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Employee well-being is increasingly relevant, but corporate wellness isn’t a new phenomenon. As far back as the Industrial Revolution (1760 to circa 1820-40) progressive reformists were proposing limits on the number of work hours to protect the well-being of the workforce.
Records show that workplace wellness was already a consideration prior to then. Italian physician Bernardini Ramazzini (1633-1714) wrote about the effects of work on health and the possibilities of preventative measures.
Workplace Well-Being Includes Mental Health
In the latter part of the 20th century many corporations began to take workplace well-being more seriously. Wellness programs were meant to improve productivity, and they initially focused on physical health. Basically, they were linked to health and safety at work.
Nowadays, there are an increasing number of employers who genuinely care about employee well-being and happiness. Moreover, they view employee wellness as a part of good corporate citizenship. It’s not hard to make the link between physical fitness and performance at work. Plus, there is a growing understanding that mental health in the workplace is an equally important priority.
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Employee Health Is Important to Business Strategy
The business case for well-being at work is evolving. However, many businesses still think that free fruit and a lunch-time yoga class are all they need to be doing to tick the employee wellness box. In fact, this serves only to reinforce the idea that individuals are responsible their own health and companies don’t really care.
There is, though, some good news. Deloitte reported last year that more businesses are seeing well-being not just as an employee benefit or responsibility, but rather as an important aspect of business strategy.
In this article we look at why employee well-being is an important part of business strategy. Let’s start by considering how the modern workplace operates and how people fit into them.
The Modern Workplace Has Changed
New technologies are dramatically changing the way we work. For example, employees can work at any time, from anywhere. This is radically changing the traditional office set up and transforming the nine-to-five work week.
In addition, millennials, who make up an increasing percentage of the workforce, are also driving change in their quest for a better balance between work and home life.
Prominent changes to the modern workplace include a focus on team performance over the individual and the rise of employee well-being programs.
Should Employees Bring the Whole Self to Work?
Even in the most serene working environments, employees still have to cope with the stresses in their personal lives. Switching worries off at the office door is a long-held expectation. However, is this realistic?
Someone with financial worries or relationship problems may not be revealing anything to those around them at work. However, it is highly likely that the stress they feel will affect how engaged they are with their job.
Some bemoan the concept of bringing the whole self to work. For example, Pilita Clark, in an article for the Financial Times, writes, “Please do not bring your whole self to work,” arguing that it is “fatuous to encourage people to behave in the office as they do at home.”
But does this view serve only to reinforce the idea that business doesn’t have any responsibility to support the welfare of their employees? Employees, in Pilita Clark’s view, should focus on keeping their personal feelings under wraps and making the business money.
How Can a Company Foster Employee Well-Being?
But bringing the whole self to work doesn’t mean pouring your heart out the moment you step over the corporate threshold. It doesn’t mean revealing every single personal detail about yourself to colleagues. Nor does it mean an employee behaves the same as he or she does at home. There is a different code of conduct at work.
Bringing your whole self to work simply means employees at work are human beings with the same worries and problems they experience outside of work. Emotions can’t always be hung up with your coat.
Companies that support employee wellness understand this. Those companies look for ways to help employees when life both inside and outside of work is tough. Simply offering flexible hours, reduced hours, or unpaid leave for a short time could be invaluable to an employee. What’s more, it could resolve possible absenteeism and presenteeism issues. Coaching in stress management, financial management, and conflict resolution are also increasingly offered in forward-thinking wellness programs.
Business Success Relies on Employees
Employee well-being programs are now a staple in most corporations. Moreover, many smaller companies are following suit. When it comes to productivity, perhaps businesses should look to well-being as a means of supporting sustainable productivity growth.
Richard Branson famously said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” It may seem like a well-oiled anecdote, but it is relevant because it speaks the plain truth. Business success relies on happy, healthy employees who are committed to their work.
Business Benefits from Better Employee Well-Being
When employees are in good health, business benefits. Here’s how:
1. Reduced Absenteeism
Absenteeism costs businesses money. This is a fact. According to a report by mental health charity SANE, it is estimated that British workers on average take 7.6 days off work per year, incurring a loss of nearly £600 per worker per year. There is solid statistical evidence to support the cost savings of employee well-being programs through reduced absenteeism.
2. Reduced Presenteeism
Presenteeism means reduced productivity when employees come to work when they are unwell. While employee healthcare is seen as a rising outlay, the cost associated with presenteeism as a direct result of employee poor health is two to three times greater. According to the Centre For Mental Health, presenteeism from mental health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per year.
3. Better Staff Retention Rates
With unemployment at an unprecedented low, businesses prioritizing workplace wellness are much more likely to retain staff. Well-being is no longer a soft nice-to-have perk. It is essential for attracting and retaining staff.
What Does the Future Hold?
According to Accountancy Age, British workers work for an average of 34 hours and 26 minutes each week. This makes for an average of 84,365 hours over a lifetime. Significantly, in a recent report by TheHRDirector.com, 8 out of 10 employees do not believe their employer does enough to support their physical and mental well-being.
Notably, companies embracing employee well-being as part of their business strategy are those most likely to succeed. In such a competitive global economy, businesses with a serious emphasis on both physical and mental well-being are the ones most likely to attract and retain staff. This is vital for those companies wanting to maintain a competitive edge.