Wellness in the workplace – is it now more important than ever?

Let’s face it – most of us spend the majority of our waking lives at work. So it makes sense that the concept of wellness in the workplace has become a hot issue. And this is especially so in 2020 – a year none of us could have imagined or possibly predicted.

For many, our lives are made up predominantly of ‘work’.

Sad… maybe. True… definitely!

Research from McKinsey shows that the health of workers has a direct impact on their behaviour, engagement and overall performance. High-performance companies have a sound understanding of this:  the equation between the status of worker health, and worker behaviour and output. As a result, over 75% of high-performing companies consistently measure health status as an essential element of their organisation’s risk management strategy.

If we leave the human factor out of our business calculations, we shall be wrong every time. William H. Lever, Founder – Lever Brothers

For employers, it is important to raise the priority given to the mental health and wellbeing of their workers. Why?

It enables them to move toward a culture which proactively manages the wellness in the workplace; a great position to be in, for all parties to the employment relationship. This can be achieved a number of ways. For example, via the appointment of health and wellbeing leaders;  individual ‘sponsors’ allocated to workers or teams and signing-up for corporate pledges.

It’s also important to monitor and assess worker’s performance using measurement tools to identify worker momentum and promote buy-in around wellbeing programmes. This can allow organisations to implement relevant initiatives, such as mental health training for managers, and track and promote their success in line with other business metrics.

For employees, it is important to become actively engaged in their own health and wellbeing and participate in strategies that promote both mental and physical wellbeing. This includes employee involvement in workplace programmes around mental health, with potential actions including volunteering as a mental health champion or making efforts to address stigma through sharing personal stories. Employees should also be made aware of the support available to colleagues and any strategies available to support employee mental wellbeing.

High-performance companies clearly understand the human-capital-driven health and work behaviour equation. That’s why more than 75 percent of high-performing companies regularly measure health status as a viable component of their overall risk management strategy. McKinsey

On a broader scale, governments can encourage collaboration with employers to improve workplace mental health by investing in research and developing an improved evidence base. Also, by forming strategic partnerships with corporate stakeholders and media, governments have the opportunity to amplify the definition of best practice, in supporting workplace wellbeing. An example in the UK includes the initiative of the ‘Time to Change’ employer pledge.

Governments also need to focus on policies that provide incentives to encourage companies to take charge of employees’ mental health and promote actions that improve overall wellbeing.

Across the globe, there are right now, a number of promising developments in the arena of wellness in the workplace. These developments include:

  • enabling employers to better support employees
  • placing priority upon establishing better mental health of workers
  • tracking employee mental health and wellbeing.

And although the speed of achieving success in establishing workplace mental health programs may vary, there’s now a priority being given to addressing mental health issues and the responsibility of employers;  this is a positive step which has benefits for employees, employers and society.

Despite these positive trends, there are a number of challenges for employers in successfully implementing workplace health and wellbeing programmes. These include:

  • a failure to see employee mental health as a priority against other operational demands
  • a reactive approach to implementing wellbeing policies rather than focussing on prevention
  • a lack of understanding around how the company currently performs in this space
  • a poor evidence base to measure the return on investment of any programmes
  • a lack of best practice examples to promote improvements.

Workplace stigma and perceptions around mental health, in particular, underlie and exacerbate many of these challenges.

Mental health is defined by the WHO, as a state of mental and psychological wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors.

Work-related stress, as defined by the WHO, is the response people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their abilities leading to an inability to cope, especially when employees feel they have little support from supervisors as well as little control over work processes. World Health Organisation

CEO’s at some of the world’s highest-performing organisations, tend to lead by example.

They may, for example, direct cross-functional teams towards a culture of health, wellbeing and mindfulness. Such strategies are now presenting as real points of difference, and hence, competitive advantage.

This is put into practice by:

  • Engaging employees
  • Embracing meaningful use of health benchmarks and metrics
  • Enabling senior management to have a genuine lens on wellbeing policies
  • Supporting the financial and career objectives of their workers
  • Establishing valuable and meaningful incentives
  • Helping workers get the best out of life, within the context of their roles in the organisation.

WELLNESS IN THE WORKPLACE: THE CHANGING WORKFORCE

In order to strategically assess the value of human capital in the context of employee health and wellness in the workplace, it’s important for HR professionals to understand the changing composition of the workforce. Data from the US, show the five most dramatic changes to workplace demographics over the past decade to be:

  1. The ageing of the workforce
  2. The high percentage of workers with multiple risk factors and/or chronic conditions
  3. Higher numbers of women
  4. The rising proportion of Hispanic and Latino workers
  5. The growing number of people who have to work two jobs to make a living.

In Australia, advances in technology, globalisation and business processes are changing the way we work. The two key categories of change are identified as:

  1. Change in tasks which involve workers changing the way they do their jobs; and
  2. Change in jobs which involve workers moving involuntarily from one job to another or ceasing to be employed.

We find a modest but interesting negative relationship between these two types of change, i.e. parts of the labour market which experience faster change in tasks are less likely to experience higher rates of job loss. The potential implication is that by adapting jobs to new technologies and new processes, businesses and workers may be able to increase job security.

UNDERSTANDING EMPLOYEE NEEDS VS EMPLOYER OFFERINGS

From Deloitte’s ‘Human Capital Trends’, we discovered the following disconnect between employer wellbeing offerings and the needs and demands of workers – where you’ll see there’s a major gap between supply and demand:

  • 50% of organisations offer employees flexibility regarding their work schedule but 86% of employees actually want it
  • Telecommuting is something wanted by 70% of employees yet is something offered by just 28% of organisations
  • Mental health support is wanted by 60% of employees yet only offered by a paltry 21% of organisations
  • Backup day-care is wanted by 53% of employees yet offered by just 8%.

These provide clear indications where organisations can focus their attention, whether via financial wellness, health wellness or other broader aspects of employee wellbeing. It also demonstrates the importance of wellness in the workplace as an increasingly important issue for competitive advantage.

Deloitte’s data also found that the best-performing companies on financial metrics were around 11 times more likely to offer holistic wellbeing policies than their lower-performing peers. This is a form of wellness that extends beyond ‘merely’ catering for the physical wellbeing of workers.

Deloitte suggests that these companies outperform their peers because employees felt more valued and supported in such environments. This general finding was supported by a second study, which highlighted the productivity gains organisations can achieve when meeting the wellbeing needs of employees.

 

To learn more about the trends and insights on workforce wellness, complete the form below to download our latest eBook, Top 9 Strategies to Boost Worker Wellbeing.

As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and 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 please contact us here.

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