues to be to provide employees with an inclusive environment which ensures equality of opportunity for all.