Wellbeing and business risk: what can’t be left to chance

Person meditating on the floor in living room with candles

Debbie Bullock, Aviva’s Wellbeing Lead, on why wellbeing is a business risk that needs to be taken seriously.

Employers are recognising that healthy, happy employees tend to perform better. And many are conscious of the potential risk to productivity if the wellbeing of workers isn’t taken seriously.

But this isn’t the only reason why poor employee wellbeing is a business risk.

Think about the difficulty – and cost – involved in replacing a key employee who left because they were suffering from burnout. Or imagine the impact on the business if it loses a senior female employee because she wasn’t getting the support she needed while experiencing menopause symptoms.

Priorities have changed and people are looking for employers that focus on wellbeing.

How can we mitigate the risks?

A good place to start is by taking a look at the business’s Group Income Protection. Better policies could include support for employees while they’re in work, as well as including rehabilitation services to help support employees return to work.

This means including guidance on mental and physical wellbeing such as providing training to help line managers identify signs of worsening mental health It’s also important to provide access to sources of professional assistance where support in the workplace isn’t enough itself to address the issues an employee might be facing. Some cover will include facilities such as annual health checks, digital access to GP consultation, or support on mental health or nutritional considerations.

The importance of prompt action

Failing to address wellbeing issues quickly can lead to problems in the future which could in turn pose an obvious threat to both the resilience of employees and the business itself.

And we’ve seen how far-reaching the risks associated with illness can be. They amount to a lot more than taking a temporary dip on productivity.

As well as making sure wellbeing strategies result in practical actions, it’s vital to monitor them continually to make sure they’re working… for the business as well as the people who make it tick. Sometimes, it can be difficult to do this, given that it’s hard to isolate the effect of wellbeing alone on factors such as absenteeism, presenteeism and recruitment – let alone productivity. But it is possible to gain meaningful insight by combining data from widespread sources, rather than relying on a single metric such as sickness statistics or take-up of an employee assistance programme.

Employee satisfaction surveys can play a part in generating useful data – whether these take place on a regular basis or occasional one-offs to acquire a cross-section of employee sentiments. Once you have meaningful data, you can share it with providers and intermediaries to decide what you can achieve together to monitor progress and tweak stategies accordingly.

The difference that prioritising wellbeing can make 

For many businesses, the pandemic has reinforced the status of employees as their most important asset, one that performance and profits are dependent on. With a focus on health and wellbeing, employers have the opportunity to prioritise this and make the most of the benefits this can lead to.

Initiatives like free fruit or lunch time running clubs can certainly play a part, but a successful wellbeing strategy means a good job design, clarifying accountabilities and eliminating barriers that prevent people from delivering to their true potential in jobs with real meaning and purpose. In this, the culture of the business is crucial: psychological safety, proper workload management and a strong sense of prioritisation should be integral to the wellbeing programme.

By taking into account employees’ opinions and striving to truly understand what motivates them, businesses can develop a genuinely personalised approach to the wellbeing of the people they depend on. To do anything less than this would be to take on a level of risk that no business needs.

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