By Libratum Life, Wellness in the Workplace
Businesses thrive when people thrive. If we know that to be true, then why do some businesses allow investing in employee wellbeing to fall to the wayside when crisis hits?
Many businesses shift into ‘survival’ mode during a crisis. It’s a natural human response when we feel under threat, to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. By paring back resources, reducing spend and oftentimes, increasing pressure on the workforce to step up and perform, what can seem like a safe option, can result in long term suffering for our business and our people.
When we are in survival mode, all our energy and focus is on maintaining what we have and riding it out, in hope of better times ahead. When we experience the anxiety and fear that comes with operating in survival mode, it’s simply not possible for our workforce to be creative or forward-thinking. The impact to business is enormous in terms of lost opportunity cost and stilted performance growth.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a compelling need for greater employee wellbeing. Changes in working practices, increased demands, longer working hours and more time behind screens, have all presented challenges to maintaining good employee mental health. The changing demands placed upon employees contribute to ‘presenteeism’, where people work when they are not at their most productive, and ‘leaveism’, where employees feel they must work outside of their normal working hours.
The Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index survey  results show that on average the number of employees who say that they always or usually come into the office when they are ‘struggling with [their] mental health and would benefit from time off’ (81%) is almost fourteen times as many as those who say they always or usually take time off (6%). What’s more, young professionals, are the most vulnerable and need more support from employers than they are currently receiving.
The costs of presenteeism have increased at a faster rate than the costs of absence, partly due to changes in the working environment that encourage employees with poor mental health to present themselves at work rather than take illness absence .
Deloitte’s January 2020 study , ‘Mental health and employers: Refreshing the case for investment’, makes a positive case for investment in mental health by employers, finding an average return of £5 for every £1 spent, up from the £4 to £1 return identified in 2017. When Deloitte’s report looked at the cost to employers of poor mental health, they found that they have increased by 16%, costing up to £45 billion.
The uplift costs to employers of negative mental health and the evidence of positive ROI of 5:1 for investment in employee wellbeing, are clear signs that decisive action must be taken now. Its forward-thinking businesses who invest in employee wellbeing that will reap the rewards in terms of competitive advantage.
While many organisations are prioritising employee mental health and wellbeing, are they doing enough?
While there is greater awareness of the need for wellbeing in the workplace, many corporate wellness initiatives are not effective, due to the following reasons:
Functional:They tend to be reactive, a tick-box approach
Sporadic:Usually one-off initiatives that are not part of an overall wellbeing strategy
Inadequate knowledge:Not working with the right supplier(s) or qualified experts
Resource:inadequate investment, with a lack of leadership buy-in
Thus, there is still much to be done to shift the dial to improve wellbeing in the workplace. The first step for business leaders and HR professionals is to recognise and understand the needs of their people and allocate the correct resources, strategy and funding required to truly make a positive impact.
While rates of presenteeism and leaveism are rising, can businesses really afford to let their people burn-out? The pandemic has offered leaders a unique opportunity to show their people they are there to support them in times of crisis, now its time to help them thrive and grow.
People are the driving force behind organisational success. When we create people-centric workplaces, with a focus on wellbeing, adequate training, support and organisational-wide activities, our business will thrive.
Speak to us about how we can support your employee wellbeing strategy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: Libratum Wellness Hub
 WorkplaceWellbeingIndex,Mind,2018/19.  Mental health and employers: The case for investment, Monitor Deloitte, 2017.  Deloitte, Mental health and employers | Refreshing the case for investment, January 2020