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Stress buster to help cut days off sick

PUBLISHED: 09:46 22 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:19 03 July 2010

It seems a simple remedy for beating stress - sitting with straight back, eating a healthy packed lunch and swimming a few lengths in a pool.

But for stressed-out staff at a Norfolk council, learning how to live a healthy and happy life could be the key to saying goodbye to worktime blues and avoid taking days off sick.

It seems a simple remedy for beating stress - sitting with straight back, eating a healthy packed lunch and swimming a few lengths in a pool.

But for stressed-out staff at a Norfolk council, learning how to live a healthy and happy life could be the key to saying goodbye to worktime blues and avoid taking days off sick.

Yarmouth Borough Council has predicted that its workforce will take about 13 days sick leave this financial year - an increase of more than half a day compared to 2006/7.

The council admits that stress plays a significant factor in staff absence, which could cost the coastal authority £531,960 in lost productivity this year.

In a bid to improve staff morale and happiness, the authority wants to introduce several stress-busting measures, including how to have the best posture, eat healthily and take a swim in lunch breaks.

The council is planning to spend up to £10,000 on hiring an outside consultant to set up a holistic approaches pilot

project to tackle work-related stress and illness.

By making its 450 employees feel much healthier at their work stations, the borough council hopes to reduce sickness absence to an average of just 10 days per full-time staff member.

Jane Ratcliffe, executive director of resources, said: “Our levels of staff absence and stress are quite concerning. The health and wellbeing of all our staff is very important.

“By spending a few thousand pounds on helping them feel happier at work we will save much more in return in the long run.”

Mrs Ratcliffe said that reasons for high stress levels included working in old office spaces and worries over job losses because of plans to merge with other councils.

The council is naming 2008 its year of health and will encourage staff to take up swimming and sports to boost their fitness and reduce stress levels.

Other measures to cut sickness include improving management feedback, targeting persistent absentees and enhancing bullying prevention.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour opposition, said stress levels were also high because there was not enough staff to fill council vacancies.

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