The evidence for investing in worker health and wellbeing

Think about all those daily experiences the average corporate worker might be subjected to as a matter of course: things that could have a damaging impact on their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

It might be a long commute.

Or bottom-line pressure from the boss.

It might be the persistent emails, WhatsApp messages, and other digital sources, of our ‘always on’ lifestyles.

All of these daily work stressors have the potential to negatively impact a worker’s health and wellbeing and can often trigger more serious health issues (not to mention the possible bearing on your business performance). We spend more time at work, with our colleagues, than we do with our loved ones. So, it makes sense to create an environment that fosters health and wellbeing.

Right?

Typically, workplace health and safety has focused on preventing physical harm to workers, during their time in the workplace. However, in today’s working environment, the boundaries are blurred between ‘work time’ and ‘personal time’ given mobile and anywhere-technology.

It’s these and many other considerations organisations need to take on board when establishing a well-balanced environment for worker health and wellbeing.

What else do you need to know?

Why is worker health and wellbeing so important?

Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness, absenteeism and long-term work incapacity in Australia.

There’s a growing body of evidence from a multitude of credible sources, about the importance of a healthy workplace, particularly in relation to mental health.

Workers who are overstretched and not coping may be reluctant to share this situation with their employer and therefore risk increasingly negative health side-effects.

Instead of preparing for the worst (debilitated staff, long-term absenteeism), organisations need to get on the front foot, and establish a healthy, balanced, supportive working environment. And when we say ‘environment’ we mean the culture of work, both in and outside of the workplace.

evidence for investing in worker health and wellbeing

What does a healthy work culture look like?

First and foremost, don’t place responsibility for managing workplace stress onto the worker. It will only serve to add more (dis)stress (and let’s face it, it’s not the right thing to do). Apportioning responsibility for the worker’s stress on them doesn’t address the root cause. Rather, it can trigger the amplification of their symptoms.

Think about it like this: say your organisation was to provide workers with access to meditation training, yoga in the office, or a mindfulness app.

Likewise, social gatherings, outings or other fun initiatives.

These are all positive value-adds for workers.

But only – and I can’t stress this enough – if the cause of stress is being addressed and managed at the highest levels. Otherwise, your well-intended initiatives may lead to worker resentment and disengagement.

In a mentally healthy workplace…

  • people watch out for each other and can ask someone if they’re ok
  • managers and teams understand mental health and openly talk about it
  • people know what they can do to build resilience for challenging times at work and at home
  • staff with mental health concerns seek help early
  • staff with mental health issues are supported in their recovery.

(Source: The Black Dog Institute)

evidence for investing in worker health and wellbeing

A Holistic Approach to Workplace Wellness

As I mentioned in the introduction, it’s vital to consider workplace stress, both inside and outside the office environment.

Ideally, with this broad scope of stress ‘reach’ in consideration, establish a workforce wellness plan under three categories:

  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Financial

By factoring in these key elements, you’re in a positive position to prevent, observe and pivot your wellness plan for worker health and wellbeing, to suit the patterns or triggers for stress; stress that occurs both at work and at home.

Below I’ve provided examples of modern-day stressors commonly found amongst today’s workers. Alongside each, I’ve listed potential stress mitigation solutions to consider for your organisation. Some of these suggestions won’t be right for your business. But they may help you set a path to establishing a holistic approach to managing the wellness of your workers:

TRIGGER SOLUTION
1. Rising house and rental prices force workers to live further from the city centre, increasing commute time. Establish a rigorous remote working policy, where workers have the ability to work from home for some or all of their working week.
2. Workers feel financial stress from the cost of childcare. Subsidy programs for parents with childcare aged kids. Are there facilities near your office your organisation could partner with to assist the financial burden?
3. Workers feel pressure to deliver in challenging or unrealistic timeframes. Therefore, they work long hours or at breakneck speed. They feel dissatisfied and the deliverables are often a lower standard. Establish realistic, time-sensitive, commercial goals. Collaborate with workers to achieve these targets. Burnt-out workers will have a greater financial impact on your bottom line than a marginal slowing down of worker output.
4. Workers feel disengaged due to discrimination; this could be based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity or religion. Establish and implement a robust zero-tolerance policy for worker equality. Provide training for managers to be aware of and eradicate misogyny, racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination.
5. Workers feel job insecure. Establish regular one-on-one meetings with individual workers to discuss their day-to-day activities, successes and challenges. This provides a fantastic means for managers to ‘check-in’ with workers. It also provides a management perspective on the individual and organisation’s performance.
6. Employee conflict. Management that is attuned to relationships within their team. Management has established trust and confidence with their workers. They are well placed to cut employee conflict off before it becomes a reality. Being a manager of people requires emotional insight and maturity. And the capability to provide support and assistance to workers as required.

Reconsider your EAP

Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) plays an important role in the support you provide workers.

Typically, workers tap into this resource either at the onset or while in the full throes of a stressful situation.

Instead, you need to take steps to understand the workplace stressors in your business, across all departments and job categories. And then, develop a strategy for stress mitigation, prevention and management. Having agreed systems and processes in place to be able to identify when a worker is in the early stages of anxiety or depression before they become acutely unwell, is key.

So in summary:

  • Don’t push responsibility for workplace stress onto your employees or contractors
  • Address the root cause of stress. Only then, provide valuable initiatives to support a balanced workplace and culture
  • Establish an open acceptance of mental illness, so people don’t feel marginalised or stigmatised
  • Establish a stress-management plan for your business, and have all managers trained and committed to its execution
  • Recognise common stress factors in your business, and work to establish appropriate mitigation factors
  • Ensure you have a robust EAP in place for your workforce

 

As one of the world’s top suppliers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is perfectly positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across 5 continents, and with decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help with your contingent workforce solutions please contact us here.

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