When to worry about employee wellbeing

Here, David Elliott, Board Member of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (www.eapa.org.uk) outlines some of the options.

There is a fine line in your organisation’s evolution from being a micro business to becoming one that’s employing a growing team. And if this sounds like you, when do you need to start thinking about wellbeing? What are the issues that you need to think about first and what are some of the solutions that could work for you?

For any company, regardless of size, there is a legal duty of care under health and safety legislation that makes organisations accountable for both the physical and psychological wellbeing of their employees. Historically, many smaller organisations focus on safety and unwittingly fail to acknowledge the health aspect of their commitment, often seeing this as the preserve of large employers.

However, in recent years, health has escalated from being an HR-led initiative to becoming a boardroom imperative and the key drivers for this are equally, if not more, relevant for smaller companies.

Succeeding in business is down to many important factors, but perhaps top of the list are your people – they should be your most prized asset. Recognising their significance, power and potential, investing in their personal and professional lives and nurturing them will make a tangible difference to your all-important bottom line. Organisations that include employee wellness into their corporate strategy can leverage a powerful competitive advantage.

Organisational growth is achieved when you are able to unlock, maximise and harness your people potential. Engaged employees are more productive, perform better, are willing to go the extra mile and this leads to better performance, accelerated growth, staff and skill retention, improved brand reputation and reduced costs and impact of sickness absence.

In contrast, not having your people working at their full potential could result in loss of sales, loss of customers or leaving you unable to take on new contracts or fulfil existing ones.

The reality is clear! No organisation can be successful in a globally competitive market without healthy and productive people and the impact on smaller businesses can be more instantly apparent and impactful.

Investments in health and wellbeing can be relatively small from both a financial and resources perspective. A wellbeing culture, for example, can start by adjusting or adhering to best practice policy and procedure. This might be encouraging staff to take a walk during their lunch break, circulating factsheets that encourage healthier lifestyle choices, as well as educating people about sleep or hydration.

The best place to start is by asking your employees what they need, assessing the health risks and needs of your workforce and their job requirements to ensure that any initiatives are focused and achieve the best possible outcomes.

A key area of focus you need to prioritise is mental health. One in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health condition in any given year and mental ill health at work is thought to cost UK employers £26 billion each year – on average £1,035 per employee according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, with common conditions including stress, anxiety and depression.

Stress continues to be the most prevalent cause of long term absence, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), which can often arise through a combination of work and personal factors. With 39 per cent of employees reporting that they typically feel under excessive pressure at least once or twice a week, investment into programmes or support that have the potential to reduce the impact of contributing work/life issues can help to build a more resilient workforce, significantly reducing the cost attached to mental ill health.

One simple and cost effective solution to promote health and wellbeing in your workplace is the introduction of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). These strategic workplace programmes are specifically designed to help increase productivity and reduce attendance issues by providing employees with around the clock access to free and confidential specialist support.

This type of support can help employees to identify and resolve often personal concerns and issues that may impact on job performance, whether these relate to health, relationships, finance or debt worries, alcohol or drug issues, legal or consumer issues.

Introducing an EAP will ensure that employees are able to proactively manage life events, lessening their impact on the workplace. It will also demonstrate your position as a caring employer, contributing to increased levels of engagement. With this increased productivity, performance and attendance, the return on investment can be significant.

Nearly half of the UK working population already has access to an EAP and coverage has tripled since 2005, yet there has traditionally been a lack of awareness of the existence of such services amongst smaller employers leaving the majority of SME organisations without any provision.

So in answer to the question when do you need to think about employee wellbeing, the answer is now and the benefits it can bring to your business, as outlined here, are certainly worth the investment.

Image: Well being via Shutterstock