Article: Employee wellness – A buzzword in boardrooms

Employee Engagement

Employee wellness – A buzzword in boardrooms

Prioritising employee wellness boosts productivity and retention. Implementing holistic wellness programs is essential for sustainable business growth.
Employee wellness – A buzzword in boardrooms

The pandemic taught us in no uncertain terms that employee wellness is not taken care of simply by an annual physical that insurance covers. The Great Resignation of 2021 was spurred by increasing employee dissatisfaction and decades of corporate frameworks neglecting their most valuable asset – their workforce. It is 2024, and there is a 70-hour work week Mr Narayan Murthy exercises himself while others need ways to manage the normal 40 – 45 hours. Excessive hours, the expectation that you must be ‘always on’, sub-par compensation, and the idea that your job takes priority over all other parts of your life are the roadblocks of corporate failure and long-term disaster.

Wellness is essentially a subjective concept, judged by the level of comfort, happiness, and prosperity that employees feel. Even C-suite executives are vulnerable to poor organisational well-being, especially with the increased pressure on them to sustain businesses in tough economic times. Companies have realised the importance of investing in their worker’s wellbeing. The data tells us that happy and satisfied employees are not just good for the employees themselves, but are crucial in increasing shareholder value and bringing in greater profits.

Financial wellness as a core concern

According to a PwC Survey, a significant portion of employees, 57%, express financial stress as a primary concern. With the economic challenges of 2023, including inflation, soaring prices, stagnant wage growth, and escalating credit card debt, employee financial strain is escalating. To address immediate money management issues, it’s crucial to implement financial wellness benefits. When employees are overwhelmed by day-to-day financial struggles, they can’t effectively pursue long-term goals or achieve financial resilience. Especially during uncertain economic periods, employees require access to unbiased resources for financial guidance, free from product sales pressure or retirement plan biases. Encouragingly, there seems to be reduced stigma associated with seeking financial assistance, with only 33% finding it embarrassing compared to 42% in 2019. This shift should be embraced by the C-Suite to promote financial stability.

Those ahead of the curve have created and protected long-term value by prioritising human capital management and providing wellbeing governance and oversight because they understand that financially secure, healthy, motivated employees work far more effectively and efficiently, deliver superior results, and make better decisions. Not only do psychosocial risks at the workplace lead to a dip in the worker’s mental health, but they also have a serious impact on the company’s operations.

The board's role in promoting wellness

The Board has a key role to play in working towards a healthier environment, improving retention of employees, and enhancing work product output and productivity. They should first comprehend the direct link between employee wellness and performance. Studies have shown that employees in high wellness cultures are twice as likely to want to remain with their employer in the future and to fully engage with their work. Second, they must measure and review their wellbeing and performance data in multiple dimensions, be it supply chain impact, replacement cost, reputation impact, or productivity cost. The more the data, the more control over how they can manage liability. Finally, the Board must take time out of their busy agenda to practice ‘CARE’ governance, covering the four most important parts of wellness – compensation and benefits, advancement, retirement, and experience.

An employee’s wellness ties straight into the company’s culture. When an employee thrives physically, emotionally, financially, and socially, so does the company. Be it encouraging movement, allowing access to mental health services, creating financial awareness, or creating opportunities for them to collaborate and build relationships, the company’s policy must create the architecture needed for wellness. Health and wellness programs thus offer as much benefit to the employer as they do to the employee.

Action steps for the board

Now that we’ve established that a healthy workforce translates to lower health costs, higher retention, higher productivity, and an overall sustainable business model, let us discuss what the Board can do to push their company in this direction. Here are some key steps that ensure a boost in employee wellness:

Unanimous executive alignment – This is critical at the board level to fund and sponsor wellness programs successfully over the employee’s entire career. Once the board understands the long-term benefits of such programs, they will invest in it not just for their employee’s wellness but their own as well.

Form a solid health and wellness team– Efficiency and oversight are key. A dedicated team, albeit small, of HR professionals focusing on wellness would both increase accountability and offer a safe space for employees to provide constructive feedback.

Define and set measurable goals – Like all things, goal-setting is critical to achieving better worker wellness. Small achievable steps contribute to company-wide wellness. A calendar with specific activities, programs, and workshops factored in is a good place to start.

3 Ps – prevent, protect, and promote – Prevention saves lives, and in this case, jobs. Preventing poor mental health conditions requires effective management of psychosocial risks at the workplace, be it through organisational interventions like flexible hours or structural frameworks. Protecting workers' mental health through manager training, mental health literacy, and the reduction of stigma in the workplace also goes a long way. Lastly, promoting a healthy workplace culture, right from the shop floor up to the boardroom is the surest way to sustain a healthy culture.

A healthier and happier employee force does not require a hefty budget or radical changes, just a change in our attitudes and prioritisation. Companies will realise that even a small investment in the wellbeing of employees through holistic health and wellness programs can yield big results both for the employees and the company.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, #Wellbeing, #Work Culture

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