How NOT investing in your staff’s wellbeing could be costing your business
There’s no way to sugar-coat it. Job dissatisfaction is at a staggering all-time high, and with over 822,000 people in the UK suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020/21 (according to the HSE’s stats) it’s no wonder that employees are not only re-evaluating their work/life balance but also their career futures with employers.
In my previous articles, I have discussed the reasons why employers should be investing in employee wellbeing and stress prevention, exploring in detail the 6 key areas of work that need to be managed effectively to promote healthy and productive workplaces – demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.
This month, we focus on ‘the how’ and why now is the time for employers to invest in their employees and promote a positive work culture.
Why invest in employee wellbeing?
It can be difficult for employers to understand just how crucial employee wellbeing is, as it’s often seen as a business expense and not an investment. However, research has proven that organisations which take steps to improve workplace wellbeing, such as implementing stress prevention initiatives and encouraging healthy work/life balance practices, see tangible benefits in terms of improved efficiency and reduced costs.
A number of studies point to the potential benefits for those employers who choose to invest in employee wellbeing. They include:
- Better performance
- Better customer experience
- Better company culture
- Reduced absenteeism
- Reduced staff turnover
- Reduced costs
So what is NOT investing in employees actually costing you?
You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to dig up the clues that clearly point to the negative impacts of not prioritising employee wellbeing. Below are just a few statistics that illustrate some of the costs associated with poor workplace wellbeing and work-related stress:
- The potential economic return on investment (ROI) for a UK business that invests in workplace health initiatives is £4.17 for every £1 spent (British Heart Foundation).
- The average cost of filling an employee vacancy through recruitment, selection, temporary cover, redundancy payments, training and induction) is £6,125.
- The average annual cost of absence and presenteeism due to ill health is around 8% of a company’s wage bill.
- The total cost of sickness absence to UK business is around £15bn per year. Sickness absence costs UK employers about £692 per employee per year.
- Presenteeism (where employees work, but are under-productive due to poor emotional wellbeing) can cost businesses over £4000 in lost productivity per employee annually.
Why is workplace wellbeing such a hot topic? Why now?
Three words… “The great resignation” as it’s been dubbed is a growing trend of people choosing to quit or change their jobs, because of their unhappiness at work and to a certain extent the work and life changes the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about.
It’s rightfully sparked concern among employers who have maybe not been as proactive in investing in employee wellbeing or workplace stress prevention as they should be. These are the companies at the greatest risk of losing valuable members of their team, not to mention facing the untimely costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.
How are employers investing in workplace wellbeing?
But first here’s the good news! It doesn’t have to be a daunting or expensive task for employers to invest in their employees’ wellbeing. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. By taking a proactive approach to understanding and managing stress in your workplace, you’ll see not just improved staff retention and performance but also a positive impact on your bottom line.
So where do you start?
One of the most effective ways to begin investing in employee wellbeing is by carrying out a Stress Risk Assessment. This will help you gain a clearer understanding of the potential stressors within your organisation, as well as identify any patterns or concerns.
It’s also important for organisations to understand their legal duty to assess and manage work-related stress. The HSE’s Management Standards offer a firm foundation on which to build preventative processes to protect your employees from work-related stress and ensure you meet your legal obligations.
The Management Standards help organisations understand what they need to do to assess and manage the risks that can impact employee stress and provide targets that employers should be working towards through an ongoing process of assessing and reviewing.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Before embarking on this process, it is important to prepare the organisation. Securing commitment from senior management is critical and remember, they are employees too and should be included in the process. Prepare a business case and deliver training to show the costs of work-related stress (on staff as well as the business) and the benefits of engaging in the process.
Look to the Management Standards process for guidance
The Management Standards process is based on the HSE’s standard 5-step approach to risk assessment:
- identify the hazards
- decide who may be harmed and how
- evaluate the risk
- record the findings
- and finally, monitor and review
HSE research established the major causes of work-related stress and from this, they were able to identify and categorise the 6 key areas of work discussed in my previous articles: demands, control, support, relationships, roles and change.
Basically, if these areas are not managed effectively then employees are at risk of suffering from work-related stress. Organisations need to ensure that all employees, from the most senior managers to front-line workers, know and understand these risks.
Remember, it is important to consider these 6 areas as a whole, rather than looking at each one individually. They all interact with each other, so making changes in one area, can just move a problem to another area. You need to look at the job holistically to get the best results.
Where do I start to identify the workplace risk factors?
I’d advise getting a trained professional in to help carry out a wellbeing review and stress risk assessment but if you wanted to manage it in-house the starting point for identifying the risk factors is deciding who might be harmed and how.
This can be done through existing sources of data, such as absence figures and gathering new data through initiatives such as surveys, focus groups or toolbox talks. Also consider commonly recognised stress factors such as:
- roles associated with a ‘calling’ (e.g. nurses, teachers, vets)
- organisations that provide a service
- workloads that are dynamic depending on customers and their individual issues
- employees that have ‘mobile’ devices that make them contactable outside of normal working hours
Once the data is gathered it should all be analysed in order to assess your organisation’s current situation. Be sure to use a variety of sources of information to gain a true reflection of your organisation’s overall performance and review the findings with your employees to see if they agree with the results. There is nothing more frustrating than having a new initiative implemented that is at odds with your perspective. So make sure you communicate the results to your staff.
Communicate with your employees
Getting engagement from your employees is also crucial. It is about them after all. Work with employees to decide on what improvements are required. Listen to staff and tackle the areas that are not working. Actively involve them in the process, ensuring communication is accessible and frequent and that people have the opportunity to offer feedback on their views.
When solutions are implemented, ask your employees whether they’ve been effective. Look for the improvements and sing about the successes with positive feedback.
Commit to the investment
Demonstrate commitment to the project by ensuring sufficient funding is in place and by getting senior managers to visibly show support and lead by example. Do everything you can to make sure it is not seen as ‘just another tick box exercise’.
For larger organisations, it may be appropriate to have a steering group to run the project, or in smaller organisations, a project manager may suffice. Rather than reinventing the wheel, consider the groups and processes you already have in place, that you may be able to utilise to help carry out this project.
Investing in employees will pay off
Employees want to feel invested in by their employers, and in turn, will be more invested in their roles. Following these processes provides employees with the tools they need to succeed, both professionally and personally and is what leads to greater workplace wellbeing and a healthy company culture.
Who would want to resign from that kind of job? All it takes is a little bit of understanding from employers and overdue investment in employee wellbeing and stress prevention to turn the tide on valuable staff leaving for greener pastures.
Here are my top tips to take away:
- Don’t do ‘nothing’ – even small changes can have a big impact
- Involve employees at every stage
- Be realistic – don’t plan to fail
- Rather than reinventing the wheel, consider the groups and processes you already have in place that you may be able to utilise to help carry out this project
This is only a brief snapshot of the process of ensuring employee wellbeing and stress prevention but if you need more information, get in touch at More Than Motivation for more helpful advice and support.
As a professional member of the International Stress Management Association and holder of a CPCAB-accredited Level 5 Diploma in Mental Health & Wellbeing Awareness, I help organisations carry out wellbeing reviews and carry out stress risk assessments to help protect your workforce and your business.