The idea of workplace wellness is not new but the term has been growing significantly in popularity over the last decade. The way we work has changed dramatically in that time and that change is one of the biggest reasons for the rise in popularity of workplace wellness programs – in fact, the global wellness industry is now estimated at a whopping $40 billion per year. So what’s all the fuss about and why does wellness matter for businesses?
What is workplace wellness?
The Global Wellness Institute says that “wellness at work is the right to work in a manner that is healthy, safe, motivating and edifying.” It’s all about keeping your employees happy and healthy. The important thing to remember is that keeping healthy is not just about upholding physical health but it also includes mental health as well as social health.
Of course, with the wellness industry seemingly booming, it can be tempting to think that most organisations have got their workplace wellness under control but that’s simply not the case. In their research, The Global Wellness Institute also discovered that only 9% of the global workforce has access to wellness programs – a saddening statistic.
So, where are so many organisations going wrong?
Despite the fact that the word ‘wellness’s is on the tip of everyone’s tongues, there are two main reasons why so few people throughout the world are not getting access to effective wellness programs:
- The world of work is changing rapidly – this digital age means that change happens much quicker than it has in the past any many organisations are slow to catch up. Too many businesses are still using the same ‘quit smoking’ programs they’ve been using since the 90s or simply have not updated health policies in recent times.
- The lack of a structured approach in favour of short-term fixes or trends. There are plenty of fads when it comes to wellness and it’s easy to latch on to them – standing desks or workplace yoga classes have been popular in recent times – but it’s more than that and not having a strategy when it comes to wellness is a big mistake. Workplace wellness, health and safety all need to be part of everyday discussions.
What do you stand to lose by not putting a wellness program into place?
Being healthy has obvious benefits for your employees – no one likes to be unwell. For organisations, the effects of poor workplace wellness can be far-reaching – perhaps more than you first realise and the biggest side effect is poor productivity. According to the Centre of International Economics, lost productivity costs the Australian Economy $34 billion every year.
Absenteeism is one of the most obvious forms of lost productivity and it costs the Australian economy $7 billion per year, but it’s actually not the most devastating form of lost productivity. Presenteeism – the behaviour of showing up for work despite being physically or mentally unwell – cost the Australian economy $26 billion in the 2005-2006 financial year.
Take the very common scenario of an employee showing up for work, despite the fact they have a cold. They feel obliged to turn up to work, even though their head is foggy, they can’t stop sniffing and they feel as though they could sleep for a week. There are three ways this act of presenteeism can have widespread effects:
- The employee themselves is not productive. Not only will they naturally work at a slower pace, they are also working against themselves by not staying home and getting the rest their body needs to heal. This results in a longer healing process and a drawn out period of low productivity.
- The employee also runs the risk of sharing their cold with their colleagues. If any of their colleagues catch the cold, they simply start the cycle over again from the first point.
- If the employee is in direct contact with clients, they could also spread their cold onwards, letting the contagion infiltrate another business and affecting productivity elsewhere, ready for the cycle to begin from point 1 all over again.
So, what’s the solution?
Starting small is always a good idea. Discover what works for your workplace when it comes to programs that promote physical, mental and social health. The most important thing is to be deliberate in however you choose to implement your wellness program. Have a strategy and make health a point of importance in everyday conversations.
Want to know more about how your organisation can be adapting to the new world of work? Grab a copy of our eBook and get in touch with Pendragon today to see how we can help. Give us a call on 02 9407 8700.