Why happy healthy employees equal higher profits

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What is your company’s most valuable resource? If you work in the financial services sector, the answer is almost certainly the people who work for it.

“For employers in sectors such as accountancy, overall performance is largely dependent on how good their employees are,” said Faith Howe, director of talent at communications agency FleishmanHillard Fishburn.

And while offering competitive salaries is undoubtedly a good way to attract high quality staff, money alone is often no longer enough to keep them.

“Quality employees can and will vote with their feet,” Howe said.

“So you need to create the right working conditions to both attract and retain them.”

Once you have a competent team in place, the next step is to ensure each member is performing as well as he or she can.

“It’s about helping people to reach their full potential,” said Anna Rasmussen, founder of Open Blend, a software company that develops tools to help employers support all aspects of staff development.

Meeting their health and wellbeing needs is a good place to start.

The cost of an unhappy workforce

Given the costs involved in recruiting new staff, it’s easy to see how attrition, or loss of employees, can become a big burden on profitability.

According to Xpert HR, one in five UK workers resigned from their jobs last year.

So how can you hang on to the high performers who can take your business to the next level?

Tim Houseman, HR manager at a multinational organisation, said: “Taking steps to improve health and wellbeing can make your business a more attractive place to work, and help to differentiate your company from your competitors.

“This is particularly important when it comes to attracting and retaining millennial talent.”

Setting up good communication strategies to ensure managers step in to help good employees who are going through a tough time is also crucial.

“Having skilled managers who can react when people are struggling is really fundamental to creating a positive working environment,” Howe said.

The importance of good health

According to research from the Centre for Mental Health, absenteeism due to mental health alone costs the UK economy some £8.4 billion every year.

Across physical and mental health, the total is much higher.

“Health and exercise is the work life driver that is most often flagged up as needing attention by the 4,000 employees who use our software,” Rasmussen said.

So taking steps to look after your employees’ health can be a great way to boost profits – not least because it should mean you have more staff operating at the top of their game.

“It makes business sense to have a healthy workforce,” Houseman said.

“Healthy individuals and teams can solve problems in a more creative way, more quickly, and can adapt more easily to shifting demands and market conditions, as well as technological and regulatory changes.”

On the flipside, ensuring the workplace culture does not discourage people from taking time off when they need it is also important.

If, for example, an employee feels comfortable asking for half a day off to go to the doctor, that may avoid them having to take three days off later in the week.

That’s why employers also need to watch out for “presenteeism”, which is when poorly employees come to work anyway because they fear being judged by their superiors.

How to improve the working environment

If you want to attract, retain and maximise the potential of high quality employees, you need to focus on making your company a great place to work.

How? According to HR experts, investing in good management is key.

And that includes training manager to cope with employees of all kinds.

“A manager today might be dealing with a baby boomer and a millennial, each of whom needs a very different type of support,” Rasmussen said.

Once you feel confident you have a good management style in place throughout your business, you can also think about introducing measures specifically aimed at improving employee wellbeing.

“The measures we have introduced over the last few years range from simple things like having fruit available in the office, to seminars on issues such as anxiety and sleeplessness,” Howe said.

At Houseman’s company, meanwhile, strategies to boost employee health and wellbeing include flexible, remote and part-time working options, courses on subjects such as healthy eating and mindfulness, and a corporate volunteering scheme allowing staff to take a couple of days off a year to volunteer with local charities.
“We also sponsor sports teams and reimburse staff for their entry fees for any running, cycling or swimming competitions,” Houseman said.

“But whatever you do, tone from the top is very important.

“That’s why our chief executive encourages his immediate juniors to take wellbeing seriously.”

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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