Organisations need to focus on protecting employees’ mental health and other work-related stress and illnesses. According to a recent SAI Global survey, 58% of respondents don’t believe they have an adequate program in place to address the causes of stress in the workplace.
Various organisational factors can adversely affect workplace wellness and wellbeing, with management decisions having one of the most significant impacts.
Often those at a managerial level are not aware that the way they communicate with their staff or exert control over work scheduling and decision making, can inhibit a mentally healthy workplace.
Rod Beath, Head of Assurance Learning Australia and workplace safety expert, carries out training for organisations seeking to meet the ISO 450001 Standard for employee health and safety. The Standard also ensures an organisation is well equipped to cater for the physical, mental and cognitive health of its workforce.
Rod reveals the five organisational benefits of prioritising employee wellness in the workplace:
Improve employee recruitment and retention. Absenteeism in the workplace costs the Australian economy more than $44 billion annually1. Creating health programs or wellness activities for employees can provide a healthy outlet for managing stress, which, in turn, makes for a more pleasant or harmonious working environment. While this is an intangible benefit that employers might not be able to measure financially in the short term, happier and more engaged employees can lead to reduced costs in recruitment or training. Increasingly, people want to work for ethical companies – and so adopting these activities or programs is another step towards attracting and maintaining talent.
Reduce workers compensation claims. Work-related stress can manifest in physical symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue, and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. As this is the second most common compensated illness or injury in Australia2, mismanaging the health and wellbeing of those affected can lead to significant organisational costs. For instance, workers compensation mental injury claims3 are often more expensive than other claims and can lead to lengthy absences from work.
Maintain organisational reputation. If organisations are looking to attract contracts with governments, or their agencies, those governments expect that their partners have implemented best-practice standards. This can include occupational health and safety standards. It’s also an increasing expectation from international bodies that organisations have measures in place to support wellness and wellbeing, especially in light of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that call for good health and wellbeing in the workplace4. Promoting mental health in this manner can greatly help an organisation meet the guidelines for workplace health and safety and reduce their legal exposure. It’s also simply good business.
Improve productivity and engagement. Improving the mental health of employees can improve their resilience to mental stress, their thinking, decision-making, workflow, and workplace relationships. All of these factors translate to increased employee productivity. Likewise, offering flexible working arrangements, encouraging employees to take their full lunch breaks, rewarding good work and implementing an open and trusting management style can increase employee engagement. Ultimately, these factors will contribute to a more psychologically safe environment, in which employees feel they can ask for help before they feel they need to take time off.
Build and sustain high employee morale. In Australia’s competitive economy, many organisations are seeking higher levels of internal efficiency and lower costs. However, this can put pressure on employees, increasing their stress. It’s important to foster a ‘go home better’ motto. For instance, being able to provide employees with fitness and exercise programs, health screenings, nutritional advice, and programs to manage stress can address their overall wellness. Let the results speak for themselves – healthier employees tend to work harder, are happier and are generally more willing to help others be more efficient.
1 AIG Absenteeism & Presenteeism Survey Report 2015
3 Coal Services, ‘Industry Newsletters’
4 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ‘Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’