Why Businesses Should Invest in the Wellbeing of Their Employees
Addressing both absenteeism and presenteeism (when issues prevent employees from being fully productive at work) is a challenge for businesses nationwide. The costs associated with stress and poor employee health that result in absenteeism and low productivity are significant. Research has shown that as many as one in every ten hours at work is lost to unintended time off.
What is workplace wellness?
The antidote to absenteeism and presenteeism appears to be the encouragement of wellness in the workplace, but not the new-age kind that involves green smoothies, colonics, turmeric lattes and detox teas. The answer may just be the adoption of corporate and workplace wellness programs.
While the concept of wellness has been around for some time, the corporate sector should now be wholeheartedly embracing it and investing in the health, nutrition and wellbeing of its workforce. This is because employee wellbeing boosts the health of the organisation. Data indicates that healthy workers are more efficient and productive at work and have fewer sick days.
In recent years, we have witnessed an alarming trend in the Victorian workforce. Results from the last Victorian Government WorkHealth check in 2010 highlight some worrying findings about the health of workers in this state. The survey revealed that 25 per cent of Victorian workers had elevated cholesterol and an above-normal waist circumference, and almost half had an increased risk of developing diabetes. Additionally, more than half of those surveyed reported inadequate levels of exercise, and almost all respondents didn’t eat enough vegetables. It is likely that these worrying statistics haven’t improved one decade on.
So, what can be done? Businesses can establish novel and holistic wellness programs that focus on nutrition, exercise, mental health, mindfulness and stress management. Workplace wellness and corporate nutrition programs promote good health and help to prevent chronic disease in the workforce. There is a huge benefit to the bottom line from improved productivity levels; healthy employees report to being twice as productive as their less healthy counterparts.
Organisations are also likely to retain their employees for longer when they feel well taken care of. Research shows that businesses that do not invest in health and wellbeing programs are up to four times more likely to lose staff in the following 12 months.
Why invest in corporate wellness and nutrition programs?
When workers feel supported by their employer, happiness, productivity and a sense of purpose in the workplace flourish. More than 14,500 Australian workers were interviewed for the Workplace Wellbeing report published earlier this year. Most respondents noted the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, saying that when their employer cared about their health and happiness, they felt engaged and content at work.
By investing in wellness programs, the corporate sector can actively create a supportive culture that employees feel enthused to be a part of. And a healthy workplace reflects well on a business, potentially attracting new talent to the organisation.
The outcomes for industry also appear to be financially rewarding. Australian data indicate that businesses will yield an average return of $5.81 for every dollar invested in workplace health programs. If a stock or superannuation fund promised to return almost $6 for every $1 invested, most people would not hesitate to capitalise.
From a commercial perspective alone, the benefits in the introduction of a workplace wellness program can be significant.
Evidence shows that the most effective and viable health and wellbeing programs are those that enlist the support of the whole organisation. This approach is crucial to ensure the continuing success of the initiatives and strategies.
The Victorian Government recommends that healthy working environments must reflect a culture that values employees and stimulates trust, inspire and support change innovation, operate collaboratively to achieve mutual objectives. Also, they must ensure the healthy choice is simple by supporting and encouraging healthy eating, exercise, breastfeeding, mental health and overall wellbeing.
So, how can businesses focus on nutrition to ensure that their employees feel well-supported and empowered to make healthier food choices?
Offer nutritious food and snacks
Many businesses have the ubiquitous cookie jar or fundraising chocolate box next to the often-empty fruit bowl in the tearoom. While treats need not be completely discouraged, offering a variety of different and wholesome foods to employees will likely lead to improved nutrition choices over the course of the working day. Offering fruit, nuts and seeds, tubs of yoghurt and cheese and grainy crackers is a simple way of increasing the variety of snack foods in the workplace. The concept is known as ‘crowding’ – by making more healthy foods accessible we are all likely to include more of those wholesome foods in our diet.
Additionally, snacking on nutrient-dense foods such as fruit, nuts, yoghurt and the like will be much better for blood sugar levels and may lead to a boost in concentration and work productivity. This is contrasted with the transient sugar high and consequent energy crash that many experience after snacking on chocolates, lollies and biscuits.
Knowledge is power
An effective approach is to work with a dietitian to engage employees and help to empower them. A dietitian can provide them with helpful strategies to improve their nutritional intake. And a corporate dietitian can conduct healthy eating seminars and showcase a variety of different and easy-to-prepare meals and snacks that workers can whip up at home or in the office.
Dietitians adhere to evidence-based guidelines and as such are continually abreast of the latest nutrition research to guide them in their practice. They do not subscribe to overly restrictive diets and do not advise cutting out entire food groups unless medically indicated. Rather, a dietitian will take a holistic approach to an employee’s health and nutrition and aim to implement healthy eating plans based on the inclusion of a variety of foods from the various food groups.
Team building exercises are designed to increase worker interaction to help foster working relationships among employees. Rather than participating in combat games or tenpin bowling, businesses can set up cooking challenges, pitting teams against each other to see who can create the tastiest dish – a kind of Corporate Masterchef perhaps.
Focus on the individual
A dietitian can engage with individual employees to tailor a diet plan that suits their specific needs. They can focus on helping workers to change their behaviours and encourage dietary changes that help them achieve their individual goals. Engaging with employees one-on-one can ensure that the employee feels even more supported on their health journey.
Celebrate nutrition in the workplace
Host a variety of activities to help pique employees’ interest in food and nutrition. Weekly or monthly challenges that encourage sound nutrition practices may help foster healthy and long-term habits in both the individual and the team. Some examples of challenges include going meatless on Mondays, Febfast and going for two (serves of fruit) and five (serves of vegetables) each day.
In 2020, addressing wellbeing in the workplace is a prerequisite for companies to survive, thrive and prosper.
By undertaking corporate nutrition and wellness programs in the workplace, businesses can not only support the health, performance and happiness of their employees but also boost profits, staff retention and productivity.
Creating a healthier workplace is a win for employees and employers alike.
Joel provides corporate wellness sessions with a focus on nutrition for the Australian corporate sector. He delivers health tips in a novel and interactive way that will encourage and support your employees to make impactful changes. All corporate wellbeing workshops are fully custom-designed to meet your employees’ needs.
You will see a measurable return on your investment with a healthier, more efficient and present work team. To learn more about the corporate wellness workshops, get in touch by emailing [email protected].