Can your company afford not to prioritise employee health and wellbeing?

by | Dec 5, 2019

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) puts a value of $4.2 trillion on the wellness industry, one important sector of which is workplace wellness. The rise of the workplace wellness movement has been rapid, no doubt aided by the increasing amount of research citing employee health and wellbeing as being closely linked to employee productivity and output.

With work/life balance proving to be as elusive as ever and connectivity ensuring that work follows employees long after the office lights go out, just how happy and well are employees globally?

The GWI’s ‘The Future of Wellness at Work’ report paints a pretty bleak picture:

“The world’s 3.2 billion workers are increasingly unwell: they are growing old; they suffer more chronic disease; they are stressed, unhappy, and sometimes unsafe at work; and they face significant economic insecurity.”

To add to this, The American Institute of Stress reports that job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family stress, with 40% of workers reporting that their job is very or extremely stressful and 25% citing their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.

Sick, unproductive employees are costing your business

Apart from the very compelling humanitarian argument for offering employees company-funded health insurance and employee wellness programmes, the financial argument that sick, unproductive and absent employees can have dire economic consequences for a business is equally compelling.

A South-African research report by Momentum Corporate, the Momentum Effective Employee Index, last year cited that “presenteeism” (when an employee is at work but distracted and underperforming due to stress or illness) is costing some South African businesses 5% of gross operating profits (GOP). The research cites personal reasons as being a primary distractor (referring to sick family members, bereavement, and family or relationship crises), followed closely by physical and mental health problems (including headaches, flu, hypertension, depression and burnout).

What about the rest of Africa? A Mail & Guardian article tackling employee wellbeing in Africa quoted compelling African research from the global HR authority the Top Employers Institute (TEI).

Not altogether surprisingly, the TEI’s research findings highlighted that “multinational companies with operations throughout Africa have dramatically reduced their absenteeism rates through targeting employee wellbeing” and found “correlation between offering such employee benefits and a lower rate of absenteeism”.

Absenteeism versus productivity and high performance

It’s also not surprising, then, to learn that 84% of the certified African organisations on the TEI’s most recent Africa Top Employers 2019 Research Certification list are multinational corporations with well-established HR policies and employee wellness programmes.

The link between healthy, happy, productive, highly motivated and ‘present’ employees and successful companies is clear, never more so than when seen in relation to the fact that the collective Top Employers average absenteeism rate is a very low 3%.

Companies that invest in the health and wellness of their employees − such as by implementing a strategic, company-specific employee wellness programme, offering employees health insurance and encouraging regular health screenings, amongst many other benefits – are very likely to be Top Employers of the future, reaping healthy returns on the investments that they’ve steered their employees’ way.

With the workplace wellness movement on the up, it’s important for companies that want to stay relevant not to write it off as a passing fad. More and more we’re seeing companies (often disruptor companies and passionate young start-ups) attracting top talent based on their dynamic thinking, rewarding and flexible workplace environments, and forward-thinking work culture. They understand that prioritising their employees’ health and wellness, as well as sense of job satisfaction and career growth, will help them retain loyal employees that buy into the company’s vision and that are invested in the company’s success. They understand that their employees can make or break their business and that the wellbeing of their employees should be treated with the utmost importance.