High performing companies have long prioritized employee wellbeing. Research shows that employee health directly influences workforce behaviour. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and naturally things such as attendance increase when the workforce is healthy. So, it should come as no surprise that roughly 75% of high performing organisations measure employee wellbeing on a consistent basis. Without a doubt, one of the most well publicised successes of prioritising employee wellbeing is Alcoa. Their journey to industry leader is widely documented as having begun when they made the decision to prioritise employee wellbeing above all else.
Despite the obvious benefits, in low performing organisations, it is no surprise that managers are often unaware of these obvious benefits. One of the key differentiators between high and low performing organisations is one values the quality of output and the other the volume of activity. A high performing organisation understands that 30 productive hours of work and quality outcomes are far superior to 50 mediocre hours of KPI driven activities. Or to put it another way, a salesperson making 1 sale a month for $100,000 is worth more than a salesperson that makes 50 sales a month at $1,000 each. More activity does not mean better results.
However, in low performing organisations, the belief that someone being “busy” and working for longer, means that they will produce more. This of course is not the case, countless pieces of research have proven that after a certain point, someone is no longer more productive, regardless of how many more hours they work. So, the starting point for any organisation wanting to achieve employee wellbeing must first be to educate its management group on its benefits.
Presenteeism is often worse than absenteeism
The second thing most organisations need to understand is that coming to work when sick can often be less productive than taking time off sick. The most common cause for a person to not be in the office is personal illness. Research shows roughly 34% of all reasons someone doesn’t come in, is because they are physically sick. However, what is often overlooked is that lost productivity is much worse when someone comes into the office while unwell. If someone has a bad cold or flu, if they take a couple of days off, they will recover quickly. However, by not taking time to recover, sickness often lasts for a week and sometimes more as the body has less chance to recover. This then results in the employee being unproductive for longer as they are unwell, and there is also a much greater chance of infecting another employee, causing them to then be less productive while they recover. Quite simply, if someone is unwell, absenteeism should be preferred over presenteeism and a workforce and management culture should be aligned to this.
Design programmes that encourage the right behaviours
A final point that employers need to grasp as they aim to encourage employee wellness, is that they need to design programs that speak to at risk employees. For example, it is well documented that the health risks associated with being obese are significant. But if an employee is obese, it is often because they are not physically active. So, if a company decides to host a weekly yoga session for its employees, to ensure its employees are physically fit, do you know which employees are most likely to turn up? The employees that already do yoga! Businesses need to be a lot more targeted in their engagement of at-risk employees, to ensure they experience better wellbeing. There would be a much better return for a business by setting up an internal weight loss or mental health support group and allocating awards for employees that achieve their goals in this group, than by paying a yoga or Zumba instructor to teach a session every week.