Liver Disease in the Workplace

Due to the potential stigma often attached to the associations of liver disease, the condition can oftentimes remain unrecognised and therefore unsupported in the workplace, which is a cause for concern considering liver disease is thought to be the third most common cause of premature death in the UK. 


It is important to make sure that those suffering from the disease are afforded the same respect and dignity as those with other conditions, and that if alcohol misuse is a factor in their diagnosis that the workplace focus isn’t based around their performance and attendance, but more so the risks of the condition.

Whilst alcohol misuse is one of the leading causes of liver disease, it is by no means the only cause.  It can also be attributed to obesity and viral hepatitis.  The key signs to look out for in employees who might be suffering from the condition are fatigue, usually the inability to complete a full day’s work, and jaundice – it can lead to very itchy skin as the liver struggles to rid itself of toxins that subsequently build up. 


As an employer it may help to discuss with an employee suffering from liver disease about reducing hours, particularly if heavy manual labour is involved.  It’s also crucial to have a good alcohol policy in place that promotes awareness and encourages employees to help understand how best to support colleagues who have problems with alcohol.

If an employee’s condition is particularly serious, they may require a liver transplant, which can mean up to 8-12 weeks of recovery time and the long-term use of medication.  If this is the case it is very important to have a suitable return-to-work programme in place, coordinated with an OH specialist.

The British Liver Trust, as part of their Love Your Liver campaign, is currently calling for the Government to support universal screening for the disease, arguing it could potentially save the NHS up to £600 million a year.  Simultaneously they have developed an online screening tool in order to help raise awareness.

A brief look into a manager’s role in fostering positve mental wellbeing in the workplace

An EU Labour Force Survey found that nearly 10 million working days are lost due to stress, anxiety and depression, at an estimated cost to businesses of £13 billion per year through loss of productivity and sickness pay [1].

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) says that, in the UK on average, an employee becomes ill through work-related stress every 2 minutes [2].  Symptoms of which can become apparent both through physical and mental attributes.

For many, working environment has a huge affect on mental wellbeing.  If an element of negativity exists between an employee and manager, either through an abusive or neglectful relationship, this can have a lasting and deep impact on an employee and the business as a whole.

Increasing research throughout the last few years has made evident that strong and reliant leadership is crucial in sustaining positive mental wellbeing in the workforce.  The practical application of which revolves around:

  • developing a supportive organisational workplace culture that values respect and open dialogue
  • managers seen to be leading by example
  • proactively managing potential issues in a considerate and responsible manner, through regular team consultations where participation is encouraged.
  • as well, offering personal chats in a relaxed environment where a manager can get a sense of the individual and what motivates them both in terms of career development and their day-to-day life
  • managing conflict through seeking any necessary advice, from HR and/or Occupational Health

The more an employee feels valued and supported by their manager, the more confident they will feel in managing their workload, relationships with colleagues, and general work/life day-to-day balance.  They are also more likely to feel comfortable in approaching their manager if an issue does arise, knowing that that they will be treated with consideration and respect.

[1] Labour Force Survey | Eurostat

[2] Every 2 Minutes a Worker is Made Ill Through Stress at Work | TUC

Book: How to Look After Yourself When Your Feeling Depressed

A Little Book of Encouragement by Alice Rosewell


Over recent years great strides have been made to increase awareness of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, which are two of the most common.  In Britain alone, 9% of people meet the criteria for a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, with it being estimated that between 4 and 10% of people will experience some form of the illnesses during their lifetime [1].

Despite this awareness, however, depression is a very individualised experience, which can often leave a person feeling alone and isolated in their suffering.  It is during these seemingly endless hard moments, when talking and being around others all seems a little too much, that books can often offer an unexpected solace.

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  • Copyright © 2016 Alice Rosewell

How to Look After Yourself When You’re Feeling Depressed is a short, unintimidating book that offers readers a little encouragement as a reminder to take care of themselves, even when depression is stacking all the odds against them.

It’s a guide to quietly get you through the day, written in small accessible chapters, each often accompanied by a simple and cheerful illustration.  Alice Rosewell, the author, who has suffered from spells of depression throughout her adult life, writes from a place of understanding and compassion.  Recognising that whilst self-care on its own isn’t sufficient to treat severe depression, having someone show an interest and kindness toward you, and that someone being you, can be a positive step in the right direction.

How to Look After Yourself When You’re Feeling Depressed is currently available in paperback or as an ebook from Amazon.

[1] Mental Health Statistics |

Do you have what it takes to be a Workplace Challenge Champion?

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What is Workplace Challenge?

Workplace Challenge is a partnership programme with the British Heart Foundation offering a series of training sessions across the UK that delivers a hands on approach to improving health and wellbeing within a workforce.

It encourages a person, or two, within an organisation to adopt the role of workplace challenge champion, and with a full day training session provides them with the “skills, confidence and resources to promote better health and increase participation in sport and physical activity“[1].

Why is promoting health and wellbeing at work important?

Having a healthy workplace environment is both good for mental and physical wellbeing.

The average person spends around 60% of their waking hours at work.

It’s estimated that the annual economic costs to businesses of sickness absence is over £100 billion, with around 23 million working days in the UK lost due to work-related ill health [2].

The benefits of having a healthy and active workplace can lead to improved morale, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, and increased staff retention.

What does it mean to be a Workplace Champion?

Being a workplace champion might be part of your job permit, or you might simply be keen to promote wellness amongst your colleagues.  The idea is that you are there to support your colleagues in an active lifestyle, organise activities, and be a point of contact if they’re looking for advice on how to increase their activity.

What to expect from Workplace Challenge training:

Workplace Challenge is an interactive workshop, so you are encouraged to come dressed for casual movement.  Throughout the day you are introduced to a number of resources available to businesses specifically designed to promote activity in the workforce, which can be recorded through the Workplace Challenge website.  Sports and activities ranging from tennis to volleyball, from table tennis to running.

The course also provides advice on how to introduce the Workplace Challenge into an organisation, and how to gain support and commitment from both employees and employers.  Information is provided on how to write and submit a business case to senior staff in order to introduce the programme, as well as highlighting case studies of programmes that have already proved successful.

The day is also a great way to meet others who are promoting health and activity in the workplace, and share experiences and ideas of what has worked well so far for yourselves and others.

The cost of the full-day workshop is £50, which includes a Health at Work pack, and lunch & refreshments.

Workplace Challenge Website:

The website offers news on upcoming events in and around local areas, as well as contact details of local sport organisations and trusts.

There is a great online free activity log, where you can track all your activities and compete in self-set challenges or challenges with colleagues and friends.  And there are prizes and incentives for completing challenges.  As well as some fun little quirks, including a count of how much C02 you’ve saved in being more active.

Workplace Challenge also has an app to go along with the online Activity log, which means you can track your activities on the go.




NHS England to deliver tailored diabetes prevention scheme

This year NHS England are launching ‘The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme’ (NHS DPP), the first nationwide programme of its kind to help prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes currently costs the NHS around £8.8 billion a year, which is just under 9% of its annual budget.  It’s a leading cause of preventable sight loss, especially in those of working age, and also contributes to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

It is thought that around 5 million people in England are currently at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but that with the roll out of the ‘Healthier You’ programme, this number could be seriously reduced through preventative measures.  The hope is to offer up to 100,000 people a year in England tailored help on how to change up their lifestyle habits in order to become healthier and more physically active, as evidence has shown that “behavioural interventions, which support people to maintain a healthy weight and be more active, can significantly reduce the risk of developing the condition”.

Further reading and resources:

Tips for Reducing the Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes | CHOHS

NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP)

Tips for reducing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes

The NHS estimates that around 5 million people in England are currently at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  It’s a huge contributor to preventable sight loss in people of working age, heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure, as well as leading to around 100 amputations a week and 20,000 early deaths a year.  But unlike Type 1 Diabetes, the development of Type 2 can be avoided through preventative measures, of which there are many little ones that can be incorporated into everyday life.

Eating consciously

  • about 10 mins before a meal drink a glass of water, this will help you to feel less hungry whilst eating
  • use smaller plates to dish up a meal, encouraging smaller portion sizes
  • enjoy your meals away from distractions, such as television which can distract from being conscious of how much you’ve eaten
  • keep the serving dishes away from the table, you will be less likely to reach for seconds, and more aware of the fact if you get up for them
  • eat more slowly and give your stomach time to feel full. It often takes the body around 20 minutes to feel full after having eaten
  • try to ensure that at least half of your meal is made up of vegetables
  • half a dessert with a partner or friend
  • keep a water bottle on you throughout the day. Water is great for curing hunger pangs and will also keep you hydrated, helping you to stay feeling fresh
  • make a list of the things you need from the supermarket before you go and stick to it
  • eat a handful of nuts or some fruit before heading out for the weekly shop, to avoid feeling hungry and tempted in the supermarket
  • read the nutritional labels on food packaging, you may become aware of a higher salt content for example than you had imagined, which might influence your purchasing decisions in the future
  • read a book instead of unwinding with television, if you’ve seen a trailer for a film coming out that you think looks good, see if it’s based on a book. You’re much less likely to snack whilst holding a book and hopefully if you’re enjoying the story, you’ll be distracted from thinking about snacking
  • if you find yourself mindlessly opening the fridge or snack cupboards, pause and consider if you’re actually hungry or just grazing

Moving around

  • listen to upbeat music whilst doing chores and cooking dinner, you’ll likely find yourself dancing along, and feel good songs are great mood boosters
  • try some YouTube workouts and/or yoga, there are many for all ages and stages. They’re free, varying lengths, and often presented by professionals, who will talk you through particular moves and their benefits
  • walk about whilst your on the phone. A 20 minute phone call can lead to over 1000 steps, a 1/10 of the daily recommendation (10,000 steps)
  • whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or the toaster to pop, strengthen your muscles by doing some squats or arm stretches

Further resources and reading:

Can you reduce the risk of diabetes? | Diabetes UK

Diabetes: Reduce Your Risk of Getting It | NHS


Line Managers role vital in the return-to-work process

A recent poll conducted by XpertHR of 339 employers found that the most effective means of reducing long- and short-term absences is to have line managers take a more active role in engaging with the return-to-work process.

Here we look at some of the ways in which line managers can be effective in doing so.

Research funded by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation concluded that line managers attitude and behaviour towards employees returning to work is a key component to ensuring that their return is successful.

During an employee’s absence, especially if it’s long-term (4 or more weeks of continued absence) it’s important to communicate regularly with them either via telephone or email, allowing for the general focus of the conversation to be centred around their wellbeing, but also offering work updates so as to make sure they still feel a part of things.

It’s important to reiterate that the company will support an employee during their absence, and offer reassurance that their job is there for them when they return, and that they shouldn’t feel pressured to return before they are ready and well enough to do so.

Before an employee returns to work talk them through the return-to-work process, which may initially include assigning lighter duties and/or a phased return.

When an employee returns to work, make sure to meet with them on their first day back, to check in with them and make sure they are comfortable with any procedures and/or adaptations that have been made to their role in facilitating their return; and also to assure them that as their line manager you are there for them if they need to talk – it’s important to encourage an open line of communication.  Be proactive, and arrange further meetings, which while remaining objective, don’t have to be in the format of a formal sit-down.

As a line manager you should feel comfortable in seeking further information and/or advice, either from HR or occupational health about an illness affecting an employee, and what practical adjustments can be made to help facilitate their return to work.  Although it’s good to keep in mind that the most important role you can have as a line manager in an employee’s return to work is not to be all knowing regarding their condition, but to be approachable, sensitive and accessible.

Further reading and resources:

Manager support for return to work following long-term sickness absence: Guidance

Managing rehabilitation: A competency framework for managers to support return to work

How to be, and why you should be, more active in the workplace


Do you spend most of your working day sitting?  If the answer is yes, then you may be prone to “sitting disease”. 

Sitting for long hours in the office has been identified as a key cause behind most of our sedentary behaviour during the working week, which is a cause for concern as The World Health Organisation ranks physical inactivity as the 4th leading factor in global mortality, behind tobacco and high blood pressure.

Sitting at our desks for prolonged periods of time can lead to bad posture, poor circulation, tiredness and stiffness among other symptoms, which can all be precursors to more serious health risks including obesity and musculoskeletal disease.

NOTE: It is important to note that being physically inactive in your daily life is not the same as being sedentary.  Even if you regularly exercise, you may still be prone to sedentary behaviour.  Katy Bowman, who runs the site nutritiousmovement explains that “Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day… You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”

If you are able to stand for some of your working day, do.  Even though you may feel that you are standing still, you are in fact far less likely to be sedentary.  Often when you’re standing, you will shift weight from foot to foot.  You’re also more likely to move about when you’re on the telephone, for example.  If a standing desk is not a suitable option, every 90 minutes or so, try and stand up for a couple of minutes, maybe to make a photocopy or collect something from the printer, or even to walk across the office to talk with a colleague as opposed to sending an email.  And if you are having a meeting with only a couple of you, why not walk and talk?

As well, try changing up how you sit.  Swap out your chair for an exercise ball or a chair with no armrests, both of which will encourage you to sit straighter.  And whether sitting or standing it’s important that your computer screen should be level with your eyesight, otherwise your head will be tilted down, which can lead to neck and back pain.

During your lunch hour go for a walk, alone or with a colleague, even it’s only around the carpark.  Walking helps stimulate circulation, which is reduced when seated for long periods of time.  It also acts as a natural energiser.

Overall, remember to keep moving.  A great visual reminder, is to keep a pedometer on you.  Nowadays, many smartphones have apps built in, or are available for download.  The daily recommendation is 10,000 steps, which doesn’t necessarily mean you have to walk that distance, but more so generally move that amount.

New Year’s Resolutions to Help Improve Concentration

Sometimes we forget that making the simplest and smallest of changes can have the greatest of positive affects in our lives.  Entering into the new year, we don’t need to make sweeping changes, but maybe encourage ourselves to have just a bit little extra.

A Good Night’s Rest

Research suggests that between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night is optimal for feeling refreshed and revitalised throughout the day, which is, of course, key to concentration.  A great commitment would be to aim to have a full night’s rest, but understandably it’s not always possible.  Instead, why not encourage yourself to go to bed each night just 15 – 20 minutes earlier than your usual time?  Over the course of a week that would be roughly an extra 2 hours of sleep, or rest. 

For advice on how to wind down for the day, and have the best sleep, see our Top Tips for a Restful Night’s Sleep.

A Brisk Walk

It takes the average person 17 to 20 minutes to walk a mile, a small window of time, for example, that might be available to you during your lunch break?  A brisk walk encourages you to spend some time out of doors, and acts as a natural energiser, stimulating circulation and increasing the oxygen supply to your cells, which in turn can help you to feel more alert heading into the afternoon. 

For many the simplest form of exercise, walking also offers a whole host of other health benefits, including strengthening your heart, and boosting your vitamin D intake.

A Balanced Diet

Eating healthily does not have to mean cutting out on all of your favourite foods and drink.  For example, Natalie Stephens, a clinical dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says, “Dark chocolate boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, which are associated with concentration.” 

And, consuming a moderate amount of caffeine can be a great motivational boost.  A study in 2005 undertaken by Florian Koppelstätter showed that caffeine stimulated the area of your brain connected with attention, concentration and planning.

Blueberries and bananas are also great snacks to have on hand when you need to focus.  Research has found that both help to improve memory, and blueberries are especially tasty and juicy!

All of the above are things we know we should be doing, but can sometimes find ourselves dismissing with the pressures of our daily working lives and the pace of modern living.  The irony, however, is that sleep, exercise and a balanced diet actually help alleviate the symptoms and reasons behind why we don’t spend more time looking after ourselves.  The more alert and fresh you feel during the day, the easier it will be to focus and accomplish tasks, leading to greater productivity through concentration.

Certain Self-Employed Individuals Due to be Exempt From Health and Safety Law

From 1 October 2015, health and safety laws will no longer apply to individuals who are self-employed and whose work activities pose no potential risk to the health and wellbeing of other employees or members of the public.

This change in the law is a result of a recommendation from the Löfstedt Review which was published in 2011.  HSE believes this change in the law will apply to around 1.7 million self-employed people, from graphic designers to confectioners.

For further details about what this may mean for you, please visit