Older workers in Early Years

Can employers create healthier working environments?

Over the last 5 years there has been a growing body of evidence supporting the business case for improving health and wellbeing in the workplace.

There are numerous benefits for having improved health and wellbeing in the early years workplace – reduced sickness absence, increased productivity, improved morale and experiences for children and genuinely happier staff which stay within the organisation.

Poor employee health cost a business huge amounts of money through sickness absence, relief care costs, loss of productivity, time to attend hospital appointment, loss of reputation and image.

Whether we agree or not, early years education has become a business with outputs being children’s learning and experiences. Regardless of morality, talented, healthy employees should be cared for, valued, respected and their wellbeing invested in – to maximise each organisation’s outputs. Leadership is fundamental to this.

I recently attended a London based nursery on the request of the manager to support an older employee who had worked for the organisation for 18 years. She was currently working with 3 months – 2 year olds and was severely struggling with back pain. She has been absent because of it and for treatment (which was self-funded).

We looked at her working environment and made recommendations to improve ergonomics – the nappy changing station access was restricted which caused twisting and awkward postures, especially when lifting children – when changing up to 90 nappies a day causes problems! A Jolly Back chair was also loaned, and we recommended the provision of HSE compliant office chairs to replace their existing offerings

The trial was extremely positive and Felcy felt “without doubt the Jolly Back Chair has significantly reduced my back pain at work”. She also felt more able to facilitate the care and engagement of children she was working with as she was low down and could actively move in a seated position.

It had helped her (and colleagues) at dinner and snack times when assisting with feeding at several low tables. Fantastic, we’ve helped….so we thought. However, after sending an invoice, we heard nothing more. On the 2nd follow up for payment, we received a reply from the new nursery manager (the 3rd in 6 months) that Felcy, no longer used the chairs as it “made her lazy as she was sitting down with the children and we provide an active learning environment for our children”.

I was astounded and dismayed, especially by a further revelation “it’s funny we check the environment is safe for our children every day, like plug sockets, but never think about the staff. I’m ok as I’m young so don’t get much back pain yet”. I wonder if your thoughts echoed mine?

This is sadly the reality for many people working in the childcare sector and it’s simply not ok.

People are the most important resource every organisation has and just because employees working with children are naturally well-meaning and “just get on with it” does not mean their health, safety and wellbeing should be compromised, or worse still, dismissed, at any age.

An interesting thought, would you wish your children to be looked after in such a nursery?

Our population is changing, we are living longer and working longer into retirement. By 2024 almost 40% of our population will be over 50. Older workers (over 50, like Felcy) have valuable skills and expertise. Its important employers make adjustments to keep older workers in work. Work itself is proven to be good for health. Not only does it make sense to educate staff and keep them healthy, investment benefits an organisation, is morally the correct thing to do and ultimately gives maximum benefit to the children we strive to give out best to.

A memorable fact is that research shows for every £1 invested in employee ergonomics, there is a £3-£6 return on investment.

If like us, you are genuinely motivated to care for staff through cutting edge thought and design (much talked about points of conversation in recent years), please do get in touch as we’d love to help support your healthier workforce and promise to be with you every step of the way. Contact Us