Impacting the bottom line of business: Keeping your staff well, engaged and productive / by Carly Walker

Staff wellness is integral to your business. As an employer, whether you invest in staff wellbeing to impact the bottom line of the business, or because you care about your staff, you understand the impact of employee stress on your business’s ability to sustain and thrive in the marketplace.

At the level of dollars and cents, we can’t ignore the numbers. Absenteeism and presenteeism (when the employee presents for work but is less productive) relating to stress is directly costing Australian employers $10.11 billion per year. This is even before we account for the additional costs associated with staff turnover, or workplace mental health claims.

On a personal level, employers who actively seek to support, build and help their staff manage their mental and psychological wellbeing are impacting the lives of not only their staff but their staff’s family and community as well. These employers understand the power of corporate social responsibility - if the actions of the business negatively impact their staff, then something is being done to mitigate these effects.

Investing in staff wellbeing is on the rise, and it’s not surprising given that there is an estimated 230% return on the investment in workplace mental wellbeing programs. Which is a pretty good return, by any standard, before we even consider the immeasurable social and emotional payoff. However, implementing a workplace wellbeing program requires planning and effort - if you want to reap the rewards then specificity to what is needed is the name of the game.

We already provide a fruit bowl and lunchtime running club, isn’t that enough?

Wellbeing is an intricate thing, because we, as humans, are intricate things. We cannot consider psychological wellbeing without also considering physical wellbeing, as the two are so intertwined. So this means that an employer looking to improve the psychological health of their staff would also consider other aspects of their health as well. Fitness, fresh air, nutrition, sleep, time spent at work etcetera.

However, seeking only to support physical wellbeing is not going to impact those staff who are already feeling stressed and disengaged from their work. It’s not going to help staff combat stress when it arises. For this reason, a sustainable staff wellbeing plan includes, but does not rely solely on supports for physical wellbeing.

So, what should we do instead?

Wellbeing and stress at work are impacted by factors which fall into one of two main groups.

  1. Organisational factors - such as exposure to psychosocial risks, stressors, type of work and workload, and culture of the company
  2. Individual factors - such as an ability to be resilient, manage emotional reactions to stressors and personality types.

So, care should be taken when designing wellbeing supports for your staff - interventions need to be considered at both an organisational and individual level. This means that not only are we designing a low stress environment, but we are also training staff to combat stress when they do experience it.

How do we actually go about that?

This process can take time and it requires expert assistance in finding out exactly what needs to be done within your leadership and within the ranks of staff on the ground. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach because every company has its own risks inherent. Here’s a quick list of what an employer can start thinking about before recruiting the assistance of a consultant.

  1. What is the culture of your company like now? Is everyone united under the vision, mission and values? How is this reflected in the behaviour of all levels of staff? Are people hired and managed based on their engagement in the company culture?
  2. Does your leadership team model excellent wellbeing practices? Going home on time, no emails after hours, managing their emotions and stress while in the company of staff?
  3. What psychosocial risks can you already see or hear in the company? People talk, you just have to listen.
  4. How do your staff cope with the pressure? Do they remain productive and switched on?
  5. What’s your staff turnover and spending on recruitment? Do staff call in sick often? What is productivity like?

Is it going to be worth the time?

Again, the return on investment speaks for itself. $2.30 return on every dollar spent. Through the creation of company culture, employee wellbeing and resilience programs and minimizing harm to staff, organisations have the opportunity to decrease absenteeism, presenteeism, staff turnover and disengagement. In turn, this will improve staff engagement and productivity, client satisfaction, and hence, profitability across all levels of their business.

If we can make more impact to our company vision and mission while practising quality corporate social responsibility practices - doesn’t this just make all round good sense?