Wellbeing: a direct impact on the bottom line
What is wellbeing at work – and how does it show up?
Recent clients of mine have included a Director who was poorly managed by a disengaged boss and who was possibly at the lowest ebb of his career in terms of confidence and health. There was the skilled senior manager who had always been happy, successful and well-regarded in her organisation but whose output and mental health began to decline when she got a new manager with whom she found it impossible to develop a good relationship. And the senior leader who was seriously overburdened and stressed but who didn’t dare speak to anyone inside her organisation as she feared that even having the conversation would damage her career prospects.
All these clients – and others – were suffering from low levels of wellbeing.
Indicators of wellbeing
Wellbeing at work manifests itself in a variety of ways, including:
- Individuals’ sense of confidence and ease, which come from a balance between being supported and being challenged to achieve the next level of development;
- A mood of energy, dynamism, motivation and a release of more of employees’ potential;
- Collegiality – a spirit of collaboration, and an absence of inappropriate competitiveness within the organisation, so that obstacles in the path of achieving positive results are minimised;
- Employees having a sense of empowerment and a degree of autonomy;
- High levels of engagement. See more on the link between wellbeing and engagement at the Engage for Success White Paper of May 2014 ‘The evidence: Wellbeing and Employee Engagement’; and
- High levels of happiness – and happy employees are typically more productive and effective employees
Benefits of corporate wellbeing
Organisations with high levels of wellbeing retain their people. According to the Corporate Leadership Council (reported in the Huffington Post) ‘replacing employees who leave can cost up to 150% of the departing employee’s salary when you take into account recruitment, hiring and training costs, [while] organisations that have a highly engaged workforce have the potential of reducing staff turnover by 87%’. Imagine what that can do to the productivity, culture and overall performance of the business.
The benefits also show up in:
- Creativity and innovation (which boosts development and can sharpen a competitive edge);
- Personal initiative and a willingness to take responsibility (so that progress is made and problems dealt with promptly – and lessons learned without blame);
- Employees contributing discretionary effort (so that more gets done with existing resources);
- Lower rates of absenteeism and presenteeism (so the organisation gets a better return on investment in its people);
- Higher levels of retention (see for example ‘Workplace Wellbeing – What is the Business Impact?’ ;
- A reputation as a good place to work
In short, profitability, efficiency and effectiveness increase. Positivity breeds positivity.
Factors that enable wellbeing
Employees who understand where the expectations and demands of them sit within the corporate strategy and its translation into corporate tactics, and who understand the place of their contribution in the organisation’s output, will have a greater sense of the relationship between their role and the corporate goals.
This in turn will enable a more substantial sense of purpose – and a higher level of wellbeing – than for those who are simply doing a job in response to a ‘do as I say’ style of leadership. And that sense of purpose – which gives meaning to an organisation’s work and the work of its employees – is a critical factor in the building and sustaining of wellbeing.
Other key factors for enabling wellbeing include:
- A caring and supportive environment where employees feel listened to and valued;
- Unconditional support and consideration for individual circumstances (including disability, diversity, capacity or incapacity, or other constraints on the release of personal potential, perhaps for family reasons);
- A listening environment which is empathically in touch with the themes and currents in its workforce so that it is less likely to be caught off-guard;
- A constructive and productive approach to the management of conflict;
- Working conditions that create physical comfort (everything from furnishings to working hours) and that demonstrate care for the individual;
- Management confidence in employees so that they have confidence in themselves (this, of course, has implications for trust, recruitment and selection, and development and training);
- Employees knowing what motivates them and gives meaning and purpose in their lives (this is a key ingredient of happiness at work, as set out by Action for Happiness
For most organisations this represents a challenging list, but one which warrants careful consideration. It can contribute a foundation for a wellbeing strategy, starting with a piece of self-examination by leaders to explore where their organisations currently stand and where the gaps might be.