Over the last few decades, the concept of employee wellness has gained traction and it is now widely accepted that employee wellness can and does have a significant impact on your business bottom line. It is an ancient concept that dates as far back as Hippocrates and yet has proven useful in today’s business world to improve employee motivation commitment and overall efficiency.
What is Wellness?
Preventing sickness rather than just treating disease are the origins of wellness as a concept and can be seen in the current movement towards proactive healthcare. The idea dates back as far as the ancient Greeks and it has since developed to encompass employee wellness.
Employee wellness has over time become about more than employees simply turning up at work healthy enough to do their job. This was the initial overall purpose, and the primary focus of most early workplace wellness programs were implemented to predominantly increase productivity. Wellness now incorporates the employee mental and physical wellbeing and could include things such as worry over finances and healthy lifestyle choices. The employer has become interested and invested in more than just superficial health, but holistic wellness has become the goal for their employees. Wellness in the workplace has come to include anything that improves health at work, as well as overall employee health outcomes. Many companies incorporate medical screenings, incentives for better health, fitness days and social health support programs all under the umbrella of wellness. In line with the underpinnings of proactive healthcare, wellness aims to improve health in an on-going sustainable manner, reducing the need for long term treatment and possible later life chronic illness.
Why Wellness is Important for you and Your Business
A large number of wellness issues such as stress and poor physical health can affect the business, and are measurable in economic terms through sickness absence, high turnover, and reduced productivity. The annual cost of sickness and absenteeism is over $1685.00 per employee in the US and this cost has risen during the current pandemic. It is thus not necessarily always an act of benevolence and rather should be viewed as a win-win for both employee and employer. Improved employee wellness offers benefit for both the employee in the form of a healthier happier lifestyle and for the employer as sick days reduce, and both absenteeism and presenteeism decrease.
Absenteeism is where workers do not show at all, while presenteeism is where they are at work, but not really present/focusing. This can lead to increased accidents and mistakes and is as important to reduce. Both of these can be avoided by ensuring that workers are motivated and involved on the business.
It is not simply about the Marxian idea of the reproduction of labor, nor the return on the investment made. Employee wellness has become more about a happy, well labor force is more likely to be productive at work than one that is unwell and in poor spirits. Furthermore, a significant impact can be made on employee wellbeing and wellness with relatively little. A few simple changes can improve wellness and go a long way to creating a productive working environment. It is a difficult aspect to measure as is most health improvement measures, but industry and business experts would agree that a 2–3-year investment in wellness will begin to yield returns. With every $1 invested yielding between $3-$6. The return on investment (ROI) from wellness is clear, yet tricky to quantify. Wellness is not a quick fix and it takes time to change behavior and as such when planning such programs or in discussion with your HR consultant, ensure that you have planned and budgeted accordingly.
In the current climate, wellness will need to include Covid messaging with information and guidance. Several companies have instituted Covid testing and advice on finances during any company shutdowns and pandemic related closures. Knowing what the infection rates are in the business will allow for future planning and provide opportunity to implement mitigating processes.
How to get the best for your employees
Workplace wellness must become part of the business culture if it is to take hold and create sustainable change amongst the workforce. Furthermore, as aforementioned wellness must be mainstreamed in the organization, whereby it becomes the norm for managers and staff at all levels to participate, discuss and work towards an improved state of wellness and wellbeing. This is the only way that the concept will become ‘real’, both employees and employers will need to buy into the process of improving employee health and wellbeing and commit to this.
As wellness gains popularity there are a number of specialist wellness firms that you could look to engage, but they must, as a matter of course, work through your human resource department. It should also not be seen as an add-on to the core function of HR, it must be mainstreamed throughout the organization if it is to work properly.
As businesses streamline and there is a focus on lean enterprises, many have cut HR and the related services. If you want to focus on employee wellness, then outsourcing HR functions with a professional may be the best way to do this.
As wellness has become somewhat of a buzzword and the industry around employee wellness has grown, so to have the number and range of possible programs. Keep it simple; if this function is outsourced to a reputable and professional HR team as part of the overall HR function then you will stand a better chance of implementing an impactful wellness initiative.
Be clear as to what you have in mind for your employees, but most HR consultants worth their salt will do the requisite research and employee health assessments to see where and how the best impact can be made. The pandemic has changed how Human Resources functions and it is now, more than ever, even more important to consider and plan around the wellness of your staff if you are to build back stronger and with a committed and healthy workforce.