Posted on 16/02/2017
Australian businesses currently lose over $10 billion* a year in stress claims and $6.5 billion* a year by failing to support employees experiencing difficulties such as depression and anxiety.
Driven by absenteeism, workers compensation claims and most commonly presenteeism (being physically present, but not functioning at full capacity due to illness or disengagement), the business case for developing a culture of wellbeing is becoming too compelling to ignore.
Research conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that for every $1 invested in building a mentally healthy workplace, a business will see an average return of $2.30. With 1 in 5 working Australians experiencing a mental health condition each year, any business efforts to improve productivity, reduce sick-leave and increase work output may also result in organisational growth and profitability.
There are a number of practical ways your organisation can develop a culture of wellbeing, potentially benefitting not only your employees but also your business as a whole.
1. Assess your organisation’s current state
Review factors such as staff satisfaction, current wellbeing initiatives for employees, the absenteeism rate and any policies and procedures related to employee conduct and support services. This information can be your benchmark, and form the basis for developing a plan to
enhance your organisation’s internal culture of wellbeing. Statewide Super employers have access to Wellbeing Works, a guided 90 minute workshop which provides you with an assessment of your organisation’s strengths, areas for development and strategies towards improving mental health and wellbeing.
2. Empower your managers to lead from the top down
Developing a culture of wellbeing requires strong commitment from management. Harnessing a supportive leadership style helps breakdown the stigma of mental health so employees feel safe disclosing their struggles and seeking support.
To equip managers with these skills, formal training is often required. SuperFriend’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Training provides managers with the knowledge and preparation to be proactive towards creating and maintaining a culture of wellbeing.
3. Develop a sustainable, long-term plan to increase workplace wellbeing
Any internal wellbeing program should be integrated into the organisation’s overarching strategy. This enables the program to be visible, actionable and measurable in addition to demonstrating support and commitment from senior leaders.
If you’re struggling for practical ideas for how a wellbeing program can be executed, the following ideas may provide some inspiration for you to consider:
- Implement an Employee Assistance Program – a counselling support service available at no cost to staff. Actively promote and encourage the use of this service on an ongoing basis
- Empower managers to investigate the stressors and risks associated with their team and actively think about how those stressors can be reduced and removed to best manage the stress-levels of employees. This can help staff to stay at work, or return to work faster
- Ongoing professional development can also assist employees to feel appreciated, stimulated, motivated and challenged to be the best they can be, leading to greater contentment, job satisfaction and wellbeing
- Deliver resilience training for all employees to increase their wellbeing and ability to handle difficult situations in life. This type of training can also assist staff to deal effectively with customers, colleagues and management by increasing positivity, developing coping strategies and cultivating emotional resilience
- Up-skill the leadership team to identify and counsel anyone who may be struggling, with the aim of early intervention
- Develop more flexible working conditions (e.g. starting earlier and finishing earlier or allowing staff to work from home) as well as fostering a culture that limits excessive overtime
- Ensure all employees have an up-to-date job description so workers have clarity over their role and understand how they effectively contribute to the long-term objectives of the organisation.
4. Effectively communicate the program and involve your employees
Letting employees know how your organisation is cultivating a culture of wellbeing, together with promoting the program internally over the long-term, are both fundamental elements in creating a lasting cultural shift towards wellbeing. Many businesses find that even if they do have resources for employees, their employees don’t know that they exist – so communication is key.
Involving staff is a critical element and this can include internal promotion of mental health conditions or even arranging for a staff member to share their experience to break down stigma and get people talking. It is also important to communicate a zero-tolerance approach to workplace bullying and have robust processes to handle inappropriate behavior.
5. Seek expert assistance to drive a culture of wellbeing
There are a range of organisations that can assist employers to develop and implement strategies to improve workplace wellbeing. Beyond Blue’s initiative Head’s Up is a great starting point as well as national mental health promotion foundation SuperFriend, who are focused on creating mentally healthy workplaces. They have training and resources available to organisations who are affiliated with “profit to member” superannuation funds, including Statewide Super. Expert assistance can ensure your strategies are well executed and communicated and that the results of your program are accurately tracked and measured.