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5 workplace benefits of prioritising employee wellness

Employers must prioritise the wellbeing of their workers, given the range of benefits in doing so, says one global risk management provider.

SAI Global workplace safety specialist Rod Beath said that while employers are accustomed to looking at how they can implement changes in the business that prevent physical injuries, they are less confident when it comes to managing mental health risks.

“There are various organisational factors that can adversely affect workplace wellness and wellbeing, with management decisions having one of the most significant impacts. Too often, our audits have identified pressures in company’s organisational matrixes – led by higher management – that foster environments that adversely affect employees’ mental health,” he said.

“Often, those at a managerial level are not aware that the way they communicate with their staff, or exert control over work scheduling and decision making, can inhibit a mentally healthy workplace.”

SAI outlined five reasons why employers should focus on improving wellness and wellbeing in their workplaces:

Improve employee recruitment and retention

Absenteeism in the workplace costs the Australian economy more than $44 billion annually, SAI said, adding that creating health programs or wellness activities for employees can provide a healthy outlet for managing stress, which, in turn, makes for a more pleasant or harmonious working environment.

“While this is an intangible benefit that employers might not be able to measure financially in the short term, happier and more engaged employees can lead to reduced costs in recruitment or training,” it said.

“Increasingly, people want to work for ethical companies – and so adopting these activities or programs is another step towards attracting and maintaining talent.”

Reduce workers compensation claims

“Work-related stress can manifest in physical symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue, and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. As this is the second most common compensated illness or injury in Australia, mismanaging the health and wellbeing of those affected can lead to significant organisational costs,” SAI said.

“For instance, workers compensation mental injury claims are often more expensive than other claims and can lead to lengthy absences from work.”

Maintain organisational reputation

“If organisations are looking to attract contracts with governments, or their agencies, those governments expect that their partners have implemented best-practice standards. This can include occupational health and safety standards,” SAI continued.

“It’s also an increasing expectation from international bodies that organisations have measures in place to support wellness and wellbeing, especially in light of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that call for good health and wellbeing in the workplace.”

Promoting mental health in this manner, SAI said, can greatly help an organisation meet the guidelines for workplace health and safety and reduce their legal exposure.

“It’s also simply good business,” it said.

Improve productivity and engagement

Improving the mental health of employees can improve their resilience to mental stress, their thinking, decision making, workflow and workplace relationships, SAI said.

“All of these factors translate to increased employee productivity. Likewise, offering flexible working arrangements, encouraging employees to take their full lunch breaks, rewarding good work and implementing an open and trusting management style can increase employee engagement.”

“Ultimately, these factors will contribute to a more psychologically safe environment, in which employees feel they can ask for help before they feel they need to take time off,” it said.

Build and sustain high employee morale

In a highly competitive economy, many organisations are seeking higher levels of internal efficiency and lower costs, SAI reflected.

“However, this can put pressure on employees, increasing their stress. It’s important to foster a ‘go home better’ motto. For instance, being able to provide employees with fitness and exercise programs, health screenings, nutritional advice and programs to manage stress can address their overall wellness,” it said.

Mr Beath concluded: “Let the results speak for themselves – healthier employees tend to work harder, are happier and are generally more willing to help others be more efficient.”

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