Why do we need to talk about workplace wellness?

How are you feeling at work? I know it’s a bit of an odd question to start a blog with but I’d thought I’d ask. Chances are some of you may not be asked this by your employer as the subject of how employees are coping can be brushed under the carpet. However, we spend so much of our time at work so it is just as important that we feel happy and fulfilled during work as we do when we are home right?

This conversation is an important one to have with your boss – now more than ever – as the negative effects of workplace stress and unhappiness are making themselves felt for both employer and employee.

Are you ready for the gory details?

In a 2017 report published by Deloitte, researchers discovered that “84% of employees in the UK have experienced symptoms of poor mental health where work was a contributing factor”. Out of that number, 35% of employees did not approach their place of work for help, indicating a possible lack of support available.

Given that these stats are regularly making headlines, let’s look at why it is vital that businesses put your wellness at the top of their agenda. Here are six reasons why it’s important to feel good at work and kick start those much needed conversations around wellness in the workplace.

 

Six reasons why it’s beneficial for your employers to support wellness in the workplace

 

1. Employee needs and expectations are changing

Whilst there is a need to promote a healthy workplace environment regardless of age, millennials are subtly bringing about a change in our nation’s workforce.  

By 2025, millennials (born in 1983 or later) will make up 75 per cent of the workforce. And millenials want more from their employer. 37 per cent of millennials would place workplace wellbeing as a key priority for senior leadership, however only 17 per cent perceive this to be currently the case.

If employers want to attract and retain top talent going forward they need to be aware of the changing expectations of a younger cohort of workers. Focus is shifting towards a brand’s purpose and making a positive impact, as millennials want to feel more of an emotional connection with a company’s message than perhaps has previously been the case.

 

2. Poor mental health is costing our employer

The workforce is stressed and as a result our employers are bearing the cost of absenteeism (days off sick) and presenteeism (days spent unproductive in the office).

A study in 2017 calculated that: “poor mental health costs UK employers £33bn – £42bn each year.” This is an average of about £2.5k per employee. (Source: Deloitte)

Even though sickness days have been decreasing in recent years, absence linked to stress and poor mental health has been on the rise.

 

3 . Responding to the impact of our increasingly digital society

The world in which we live and do business is changing. Developments in technology mean that we are more connected than ever before, spending our days at a computer screen and our nights in front of our devices.

With this hyper-connectivity comes endless notifications and the expectation that we are immediately available to respond. (Uggghhh, it gives me a headache just thinking about the unread emails in my inbox!)

The ability to disconnect can therefore be a real struggle and may lead to feelings of burnout and overwhelm. Our employers have the responsibility for ensuring that they equip us with the tools we need to delineate work from personal time and encourage screen-free time.

 

4. Our mental health can affect our physical health

Poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory issues.

As our waistlines bulge and the nation becomes unhealthier and unhappier, it is clear we are facing a health crisis. Employers are key players in proactive promotion of healthy work environments and lifestyle choices, to try and maintain a healthy and able workforce.

 

5. Productivity levels are decreasing

An article on Agency Central claims that “on average, British workers worked an extra 303 hours in 2015 compared to workers in Germany. Based on an eight hour working day, that’s around 38 days extra”.

However, we are way down the stats when it comes to productivity – according Expert Market’s 2017 analysis of the 35 most productive countries, the UK came a dismal 17th, five places behind its lowest scoring Scandinavian counterpart!

What these statistics tell us is that although UK workers are putting in greater effort than ever before, they are failing to be as productive as nations such as Germany who get far more done in less time. This concept of “work smarter, not harder” is one we do not yet seem to have adopted as a nation.

 

6. Being happy at work should not be too much to ask

Every business knows that to be successful they have to understand their customer and support them in the best way they can. However, employers should also be recognising that their employees are at the heart of their business and an engaged workforce is a happy one.

A study by IZA World of Labor found that “happiness seems to motivate greater effort, increasing output without affecting its quality and thus boosting productivity.”

If staff are stressed and overwhelmed they will be unable to perform at their best and work time will continue to be lost to poor mental health. It is therefore in an employer’s best interests to ensure their staff feel supported and respected in the workplace, which not only creates a vibrant happy culture but also boosts worker’s output.

 

Promoting wellness at work

There are a large number of companies who are already listening to their employees and responding to concerns about workplace wellness. Big employers such as Barclays, Aviva and Thames Water are all implementing integrated wellbeing strategies into their places of work.

Whilst the blur of statistics can feel overwhelming, the message that comes out of all this data is clear. Corporate wellness is not an issue to be dismissed as fluffy or a waste of time any more. If employers stand any chance of remaining competitive, attracting great employees who remain committed to their company and produce results to be proud of, then their health and wellbeing at work needs to be considered.  

Let’s get on the front foot and work to prevent rather than react to the damage that has been caused both to the business and on a personal level due to a lack of workplace wellness.

 

How is your workplace addressing the wellness agenda? Do you think they are being proactive or is there still room for improvement? Share your thoughts by posting a comment or emailing me at [email protected]

 

The Vibrancy Hub run workshops, courses and mentoring programmes within organisations to provide tactics and strategies within organisations to boost the productivity, focus, resilience, engagement and overall wellbeing of colleagues. For more information, contact: [email protected]yhub.co.uk

 

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