Is wellbeing the bridge to span the productivity gap?

04 May 2017

Did you know that the average UK worker takes five days to do what our German colleagues do in four?

It is said that the UK has a major productivity problem. Philip Hammond raised this in the recent Autumn Statement, where he highlighted how far behind our economy is in comparison to our continental neighbours. With long hours, lengthy commutes and increased workplace stress, it just might be that the wellbeing of employees is having a negative effect on the productivity of UK organisations.

I fundamentally believe that emotional health is a key part of unlocking the potential of our workers. Presenteeism is far more costly than absenteeism. How often have you seen someone turn up to work with ‘stuff’ on their mind. They are present, but not really there and certainly not as effective. Is that true in your office or in your workplace? What impact does it have? How do you measure that?

There are now an increasing number of employers running programmes promoting employee wellbeing. However, some of these fall short -  fruit in a bowl or posters, handouts and leaflets promoting health and wellbeing are not enough on their own to help make people healthier and happier. But in our increasingly connected lives, technology can be an enabler. By using data and understanding exactly what is making your workforce feel disengaged, organisations can implement targeted solutions addressing the real issues. This needs to be supported by managers who are themselves engaged and care about the wellbeing of their team.

We also need to ‘normalise’ wellbeing issues. At the moment, it’s much easier to talk about your cold or backache or other physical issues than it is to have an open and honest conversation about your mental health. It is estimated that mental health issues cost employers in the UK £84bn a year, but can we truly measure such a hidden cost? What is true is that if a mental health issue keeps someone off work for six weeks or more, there is a 20% chance that they will not return and this figure increases to 80% if the absence is more than six months. It is time to start looking at mental health issues under the same light as physical ones - are you brave enough to encourage people to do so?

Personally, I am delighted that more organisations are taking wellbeing seriously. I have been preaching about wellbeing for years and firmly believe that helping people to be healthier and happier allows them to realise their true potential and be the best version of themselves they can be.  You can miss the brightest stars by not properly prioritising health and wellbeing in the workplace. So if you’re struggling to understand why someone is underperforming, why not see what you can do to boost their wellbeing… you could be astounded by the results!

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