Leading workplace safety organisation SAI Global is urging employers to prioritise the wellbeing of their employees, revealing five important benefits of doing so.
Rod Beath, workplace safety specialist at SAI Global, says while employers are accustomed to looking at how they can implement changes in the business that prevent physical injuries, they are less confident when it comes to managing mental health risks.
“There are various organisational factors that 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.”
A study by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) shows that workforce unwellness is costing the global economy up to 15 per cent of its economic output each year. Rod says that organisations that meet the ISO 45001 Standard are required to consider injury and ill health, which includes the physical, mental or cognitive health of their workforce.
SAI Global reveals five reasons why employers should focus on improving wellness and wellbeing in their workplaces:
Improve employee recruitment and retention
Absenteeism in the workplace costs the Australian economy more than $44 billion annually. 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 Australia, mismanaging the health and wellbeing of those affected can lead to significant organisational costs. For instance, workers compensation mental injury claims 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 workplace. 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 our highly 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. Rod says: “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.”