Employee health and well-being can make a significant difference to an organisations productivity and costs. Here Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser at CIPD explains further
Investing in employee well-being isn’t just nice to have – studies consistently show that having a well-thought-out well-being strategy reaps dividends for both the employee and employers.
If we look at the significant cost of absence to an organisation, taking action to increase employee health and well-being and build workforce resilience seems an obvious choice. Our recent absence management survey estimated absence costs an employer around £600 per employee per year. This is just the financial expenses of sick pay, employing temporary staff, overtime costs and lost production figures. There are the additional intangible costs, for example, the strain on the absent employee’s colleagues who pick up extra work, or the impact on customer service. All of these factors ultimately impact productivity.
Investing in health promotion can help people stay in work, which is good for the employer if they can retain a talented employee rather than having a staff member go onto long-term sick leave. There are also obvious benefits for employees, but what’s significant is the potential for people to be able to stay in work rather than be signed off. Research has shown work is good for us, in particular, our mental health and self-esteem by providing another facet of our identity and a purpose. And the longer we’re off work, the more difficult it can be to re-enter the workforce.
And employers themselves are telling us that investing in well-being is worthwhile. Those who told us in our absence management survey that they evaluate the impact of their well-being benefits are more likely to also say they have increased their spend next year.
They are reaping the benefits of lower absence levels and increased staff engagement, being viewed as a good place to work.
What well-being approach is right for your organisation?
There are a set of standard components of a well-being offering that most organisations choose to provide, but decisions will depend on your particular workforce needs. It’s important to regularly review your offering to examine the uptake of its different elements and ask employees for feedback about their effectiveness. Our survey found that the most common well-being benefits offered are employee support programmes, for example, access to counselling services and employee assistance programmes. 70% of organisations offer some sort of health promotion programme. The most common initiatives, offered by 3 in 10 organisations, include advice on healthy eating, stop smoking support, subsidised gym membership, health screening and healthy canteen options. Nearly two-thirds of organisations overall offer some sort of insurance or protection initiatives, at least to some groups of staff. It’s important to also anticipate and respond to the wider issues we are seeing across the UK. For example, in the last 5 years, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of reported mental health problems. In 2009 21% of employers said they had seen an increase in the number of reported mental health problems in the previous 12 months. In 2014 this figure increased to 42%.
How do you maximise the impact of your well-being approach?
As well as ensuring your offering aligns with employee needs, it’s important to include a clear communication plan in your well-being approach. Do employees know what services and support is on offer and how to access them?
Some organisations choose to roll out some of their initiatives to their supply chain, reaping the benefits in terms of relationship building and ultimately promoting the health of those they depend on to deliver a great quality service, being a customer or supplier of choice. Overall, having a genuinely supportive culture in which employees feel they are cared for and valued depends on having a great people management approach. Investing in line manager capability is essential. Line managers are ideally placed to spot early warning signs of issues but need to feel confident to have a good quality conversation with members of their team. Extra tailored support from HR may be needed to deal with sensitive or complex issues. Managers need to be knowledgeable about the organisation’s well-being offering to be able to signpost staff in the right direction for support and to also consider adjustments to work, working hours or the environment where necessary.
Dr Jill Miller