There has been a lot of talk lately around employee health and wellbeing, especially with the struggle for employers to attract and retain staff and recent initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week. We all know that a healthy workforce leads to a healthy business but what is the right approach for employers to health and wellbeing and, if the goal is to ‘improve’ the health/wellbeing of the workforce, how can you measure this?
Defining what wellbeing is and why it matters to employees The term ‘wellbeing’ is multi-faceted. It includes everything from the physical health of a person to their mental and spiritual state, social interactions, cultural engagement, and financial situation. Gone are the days of the lifelong nine-to-five career with a gold watch at the end. Employees are now expecting their employers to value their wellbeing and offer flexible working arrangements – at a minimum.
The measure of success from an employee’s perspective has changed from merely financial rewards to aspiring for an overall package that affords an attractive lifestyle for them and their family.
- Why should wellbeing matter to employers? An employee in good general health contributes to a safer workplace and is proven to be significantly more productive
- Given the lower rates of absenteeism, increased output of quality work. In a tight labour market, it is crucial for employers to not only offer a competitive salary or wage but to go that step further and provide additional benefits that will impact their life and wellbeing in a tangible way. Many employers offer discounted gym subscriptions or social/competitive sporting events, weekly yoga sessions or onsite massage therapists. Some businesses are implementing a group life, disability, or critical illness insurance plan to provide peace of mind to an employee and their family. More commonly, in recent months, organisations have instigated health plans for all staff with universal acceptance to cover treatment in private health facilities or assist with day-to-day costs such as GP visits, dental check-ups and prescription lenses. This continues the trend of health insurance plans as the most desired employee benefit in New Zealand.
- As well as looking after the health of the employee these plans help avoid the lengthy wait they might otherwise face in the public health system, and supports them to recover faster and thus return to work sooner. There are currently 200,000 New Zealanders on a health-related wait list and forty two percent have been waiting more than four months.
- How do you measure wellbeing? To attract and retain a happy/healthy team, businesses would do well to use the approach of a medical check-up when it comes to measuring the health & wellbeing of their workforce. For example when visiting your GP there are the routine physical checks however there is often equal weight given to other external factors (think alcohol consumption, family or work-based stress). Likewise, in addition to focusing on the physical health of employees it would benefit a business to reflect on the wider aspects of their employees’ lives such as family commitments (ie. school or day-care routines) and other extra-curricular obligations or pursuits. A simple online or anonymous survey is a good way of gathering the wider picture of what is important and where new initiatives or benefits may deliver positive outcomes.
Although it is not easy to measure wellbeing here are some ideas once you have decided to get focused around your team’s wellbeing –
- Decide where you expect your business to sit in relation to your competitors (below/average or an ‘employer of choice’ for wellbeing?)
- Nominate a wellbeing champion or committee in a similar vein to what a social club committee might be. What would a happy/healthy team look like to your business?
- Attempt to define the current culture of health/wellbeing – in practical terms are sick days generally encouraged or avoided/discouraged?
- Next Steps
It is critical to appreciate the impact that wellbeing has on individual employees and the positive benefits this can have on a business. We recommend becoming intentional by implementing a wellbeing strategy that is tailored to your team and their working environment and that delivers a positive impact on their health and lifestyle. If you are undertaking salary/wage reviews it would be the perfect time to consider alternative benefits that go over and above a competitive pay packet. Show additional value and demonstrate that yours is a business that cares about your people and their wellbeing. Need help or have questions?
Your ICIB Life & Health team is here for a no obligation chat. Icib.co.nz/products/life