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Increasing the health of your workforce can breathe new life back into your organisation

It is a widely acknowledged belief that ‘a company is only as good as its people’, and for good reason. It is inevitable that the quality of work and service put out by the workforce is reflective of its own health and well-being. An overwhelming body of study supports the idea that elevated levels of health and wellness in the workforce lead to greater productivity. While this no doubt helps the bottom line, many organisations are finding that a focus on the health of their employees produces a happier, more satisfied, and loyal workforce, which in turn perpetuates a healthy organisation.

In the Numbers

A global study of over 35,000 employers found that an employee experiencing low levels of health and wellness led to up to 63 unproductive hours per month. A subsequent push to promote health and well-being in the workplace found that productivity increased up to 75%.

Workforce analytics company Gallup reported that demotivated employees cost organisations $450-$550 billion US every year, with up to 7 out of 10 employees feeling mentally ‘checked out’ of their jobs.

In a survey conducted by software giant Wrike, of over 1600 employees across the US and UK 94% reported feeling stressed at work, with more than 30% defining the stress as high to unsustainable. Over half reported to have looked for a new job in the previous 12 months, citing the negative impacts their job was having on their overall health and well-being. The same survey found that in many companies more than 50% of the annual workforce turnover was due to employee burnout, and in replacing an employee it typically cost a company 75% of that employee’s salary.

The cost in productivity, human resource, and actual financial cost when it comes to an unhealthy and stressed workforce is evident and prevalent in many organisations.

A Trend in the Right Direction

The concepts of ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ are not simply indicators of a lack of illness. Health and well-being are statuses made up of complex human needs and the way they interrelate. They encompass the state of a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and social being, and even that is simplifying it. This is no secret, we are all people after all, and all of us feel the range of complex demands, desires, emotions, and stresses. Recognition that we are happier and stronger when we foster these aspects of our lives instead of sacrificing them in the name of deadlines and meetings about meetings is slowly on the uptake.

Thankfully, this trend is starting to infiltrate the workspace. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey of over 200 chief human resource officers found that most organisations are now employing various internal wellness programs, emphasising communication and mental health, and encouraging genuine and meaningful connection between management and employees. The impact of the pandemic pushed employers and employees alike away from flirting with the line between healthy productivity and unhealthy stress, as it became clear just how important our overall health and well-being was. This has led to a widely accepted notion that health and well-being are no longer perks’ or ‘job benefits’, but basic requirements for a productive business.

A Happy Return on Time Investment

In an effort to do something about all those unproductive hours from stressed and unsatisfied employees, American company Tower Paddle Boards made the bold move to cut its eight-hour workday down to five hours. They found this led to an increase of employee happiness, which led to improved social relations in the workplace, more inspired work, greater loyalty, and job satisfaction. In recognising that so many workable hours became unproductive when employees are unhappy, unhealthy, or unsatisfied, the move to give those hours ‘back’ to the employee proved to be a productive one.

The key here is not necessarily the reduction of working hours, indeed for some organisations that is impractical, or perhaps not even desired. The key is that the employer not only emphasised the importance of overall health but enabled its employees to pursue it.

In this case, employee productivity not only didn’t decrease with the fewer hours to work in, but it in fact became more efficient. Now with more finite time constraints employees eliminated distractions they so easily became absorbed with before. In addition, now that they had more time off work to focus on their own physical and mental health, their families, and passions, employees were in better spirits. This uplifting dynamic flowed back into the work environment, where everyone valued productivity rather than feeling like a slave to it.

The True Value of Productivity

There is no question that increasing the health of your workforce will increase company productivity, and ultimately the bottom line. But the true value of this dynamic is not just found in crunching out the numbers and counting ‘productive’ hours. As exemplified in the above examples, an increase in the health and overall well-being of the workforce also led to a more inspired workforce, and a more loyal one. This is a workforce that wants to be in a workplace that it values, and when someone values something, they invest their time and energy into it, showing more initiative and inspired contribution.

Actively increasing the health of your workforce is not a one-way investment. If your workforce is tired or stressed or struggling, meaningfully engaging with them in a way that promotes health and happiness, inspiration, and loyalty, will bring about a healthy return. Breathing new life into your workforce will inevitably breathe new life back into your organisation.