Linking employee wellbeing to positive business outcomes

Employers have increasingly taken up the mantle of being key contributors to the overall wellbeing of their people. Beyond ensuring health and safety measures are practised, there has been a splurge in workplaces being adapted to ensure higher levels of physical wellbeing amongst the people working there. Gyms, yoga rooms, even in-office rock climbing walls to name a few initiatives popular right now.

By: Paul Heaton on

Wellbeing, of course, relates to emotions as well, with social media events such as #WorldMentalHealthDay shining a light on how almost 80% of employees will experience symptoms of poor mental health throughout their lives.

Most leaders have taken on the challenge of better minding the wellbeing of their staff from an ethical standpoint. Simply, it’s the right thing to do. But as with many other employee-focused schemes in the workplace, there are positive business outcomes attributed to a heightened focus on the overall wellbeing of the people within an organisation.

Here’s a look at five critical business areas for which boosting employee’s physical and mental health can have a real impact:

Higher engagement

Over the last decade, employers have begun to understand and accept that employee health and engagement are intrinsically linked.

When employees are feeling healthy, both physically and mentally, they’re better able to tackle the working day. They’re happier and more productive too. This desire to get involved, feeling committed and enthusiastic are the trademarks of being engaged.

And that relationship works in reverse. In fact, Gallup found that 62% of engaged employees feel their work positively affects their physical health, dropping to just 39% for disengaged workers (and down to 22% for those actively disengaged).

More productive

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plan’s 2017 Workplace Wellness Survey found that wellness programs can have a huge impact on productivity - alongside employee happiness.

Their study uncovered a 66% reported increase in productivity, nearly 70% rise in satisfaction amongst workers and big improvements in absenteeism too (which we’ll come onto shortly).

Better retention through tackling burnout

One of the biggest causes of a wide range of workplace issues ranging from stress and lost productivity to higher staff turnover is burnout - something which an increased focus on wellbeing can help to tackle.

Read more: Tackle high employee turnover head-on with these five tips

CareerBuilder’s study released three years ago reported an alarming 61% of the US workforce was burnt out. This is brought on through a host of reasons including mental and physical fatigue, emotional factors such as anxiety and depression, and over-working. An enhanced focus on wellbeing can positively impact both mental and physical factors associated with burnout, leading to reduced turnover in the long run.

Lower absenteeism

It should come as no surprise that employees with low wellbeing are far more likely to take time off work. A research review and report from Sten Aldana and Nicolaas Pronk found that the ROI of wellness programs works out as, for every dollar spent on a wellness initiative, an organisation can save $2.73 in costs related to absenteeism.

Not being in the office isn’t the only issue associated with poor wellbeing though. Presenteeism, where an employee is at work but their productivity is a fraction what it is usually, is also a major issue. This study, which was published in the journal Population Health Management, found that workers suffering with knee or leg pain, as well as neck or back pain, see an increase in the rate of high presenteeism of between 70-80%. For employee suffering from depression, that rate rises to 131%.

Bigger profits

This research from the Buffet National Wellness Survey found that organisations offering effective health and productivity programs saw 11% higher revenue per employee - as well as 28% greater shareholder returns.

These are significant figures to bear in mind, especially when putting forward the business case for a new wellbeing initiative.