Employee wellbeing essential for business success

April, 2021

By: Dr. Angela Lim

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One year on from COVID-19 it is difficult to ignore the strain and impact it has had on people. The importance of mental health is becoming more widely known and we are seeing more businesses make a positive shift towards prioritising employee wellbeing in the workplace.  But many still don’t understand the term “employee wellbeing”, so what does it mean?

Employee wellbeing relates to all aspects of working life. It is more than optimising the mental health of employees, it’s also about improving their overall health and happiness and understanding employees from a holistic perspective to help them grow both professionally and personally.

Employees are not only the backbone of businesses, but also the recipe for their success and should be a key strategic focus when future proofing your business.

Through my company Clearhead, an online platform designed by NZ doctors that provides proactive healthcare focused on wellbeing, many businesses have reaped the benefit of investing in employee wellbeing. Directing resources into this area however can be difficult as you balance limited budgets and competing priorities, leaving many businesses wondering if it is even worth it?

Businesses are always looking to boost productivity and optimise profit and we want loyal employees that will stay with us for years to come and naturally become an advocate for the business over time. As COVID–19 wreaked havoc on our financials, it could be tempting to cut cost by eliminating employee wellbeing and EAP programs, but instead you should see them as a direct investment into the business rather than a cost line item.

Clearhead’s latest data shows that the number one reason for psychological distress in individuals is their struggle to cope with the demands of work with more than 70 per cent not coping with it at all. Since the pandemic, we have all been asked to do more with less, and the constant contingency planning due to the uncertainty is wearing on our ability to perform at our highest levels.

The 2019 workplace survey conducted by Southern Cross and Business NZ, uncovered that stress levels had risen by 23.5 per cent since 2017 and in 2018, New Zealand businesses lost around $1.7B due to employee absenteeism. The impact of COVID-19 on anxiety and stress levels, especially on our younger workforce, will be a massive hidden wave that will leave us hanging high and dry when we need our people the most if we don’t put in place support systems.

In order for employees to develop resilience skills and coping strategies to flourish in the ‘new normal’, businesses need to take a proactive approach to investing in employee wellbeing. Only when an employee feels they are a supported and valued member of the business will they have higher job satisfaction and morale. This all leads to higher productivity and lower staff absenteeism as staff become more engaged and motivated to tackle any task that may come their way.

Some workforces have begun incorporating Mental Health Days into their employee leave options to help their employees to stay mentally resilient and prevent them from reaching to the point where they will need to take a longer period of sick leave due to being burnt out. At Clearhead, we have mostly been working with organisations who are taking a proactive approach as a key part of their people management strategy. By providing an integrated offering of digital tools, choice of 200 registered therapists and data analytics, we are helping businesses to tap into a much more cost-effective and long-term solution to managing employee wellbeing.

With all this said, the benefits of employee wellbeing need to be recognised as more than “just another way to make employees work longer hours and make the company more money”, it should be seen as being beneficial for both the business and the employee in the long run. Employee wellbeing initiatives will not work as well if employees are still being overworked and should encompass an entire organisational culture change. 

Businesses have a real opportunity to positively impact the lives of their employees by encouraging these changes and be the backstop to a broken public mental health system. Moving forward, there has never been a more prevalent time for empathetic leadership and employee-focused workplaces to come forth in support of our workforce.

Trust me, this will be what separates thriving businesses of the future from businesses who are just surviving.

Clearhead and EMA – helping improve mental wellbeing – supporting employees to manage stress and improve wellbeing means a happier and more productive workforce and as COVID-19 continues to create disruption to our working and personal lives, the EMA is offering members use of the Clearhead app – a personalised tool designed to help individuals manage wellbeing and mental health.

To receive a link to the Clearhead app for free until May 2021 with no payment details required, email Sonja.rose@ema.co.nz

Dr Angela Lim, CEO & Co-Founder of Clearhead | Doctor | TEDx Speaker | Board Chair



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