A healthy, happy workforce is a vital ingredient for a successful business. Employees that feel well cared for, respected and valued show greater loyalty to their employer, reducing turnover, increasing productivity and efficiency, and showing better customer service. That loyalty has a very tangible financial value to employers, estimated in the latest report to be 23–25% of the UK national average salary.
While there are many things beyond the scope of my expertise that businesses can do to improve company culture to increase staff loyalty (my friends at The Innovation Beehive could help you there), one powerful way that staff can feel valued and cared for is through proactive concern for their health and wellbeing.
Workplace absence has been on the rise in the UK since 2011, and, like staff loyalty, this also has a financial impact. Latest figures show that illness is costing the UK economy £18bn a year, and, based on current trends, this will rise to £21bn by 2020. Clearly, it makes obvious business sense to try to reduce these enormous costs.
Much of the problem is created by that most man made of modern ailments, stress. Stress takes a powerful toll on health, and is linked to the 6 biggest killer diseases in the Western world.
Stress is one of the biggest factors in workplace absence, causing 37% of recorded absence in 2015/16. When you consider how many physical ailments are created or exacerbated by stress, and how many people will say they have a physical condition rather than admit to stress because of the stigma that still grips our society, I would suggest the true impact of stress in the workplace is much higher.
Given the huge cost of ill health, and stress, to business, it makes clear business sense for employers to take good care of staff wellbeing. I am not claiming to be an expert in best HR practices here, but as a wellbeing professional, and someone who had to leave employment because of unbearable stress, I have a few tips to share.
Encourage staff to take regular breaks
Research has shown that taking breaks increases job satisfaction and productivity, and reduces stress and burnout.
Encourage staff to exercise
Exercise is shown to increase mental wellbeing and capabilities and reduces health problems. Promoting exercise as part of the working day, such as encouraging staff to exercise at lunchtime, providing bike to work schemes, encouraging staff to walk to talk to one another rather than email across the office are some ways this can become part of the company culture
Train management to be proactive and supportive
When a staff member is struggling, knowing that there is a supportive, compassionate ear to support them can be so helpful.
Recognise that home and work life cannot really be separated
If someone has problems outside work, with the best will in the world, they might struggle to leave them at the door and be fully present in work. Supporting staff through their difficulties can reap great rewards in loyalty and reduced stress related sickness.
Insist staff take lunch breaks
Working through lunch might seem like the key to greater productivity but it is actually the complete opposite. Food and rest are vital to wellbeing, mental alertness and productivity, missing the lunch break has a negative impact on all three
Allow staff to feel ownership and autonomy of their work
We all want to feel that the work we do has purpose and meaning, both to the company mission and to ourselves. Allowing staff to feel connected to the company mission, helping them see how valuable their contribution is, and allowing them to share in the development of their work plan can really increase the sense of satisfaction they have in their work.
This is a misleading phrase as it suggests that work is somehow separate from life, which it clearly isn’t. Work is a big part of employees life, but as an employer you can encourage them to live the rest of their life well. Encourage staff to leave the office on time, leave work emails till work hours, and limit how much work people take home with them to ensure that they can enjoy their family and private life. Insist that your people create healthy boundaries in their worklife, and model this by doing the same yourself.
When someone reaches a target, completes a project or achieves some sort of goal, don’t simply move them onto the next one, take some time to give them positive feedback on the work they have done, show them that their contribution is valued. People aren’t merely cogs in a machine, and don’t want to be treated as such.
Demonstrate your commitment to staff wellbeing by investing in it. Providing healthy snacks and drinks instead of just coffee and biscuits. Provide ergonomic office furniture so that people don’t suffer from being desk bound all day. Bring in experts who can provide lunchtime exercise classes, invest in corporate gym membership, provide a cycle to work scheme, offer relaxation and stress management courses, or maybe even devote a day a month to staff wellbeing. While these things might seem like frivolous costs that would have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line, the opposite would most likely be true, and it would have a positive impact on staff loyalty and effectiveness.
At Balance and Breathe I can help you improve the wellbeing, happiness and productivity of your staff through yoga practices and concepts. I offer a range of services to businesses, including lunchtime yoga and relaxation sessions, half and whole day stress management sessions, and longer term courses which can offer a wide range of benefits to your staff and organisation. I can create a bespoke package depending on the needs of your company.
If you would like to know more, please get in touch and let’s talk.