When it comes to businesses that are aiming for sustainability and success, health and wellness is not often a particularly important focus for those in management who are driving the growth of the company, but it should be.
According to a poll by Mind, a mental health charity in the UK, the most stressful thoughts in people’s minds relate to work. For this reason, it makes ethical sense that employers should shoulder some of the responsibility of taking care of their people and reducing their stress levels. It also makes good business sense.
Increasing evidence points to the many benefits that are inherent in businesses where health and wellness is given considerable emphasis; and this is where HR professionals within a business need to drive the wellness agenda to ensure that these benefits are successfully achieved.
Implementing health and wellness schemes or simply paying attention to the wellbeing of workers through well-planned initiatives that promote a culture of wellness within a company serves to improve the physical and mental health of employees.
There is no doubt that this will have a number of positive outcomes for the business, as there is a strong link between employee wellbeing and business performance, according to numerous studies.
Healthy workers lead to cost-saving
With the end goal of any health and wellness initiatives being the preservation of a healthy workforce, the other benefit that is attained is that costs are saved, as absent workers due to illness cost a business time and money.
According to a report by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, sickness absence due to mental ill health alone costs the UK economy more than £8 billion per year.
That stat does not even take into consideration absenteeism of others who fall ill for various reasons and miss work, which an ERS Research & Consultancy report determined lost UK businesses around £29bn per year, with the average worker taking 6.6 days off per annum as a result of getting sick.
It stands to reason then, that successful health and wellness initiatives carried out by businesses would lead to cost-saving, as people will likely be healthier and therefore miss work far less than when there is no focus on improving their health.
In fact, a study by the International Social Security Association (ISSA) in Geneva found that every €1 invested in occupational health and safety generates a return of €2.20. So health and wellness schemes not only save money, they also lead to increased profitability.
It is also worth taking note that money is saved by not needing to replace staff as frequently, as healthy employees are often happier and more likely to stay in a job for longer.
Businesses therefore need to embed wellbeing in their long-term strategic planning if they are to see sustained benefits in the long run, and substantial cost-saving in both the short and long term.
Healthy workers are more productive
It makes sense that health and wellness plans which lead to healthier workers will equal more productivity, simply because absenteeism will have the opposite effect.
Responses gathered in a 2017 Survey of Medium and Large Businesses by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health revealed that 40 percent of medium-sized businesses believed that sickness absence had a significant detrimental impact on their productivity during the past five years.
Addressing the issues that lead to staff being absent from work due to ill health produces positive benefits for the companies involved.
The aforementioned ERS Research & Consultancy report looked at the evidence in favour of health and wellness programmes in the workplace, and one of the major findings was that in 82 percent of the initiatives, sickness absence was dramatically reduced. This benefit meant that staff spent more time at work, were more productive overall, and the businesses saved the cost of recruiting others to cover for sick employees.
Higher levels of productivity make for better performing businesses, so health and wellness initiatives certainly come full circle in improving the prospects for sustained business success. Modern businesses ignore the need for such efforts at their peril, failing to see the clear link between a healthy and productive workforce.
Healthy workers build a positive brand image
In terms of public relations, talent acquisition and employee retention, focusing on health and wellness within a business can put a positive spin on a brand’s image while boosting the morale and loyalty of those in the company.
Developing the right culture through wellness initiatives can help a company to attract and retain the most talented people while maintaining a reputation as a caring employer, which is good for business and a valuable perk for those within the company.
The most talented people look for remuneration packages which will consider their health and wellbeing, and having a reputation as an employer which values the wellbeing of its people makes the brand far more attractive.
Making health and wellness work for business
As with almost anything in business and in life, a balance needs to be struck when considering health and wellness programmes for staff and the cost of these programmes for the business. While a healthy workforce certainly provides a raft of benefits, these benefits are quickly annulled if they are costing the business far too much to be sustainable.
Some health schemes might be beyond a company’s budget, but there are many ideas and initiatives that can be implemented cost-effectively.
A culture of wellness can be cultivated without a great deal of spend, as long as there is a thoughtful and consistent focus. Initiatives can be as simple and inexpensive as encouraging employees to spend their lunch hour outside, pushing for walking meetings rather than those in a typical boardroom setting, or providing fresh fruit or other healthy snacks for individuals in the office to enjoy.
Promoting awareness of health issues and how to tackle them can also be a great health initiative. Providing information on various health issues in places where employees relax or interact, such as the break room, or making certain efforts that tie in with national and international awareness campaigns can be a useful way to promote wellness while making sure that staff feel cared for both mentally and physically.
Business healthcare cover is also a consideration for larger businesses that can afford it, with many providers offering tailor-made options that can be customised to suit the needs and budget of companies.
In conclusion, those in leadership positions within companies need to invest in initiatives and processes to create a culture and work environment that puts the health and wellbeing of employees first, because good workplace performance, greater productivity, improved morale and loyalty are just some of the important benefits that are sure to follow, with the business’ bottom line ultimately rewarded.
Peter Pedroncelli is a South African journalist based in Johannesburg with a specialisation in media studies. He writes and edits content for a variety of magazines and websites on topics related to media and business.