Stephen Dowling, 16 November, 2021
Employee mental health and wellbeing is top of mind for Australian businesses. Organisations must integrate these key considerations into their strategy to avoid risks to their bottom line and potential regulatory consequences.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone an intense spotlight on workforce resilience in a way we have never seen before.
Workforce resilience is best created in an environment where colleagues can better adapt to adverse situations, manage stress and maintain motivation.
Organisations are becoming more aware of their dependence on a mentally healthy workforce, but in some organisations there is a gap between investment in programs and an integration into strategy.i
Wellbeing should no longer be considered optional or a benefit or reward, it should be front and centre as a business imperative for leading, high-performing organisations.
The link between wellbeing strategy and performance
A new global survey released by Aon confirms the link between an organisation’s wellbeing strategy and company performance.
Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey found that improvements to employee wellbeing performance within a company have an impact on customer satisfaction and retention, and that while wellbeing performance overall has a direct connection to a strong and focused wellbeing strategy, a series of ad hoc or standalone wellbeing initiatives will have less impact.
In Australia, the most important organisational wellbeing issues are work-life balance, stress, anxiety and burnout.ii
38% of companies surveyed said employee wellbeing is extremely important, and while 90% have at least one initiative in place, only 58% have a strategy in place and just 20% fully integrate wellbeing into their overarching business and talent strategy.iii
The survey also found that globally, organisations that improve employee wellbeing performance by 3% see a 1% increase in customer satisfaction and retention. Organisations that improve employee wellbeing performance by 4% see a 1% increase in company profit and a 1% decrease in employee turnover.iv
The risk and increasing scrutiny
The increasing scrutiny on organisations and their employee wellbeing programs was brought into sharp focus in 2020, but it is increasingly clear that some organisations may have not gone far enough in creating a strategy or integrated approach to this issue.v
In Australia, there is approximately $12 billion per year in reduced workforce productivity and sick leave absences related to mental health issues.vi
Some companies have introduced wellbeing programs such as digital wellbeing apps, employee assistance programs, physical environment assessment and healthcare support, and surveyed companies stated that they had increased spending in this area in 2020.vii The study supports a view that there is more that can be done in the area of psychosocial and mental health.
Further, our survey results found that by focusing on improving the performance of individual and organisational wellbeing, there is an impact and improvement on business outcomes.viii
Organisational investment in wellbeing strategies that address psychosocial risk and mental health are becoming not just a ‘nice to have’ but an imperative, as work place health and safety continues to be addressed by regulators and other bodies in Australia to address the safety and wellbeing of employees.
Part of the challenge is shifting the conversation from health and wellbeing as a discretionary spend, to understanding its ability to impact the very resilience of the organisation. To foster resilience the organisational approach needs to be intelligently aligned to the needs of the workforce, well communicated and within an environment at work that allows and supports employees to thrive.
Employers should fully integrate wellbeing and resilience into their strategy, align measures, and develop wellbeing activities that connect with their desired company culture. To succeed, they should focus on employee engagement – there is no point in having a great program or strategy if culture is not driving it and engagement falls short.
The risk of psychosocial harm, mental health issues and employee wellbeing is very real for organisations now and is likely to continue to be in the future, and organisations are urged to consider their risk exposure ahead of greater regulatory and government scrutiny and take an integrated approach to their wellbeing offerings as a long-term strategy to improve workforce resilience.
Collectively, we all need to create a future of work where organisations deliver well-rounded wellbeing across the physical, social, emotional, professional and financial needs of their workforce.