Monica Coyle: Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace



For nurse Monica Coyle, the desire to improve workplace health and wellbeing with prevention being the best medicine was something she just couldn’t ignore, so she took the bold move of starting her own business to do just that.

Ayrshire based Monica has over 20 years’ experience in nursing but it was a secondment as a Health Promotion Officer with the Healthy Working Lives Team that gave her the idea to start out on her own with the launch of Positive Pulse Scotland.

“I really enjoyed being part of the Healthy Working Lives programme, going into workplaces and supporting employers and employees on a journey to improved health, wellbeing and workplace productivity. I could see that there was a gap in the market to provide an easily accessible and affordable workplace health check service,” explained Monica.

Whilst some businesses offer a corporate health check service delivered by providers, this generally requires their staff to go off-site to the provider’s premises. This isn’t always ideal, with the potential for ‘white coat syndrome’ potentially affecting health check results.

“It’s quite common for people to become tense or anxious at the prospect of any kind of medical test, even one which falls into the preventative health criteria,” said Monica. “This can lead to people masking symptoms or underplaying them. It’s also hugely beneficial to assess staff in their place of work as they’re generally more relaxed, it takes up less time from their busy working day and we can get a good impression of their typical working environment. This means we can pick up signs of stress much more easily with a direct sense of the workplace pressure they may be under.”

Positive Pulse offers businesses the chance to provide in-workplace health checks for their employees, designed to identify any risk factors which may lead to ill health and subsequent underperformance or absenteeism.

These dedicated, one to one 15 minute health checks assess blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI (Body Mass Index), looking for the ‘red flag’ risk factors which can lead to problems with weight, lifestyle choices or stress. Left unaddressed, these factors can lead further down the line to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke which then impact on health and wellbeing as well as the economy.

“We need to focus far more on prevention rather than waiting for illnesses to develop and then dealing with the consequences by medical intervention,” commented Monica. “Aside from the fact that it’s a poor use of resources, it’s also detrimental to someone’s quality of life if they develop an illness which could have been prevented by small, incremental lifestyle changes.”

Most people spend the majority of their lives in the workplace, so it makes sense that the health and wellbeing of staff should be at the forefront of good business practice. Healthy and engaged staff deliver better work and are less likely to be absent or leave their employment.

Recent figures suggest that 15 million working days a year are lost in the UK due to stress, with back and neck problems leading to 31million days lost.

Absenteeism alone isn’t the only issue, with the new term of ‘presenteeism’ referring to staff who are in work but not fully functioning due to physical or mental health issues. The cost of ‘presenteeism’ to businesses can be highly significant, with the Centre for Mental Health calculating that presenteeism from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, while absenteeism costs £8.4 billion.

Figures like these were just one of the motivators for Monica Coyle to take the leap, reduce her hours in her current job and launch Positive Pulse Scotland. “When you think that a business can help its staff be healthier, perform better, feel more valued and take fewer days sick leave, an annual 15 minute health check from just £30 per person is a fantastic investment – both from an employee wellbeing as well as a business performance perspective.”

The results of a Positive Pulse Health Check can be used to direct people to a variety of preventative health resources, whether it’s advice on diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, stress reducing initiatives or further investigation by a GP. “We signpost people to different services within the NHS if we feel it’s something that would be beneficial to them,” added Monica. “If someone has a high BMI for example, we can provide information on how to access healthy eating support and advice on how to increase levels of physical activity as part of a daily routine. Someone with high blood pressure may need to visit their GP for more detailed medical intervention. Whatever the outcomes recommended after a Positive Pulse Health Check, the result is the same. It’s the opportunity to improve someone’s health and wellbeing as well as their performance in the workplace. Sounds like the perfect prescription to me.”