How Do Leading Businesses Energise Their Employees?

The most successful companies understand that healthy workers make for a healthy bottom line.

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The most successful companies understand that healthy workers make for a healthy bottom line.


How Do Leading Businesses Energise Their Employees?

The most successful companies understand that healthy workers make for a healthy bottom line.

Share this article

British adults spend an average of 43 hours a week at work. Over two-thirds say they now work longer hours than in 2014. But this hard graft isn’t always productive; according to Health and Safety Executive figures, stress accounted for 37% of all work-related illnesses between 2015 and 2016, and 59% of workers believe themselves to be ‘physically depleted, emotionally drained, mentally distracted and lacking meaning and purpose’.

Lost productivity through absenteeism or presenteeism costs UK businesses an estimated £57 billion a year.

There’s now a hard, proven business case, to be paired with moral reasoning, to provide employees with an emotionally and physically supportive environment!

Providing such support will be increasingly necessary as Gen Y comes to dominate the workplace; by 2025, they’re expected to account for two-thirds of the global workforce. This cohort is notoriously health conscious with high expectations of their employers.

Better policies

Before the rise of the wellness movement, the health-focused support an employer might provide would typically extend only as far as sponsorship for a marathon or money off at the local gym. Now, there are often office-wide health kicks, yoga classes and piles of avocados in the kitchen.

Employers are beginning to understand that a healthy body makes for a healthy mind, and creates a better community and output from their teams.

There’s been a shift in the last few years towards preventative measures – learning how to spot something before it happens and spirals into prolonged time off work. It’s about being more emotionally intelligent and more aware.

Educating bosses on how to address these issues before they become a major impediment is vital in ensuring staff remain at their peak.

However, according to research from Legal & General, less than 10% of employees who’ve experienced depression, or high levels of pressure or anger, feel that they can talk to their manager about it. There is clearly a very real need for more open conversation between management and the rest of the workforce.

Employers that care

Research from consulting firm Great Place to Work published last year uncovered a direct correlation between the amount of revenue a company makes and how ‘caring’ its workplace community is.

Yet, according to a study from Ipsos, 11% of employees are highly dissatisfied with their office environment and, as a consequence, are highly disengaged from their jobs.


Studies reveal a lot of stress within the average workplace

Senior management can do more than just implement a wellness programme, they can help create a caring environment and be real champions for putting physical and mental health first.

At Google, where a happy workplace is considered to be a profitable workplace, its Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute – designed to create mindful, compassionate managers – is growing rapidly.

Danielle Harlan, author of The New Alpha, agrees that it’s important for guidance in workplace wellness to come from the top. “If the leader cares about these kinds of things, then the people who work for them will know that they have permission also to care about those things.”

A Peldon Rose survey revealed that 70% of British workers believe that their mood and productivity would improve if they were involved in decision-making.

With people seeking to take greater control over all aspects of their lives, it makes sense that they’d be happier if they were heard and respected at work – and by ensuring that they accommodate this desire, employers can attract and keep the very best talent.

Healthy spaces

Tech brands like Google and Airbnb have helped pioneer a new approach to office design, emphasising collaboration within their spaces.  But it’s no longer just about having an office with ‘breakout zones’ and fuzzball machines, it’s about creating an environment with employees’ wellbeing in mind.

The desk is the centre of a workplace, it is where people spend most of their days. But, as people spend more time sitting, it’s contributing negatively to their physical and mental health.

This is seeing the rise of standing-desks, which have business benefits too; employees who used sit-stand desks were shown to be 46% more productive than those at traditional desks in a study of call centre workers.

However, new approaches aren’t for everyone. Savills' ‘What Workers Want’ study found that despite the rapid evolution of hot-desking, collaboration and flexible working technology, most people still want to work from their own, seated desk. Many workers simply like to ‘nest’; only 4% prefer to work on shared desks.

Although some habits may be hard to change, it’s undeniable that architecture and design have an impact. 82% of workers think quiet areas are vital and 90% want more natural lighting. People also want a healthy atmosphere; 70% of office workers think poor air quality has a negative impact on their productivity and wellbeing.

Exposure to nature is great for combating stress, so it’s not surprising that office plants can dramatically boost wellbeing. In fact, research from Harvard University found that the cognitive performance of employees in ‘green’ offices was double that of those in conventional workplaces.

The fit and healthy office of the future

While music and open offices fit in with a modern desire for work to feel more welcoming, diminishing hierarchies and paying attention to the specific needs of each employee can make the biggest differences.

Some companies are taking things further and using such online scheduling services as ZocDoc to offer employees ‘unsick days’ – paid days off to take care of routine visits to a doctor. While other companies are taking a more macro view and implementing email blackouts and work time limits to ensure that their teams never get too stressed.

Other more radical approaches are also in place. Some organisations have begun to carve out time and space for employees to enjoy a bit of downtime or even get some shut-eye on the job.

Sleepbox’s InnerSpace units are equipped with a bed, desk, Wi-Fi, and colour-adjustable lighting. The aim is to provide employees with a quiet spot to work. UNStudio similarly designs pods where people can unwind how they want – through meditation, drumming or, if they’re feeling particularly frustrated, smashing stuff up.

It’s not only humans that can influence productivity however. In the US, a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, found that 8% workplaces allow people to bring in their pets, while big names like Google, Etsy, Amazon and Ben & Jerry’s have pooch-friendly policies including pet insurance, doggie daycare and pet pampering services.


Dogs are great mood improvers

Research shows that allowing dogs in the workplace can improve morale, promote cooperation, encourage a positive mood, and boost attentiveness!

Of course, there’s no point to any of these initiatives if workers don’t know about them. The 2016 Britain's Healthiest Workplace study found that 79% of services offered to improve employees’ health have a low ‘awareness rate’.

Companies must publicise their workplace wellness initiatives and encourage people to take advantage of them if they are to achieve the personal and professional gains they promise!

Jo Allison is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8.

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How Do Leading Businesses Energise Their Employees?

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