Mental health & wellbeing

“Take it seriously”: Four steps to foster a healthy workplace

Dr Ron Ehrlich /

healthier

Dr Ron Ehrlich. Source: Supplied.

Is your business fulfilling its potential? Is it in good health?

Most businesses still rely on their workforce to prepare, deliver, interact and support their services, clients or customers, not to mention each other.

The health of a workforce is either the greatest asset or liability of a business.

So how healthy is your team?

The answer to that question may be one of the most important you make as a business owner or manager.

1. Take it seriously

Perhaps the most important step is simple yet profound: take the health of your workforce seriously

You and your team will benefit from prioritised wellbeing, and so will your bottom line.

Research shows that for every dollar spent on health and wellness there is a $6 return.

But often business pay lip service to workplace health — a talk, a few office plants or a bowl of fruit.

In reality, however, the trickle-down effect of workplace health has far-reaching implications not just for the business, but also for the managers themselves, employees, their families and the community at large.

2. Understand stress

Most people today acknowledge stress plays an increasingly significant role in their lives and affects their health.

In fact, studies show more than 50% of Australian workers feel overwhelmed a significant proportion of the time. Business leaders are not immune from stress either, with studies showing up to 80% of business leaders are concerned about stress in their workplace.

The key is to identify and minimise stress. But in order to solve a problem, it helps to understand the extent of the problem.

In our modern world, a ‘stress’ is anything that compromises our immune system, mentally or physically.

In an increasingly stressful world, finding a work-life balance, improving engagement and productivity, while reducing the ill-effects of stress would seem to be a reasonable goal. The ultimate win-win, in fact.

3. Flexible working arrangement

Employers too often equate hours worked with productivity.

But new research challenges this notion, articulating what most employees feel, but are not always able to verbalise. There is a point of diminishing return, which is reflected in the engagement and health of the workforce.

Absenteeism and presenteeism, which is showing up for work but not being at your best, costs the Australian economy $35 billion each year or 3% of GDP.

When organisations also factor in the indirect costs of absenteeism, such as replacement labour, lost productivity and increased stress and risk to others, absenteeism comes at huge costs, particularly to those that have to manage and cover for it.

A recent trial in New Zealand saw employees shift to a four-day work week, while still being paid for five days.

The results have far-reaching implications for our stressed workforce. Importantly, 78% of those in the trial found they had a better work-life balance, while the company reported a positive effect on job attitudes, performance and engagement, plus an improvement in productivity, teamwork, customer service and a feeling of wellbeing.

4. Build resilience

While identifying and minimising the stresses of our modern world is one side of the equation, it’s equally important to focus on a wellness program that builds resilience and delivers.

A wellness program should focus on five pillars: sleep, breathe, nourish, movement and thought.

A holistic approach to health built on sensible, achievable, sustainable principles can transform a workforce, and a community.

Imagine a wellness program focused on sleep and breathe.

More than 50% of Australian workers surveyed don’t get enough sleep, which affects every aspect of their lives.

Poor sleep affects memory, empathy, cognitive skills, energy levels, immune system, aging and much more, in turn affecting engagement and productivity.  Lack of quality sleep is a significant business issue, affecting leaders and employees alike.

A business that values the health of its workforce is a business people will want to work for and work with.

Business is a fact of life for individuals and their families, so business owners and managers are uniquely placed to make a difference — not just to their bottom line, but to society as a whole.

Take control of workplace wellness, prioritise health and be the best you can be, individually and collectively.

NOW READ: From Atlassian and Canva to Salesforce, here are the 50 best places to work in Australia

NOW READ: Why leadership is vital for tackling workplace mental health

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Dr Ron Ehrlich

Dr Ron Ehrlich delivers keynotes and wellness workshops and is the author of A Life Less Stressed: The five pillars of health and wellness. He also hosts the weekly podcast Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich.

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