Although two-thirds of those people had discussed the health issue with their manager or employer, nearer 90% would have been happy to have a conversation. So employers are clearly missing an opportunity to engage with their people about health, wellbeing and productivity. Most absences were between 2 and 4 weeks, so quite a high cost involved. The study concluded that having a supportive employer and discussing issues early reduced the likelihood of absence beyond 2 weeks. Most of the absences were related to mental health and skeletal-muscular issues (often the two are related). And almost half of those people had health issues that affected their work and stress levels.
Leaders and managers have a direct responsibility for looking after people at work, and particularly their psychological wellbeing. Organisations would be wise to do some self- assessment and see how effective they are at monitoring and taking action at organisation, team, and individual level. The outcome may stem from the values and culture they have in place to ensure a productive, engaged and happy workforce.
Working through a process, the first step is always to undertake some internal diagnostic work, finding clear information on the issues that exist, and how this compares to the ideal. Faced with the results, senior management and HR can then agree strategies and actions, and build the wellbeing of people and the organisation. One of the challenges is getting consistent action from managers and leaders, so that the wellbeing of people is an integral part of building and maintaining productivity and excellence. Business results and reputation rely on such a solid base.
One of the areas employers may wish to consider is what sources of support are in place for employees. As well as a manager or HR person, there may need to be an independent (and ideally external) route for people to get help, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, counselling or coaching. If support is limited to internal people, training will be necessary to ensure they have the appropriate approach and skills necessary to support people’s physical and mental wellbeing. A great example of a basis for organisational thinking on this is from the NZ Mental Health Foundation.
Some of the key aspects of organisational and personal health that employers might address include:
- The alignment of organisation values and culture with reality on the ground
- The level to which people are engaged and motivated
- How well people hold a sense of achievement and pride in the organisation
- How well performance, feedback and conflict is managed
- What signs of stress are evident, and the actions being taken to address them
- The culture around learning, creativity, success and celebration
- How work/life balance is managed
- What the road to excellence looks like for individuals, teams and the organisation
Supporting people well is a no-brainer, even though most organisations fail to address it. It’s time to think about how well you do. Everyone benefits from a healthy, growing business – after all, everyone wants to work in a happy place.
IAN A WILLIAMS
Kairology.com October 2015
Ian undertakes diagnostic reviews in organisations, and provides advice and coaching for wellbeing and organisation development.