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Are You, As A Leader, Looking After Your People?
By Management Today
What is the current context in which organisations find themselves operating?
According to board-level respondents, profitability is the biggest day-to-day challenge faced, followed closely by keeping up with new technology and launching new products and services. While employee engagement and wellbeing do not come bottom of the list, they rank a lowly seventh.
This suggests a clear mismatch with what employees now seek from employers. Greater priority given to creating engaged and involved workforces would generate greater profit. The success of employers in tough economic and competitive environments illustrates the value of looking after staff.
Our research points to a growing acceptance of employers’ responsibility for their workers’ wellbeing. In our survey with Unum last year, two thirds of respondents stated that responsibility for an employee’s wellbeing lies with their employer. In this latest research, nine out of 10 board-level executives agree that responsibility for an employee’s wellbeing should lie mostly with the organisation, rather than the individual. This ties in with growing evidence that the health – and in particular the mental health – and overall wellbeing of employees depends greatly on their relationships at work. That means their relationships with each other but specifically their relationships with employers, from line manager to the most senior executive and board member.
Yet almost two-thirds of board-level respondents concede that their company does not have a clearly defined employee wellbeing strategy and more than half believe employee wellbeing sits no higher on the corporate agenda now than it did five years ago. This is in spite of previous research by bodies, such as the CBI, which have demonstrated that a clearly defined wellbeing strategy helps organisations with the recruitment and retention of staff, as well as improving their engagement at motivation at work. There is a clear return on investment for caring employers.
As technology becomes increasingly prevalent – both in and out of our working lives – some organisations are taking steps to encourage employees to switch off from their always on lifestyle. But when our survey asked if this is something respondents have witnessed in their own company, three-quarters say no.
When asked what initiatives their organisation has put in place to help employees switch off, the most common answer was sports and social activities, followed by tech-free areas of the workplace and exercise and yoga classes. Meditation workshops and mindfulness training were reported by only a small number of respondents.
Interestingly, when board-level respondents were asked to name initiatives by their organisation to encourage switch off, their most common answer was a ban on emails outside working hours. However, such measures are far from commonplace.
The NICE guidelines encourage those with a remit for workplace health to develop policies that support workplace culture such as ensuring respect for work-life balance. Line managers, say the guidelines, should be flexible wherever possible about work scheduling, giving employees control and flexibility over their own time.
With employees expected to work for longer and needing to stay fit and healthy to do so, only half of the respondents in our survey are confident that their organisation is equipped to deal with the growing number of older employees in the workforce. That percentage rises to 70% when board-level executives were asked the same question, but there are worrying signs here that many employers are under-prepared for the significant challenges of an ageing population.
While 62% of respondents said their company had initiatives or employee benefits in place to support their physical health, only 42% said there were similar initiatives or benefits to support employees’ mental health.
However, health insurers say mental health is one of the four main causes of claims, along with cancer, heart problems and musculoskeletal conditions and their numbers of increasing significantly. In the last six years the number of working days lost to stress anxiety and depression has increased by almost a quarter. This shows the need for employers to put more emphasis on managing mental health in the workplace and pay as much attention to it as they do physical health.
Encouragingly, almost 83% of respondents reckoned they are very familiar with their company’s employee benefits package.
But worryingly, almost two-thirds (63%) said their organisation does not provide employees with a reward statement explaining the value of their employee benefits. A total rewards statement does not necessarily equate with having a clearly defined employee wellbeing strategy although there is a correlation: 47% of those who receive such a statement believe their company has a clearly defined employee wellbeing strategy.
Clearly more education needs to be undertaken by employers to tell their employees about the value and worth of the benefits they receive.
Our research finds encouraging signs that a growing number of employers are placing higher priority on the health and wellbeing of their workforces. But while the smarter organisations are focusing their efforts in a considered and intentional manner, it seems that there are still too many employers that lack the clearly defined strategies necessary for meeting their employees’ expectations and the challenges of an ageing population.