A Healthy Business is a Safe Business


Can we say that a safe business is always a healthy business? My response to this statement is no.

As an analogy we can say that all crocodiles have sharp teeth but we cannot say that all animals with sharp teeth are crocodiles. 

What is a Healthy business?  After reading “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni and then ‘No Fear of Failure “by Gary Burnison one comes to the conclusion that a Healthy business is one that holds dear as a keystone two factors – its values and the necessity to care for those that work within the business, its customers and its suppliers. 

One of the clauses in the new Health and Safety in Employment Act (to be released later in 2015) states that the business must also take into account illness within the work force. So it is is not just about safety. Yet many H&S advisors seem totally focused on safety to the exclusion of the health aspect. But here is an interesting point. To be healthy the business will become safe as the leadership focuses on the necessity ‘to care’ as one of its core values. Thus its determination as an objective to be healthy will be achieved. 

The challenge for many business owners is to have clarity on the purpose of its existence. I think over time through work pressure the business founder tends to sideline this factor at their peril. There is a focused drive towards making money as quickly as possible.  All energy and smart thinking is put to this objective.  After all, if  the actions are not making money what is the point of being in business? 

Whilst in survival mode it is easy to focus on reducing the tolerances and continually chasing for every opportunity. The result being increased tension within the business, its people and the outside environment as political agendas and inability to deal with ever increasing ‘fire fighting’ depletes the organisation’s energy resources. This is when accidents occur, errors are made, increased levels of politics and distrust between people occur. Overall, it increases stress. 

As in the human body when the cellular health is compromised and the immune system over- functions we have the ability to contract viruses and become prone to degenerative diseases. The body becomes subjected to the symptoms of stress There are many parallels of this affect within the business environment and the organisation. A principal result of stress is the inability to be creative and find solutions to challenges because the energy reserves are depleted   

Stress is one of the major factors in the primary causations of a business not being healthy financially, operationally or as an employer. People like to work on a winners team.  When they do not then two of their primary motivators (being self- esteem and growth) are affected. This further results in loss of productivity and profitability of the business as a consequence. 

A symptom may not only be the wastage through errors in manufacturing /production but also in relation to the level of absenteeism, presenteeism and failure of safety regime within the business. 

Fundamentally the desire “to care” as a primary factor in the values of the business has failed not only the employees but also the organisation (the business) as a living entity. 

To care for others is the underlying meaning of the new Act but it has much deeper relevance for the business, its future health and the health and safety of its employees. To care as a primary factor in the organisation’s values and the objectives will enhance the business’ ability to gain advantage over its competitors because it will be able to control its risks and prevent unnecessary wastage of resources. 

Interestingly many businesses buy insurance to cover such losses when in actual fact the solution lies within the organisational environment itself.  It is risk management at a deeper level. 

In my profession I often hear clients confirming that they have a healthy bank balance. But this is only a reflection of the status quo historical perspective. It is not the here and now perspective and also the financial records do not necessary reflect the health within a business or the fact that not all the various departments are operating at their optimal level (note that I did not mention ‘maximum’ level which is often the point before things break).  How much loss is there within the business which is not being measured or accounted for?  Simple changes can improve issues such as absenteeism, presenteeism, work safety accidents, down time and political distrust - all of which do have a dollar effect. 

If employees were working at their optimal level because they too are truly healthy not only in their body but also in their mind it results in sharing, understanding and believing in the founders’  values. Understanding the continually communicated objectives and being part of a winning health conscious company … now what could this do to the profitability of any business and impact on making it resilient as well as compliant with the new Health and Safety In Employment Act which will be knocking on your door in 2015?   


John Barley

Rite Track (NZ) Ltd





John Barley is a highly qualified insurance broker whose long term success in his own organisations has been attributed to his lateral thinking approach.

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