July 23.2018, 7.00am

What’s the value of wellness in the workplace?

Wellness in the workplace may seem like a very modern concept but the first person to investigate the impact of occupational diseases was an Italian doctor all the way back in 1700.

Bernardino Ramazzini’s wordy De Morbis Artificum Diatriba was the first text to examine work-related disorders, pioneering the way for future studies into how what we do for a living can impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.

People have been studying wellness in the workplace for over 300 years yet modern workers are still struggling to achieve a work-life balance. The CoreHR Smart Talent Expects report found that four in 10 leading performers worry about their mental health as a result of work.

It also found that four in 10 of these employees believe that work negatively impacts their life, while over a third believe that their workload is unsustainable.

Those are startling statistics in relation to your best workers. With the 2018 Workplace Stress Report showing that six in 10 workers suffer from workplace stress, it’s clearly an issue that employers need to address. So what is the actual value of wellness in the workplace?

It can aid retention

Seven in 10 respondents in the Smart Talent Expects report said that a good work-life balance is attractive in an employer yet only one in four believe that their current job allows for this. It’s an employee market out there and a poor work-life balance can force them to go elsewhere.

Employees are not going to hang around in the current climate if they aren’t satisfied. A recent Gallup report found that half of all US employees are looking for a new job.

New research by LinkedIn found that seven in 10 workers would put up with lower pay rather than endure a bad workplace environment. The same number of respondents said they wouldn’t work at a leading company if they had to tolerate a bad workplace environment. Wellness initiatives are one simple way to improve your environment and improve morale among your workforce.

Healthy employees cost your company less money

A Rand report entitled “Do Workplace Wellness Programmes Save Employers Money?” delved into the ROI of wellness programmes by calculating the costs of unhealthy employees. It looked at 10 years of data from a Fortune 100 company’s wellness programme, which included programmes on lifestyle management and disease management.

It found that the programmes reduced the employer’s average healthcare costs by $30 per member per month. Disease management was responsible for 87 percent of those savings, at $136 per member per month.

Managing the health of employees with chronic diseases can improve their health and wellness initiatives and reduce the risk of employees developing such diseases.

The report also found that lifestyle management reduced absenteeism and that, “if an employer wants to improve employee health or productivity, an evidence-based lifestyle management programme can achieve this goal.”

It can help with absence management

It’s unsurprising that absence management has come into focus in recent times. The CIPD’s Absence Management 2016 report shows that the main causes of short term absences are minor illness, followed by stress. Workplace stress is at a 16 year high in the UK so it doesn’t take a data scientist to see why absence management is becoming a focus of HR activities.

Excessive working hours, stress and a poor work-life balance are placing a huge mental and physical strain on modern workers. A CIPD report found that two fifths of employers reported an increase in mental health problems among employees over the last year.

Wellness programmes can help alleviate these issues, ultimately resulting in a healthier and happier workforce. That means less sick days or absences. The CIPD put the average cost of absence per employee at £522 in the UK per year so an investment in wellness is one proven solution to offset the cost.

It improves employee performance

Employee wellbeing boosts employee performance in a number of ways, according to a Government report. It boosts their creativity and problem-solving abilities. It also impacts on their attitude to work, leading to greater collaboration and social co-operation. Finally, it also improves their health, which means less sick days and a more energetic approach to their job.

Productivity will be boosted

Companies in the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” generated 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent higher stock returns per year than their peers from 1984 to 2011. A recent survey found that two thirds of employees who offered and measured the success of wellness programmes reported increased productivity. Happy workers are almost twice as productive as their miserable colleagues, which is a pretty good incentive to develop an effective wellness programme.

The cultural benefits

There can be a tendency for organisations to focus too much on ROI and to demand a tangible return for programmes where the benefits are difficult to quantify. Despite all the benefits listed above, perhaps one of the greatest positives of wellness programmes is company culture.

Turning your organisation into a great place to work will ultimately result in happier, healthier, more engaged employees. Happy workers may be more productive but they’re also more likely to encourage talented friends to join your company and to spread the value of your organisation through word of mouth.

In terms of value, a happier, healthier, more productive workforce sounds like great return for any employer.


What do your top-tier employees expect from your organisation? Download Smart Talent Expects – a report in to the wants and needs of the UK’S most talented employees



Karen FlanneryBy Karen Flannery

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