Workplace Wellbeing is a Win-Win

12th April 2018

Posted In: The Topic

Healthy workers are happy workers, and happy workers are more productive. Recent research has backed up this adage, with studies showing that efforts to promote and encourage wellbeing in the workplace have far-reaching benefits for employees and employers alike.

Words: Ruth Doris

This is the message behind Ireland’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day, which takes place on Friday, 13th April. Now in its fourth year, the campaign was set up to highlight the benefits of promoting wellbeing in the workplace, and it has grown each year with over 500 companies taking part in 2017!

Dermot Doherty, Project Manager of Ibec’s Food Drink Ireland (FDI) Health Initiative, which organises the campaign, says Ireland is the first country in Europe to have a day dedicated to workplace wellbeing.

He claims that despite anecdotal evidence that exercise is on the rise, in reality, most employees don’t get enough exercise, with 44% admitting they need to take more care of their mental health.

Citing the World Health Organization, he says that targeting the workplace setting is ideal to promote health because, as many workers are also parents, the realm of influence extends out beyond the workplace to the next generation by positively affecting the health of families and reaching out to the wider community.

Companies are being encouraged to dedicate time to facilitate healthy activities for their employees, such as a Pilates classes, cookery demonstrations, health checks or to walk, cycle or jog the Lunchtime Mile; and share their activity online using the hashtag #WorkWell18.

Events organised by FDI include a free breakfast seminar for employers and HR executives sharing insights, ideas and tips on workplace wellbeing.

Among the speakers at the seminar is consultant dietician, Sarah Keogh, who says implementing a workplace wellbeing programme pays back to the employer in terms of productivity, morale and teamwork.

While nutrition is her focus, she believes you can’t separate eating well from the other two ‘pillars’ of wellbeing, sleep and exercise which are vital for fitness and strength, energy levels and mental health as “even the nicest workplaces have some element of stress”.

When it comes to investing time and money into a wellbeing programme, companies from small to corporate can find a solution to fit their budget, she says. Actions can range from a nutritionist coming in to advise on foods served in the staff canteen, and changes to recipes and portion sizes, to a chat about how workers can incorporate more fruit, vegetables and fibre into their lunchbox.

Rushed lunches, skipped meals and constant snacking have become commonplace in our ‘always-on’ working culture. Sarah says small changes can add up and even setting aside 20 minutes away from the desk to step out or sit and chew your food can have noticeable benefits. If we’re doing intense exercise or have had a very early breakfast, she advocates the idea of smart snacking; choosing something nutritious, such as a yogurt, a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.

Dermot Doherty says taking action to improve wellbeing in the workplace is in everyone’s interests and research shows that healthy, engaged employees are on average 30 days more productive.

They also tend to stay longer at a company and get sick less often. Absenteeism costs the Irish economy over €1.5billion each year, with 11 million days lost through absenteeism – four million of these by small businesses and FDI’s latest research found that over one-third of employees say that absenteeism is negatively affecting productivity in their organisation.

And as well as encouraging valued employees to stay, investing in workplace wellbeing can help to attract the right talent as studies have shown that company culture which supports employee health and work/life balance is a key consideration for many job-hunters.

On the day Sinead Doherty will also be speaking about her experience as CEO of specialist tax company Fenero. She says the business which has grown from a one-person company to a 27-person team has always had a culture of looking after their employees. Sinead believes having a dedicated day is important to put a focus on workplace wellbeing, but ideally, it should be embedded in company culture and be practised all year round.

Workers are more likely to stay with a company when they feel valued. Two-thirds (66%) of employee participants in FDI’s Behaviour and Attitudes survey said that they are more likely to stay long-term with an employer who is interested in their health and wellbeing, with over half saying that they would consider leaving an employer who didn’t.

Showing appreciation in the form of simple gestures like saying ‘thank you’ and showing recognition for a job well done, help to promote a culture of wellbeing in the workplace, she says.

Sinead, who was shortlisted for 2017 WMB Female Entrepreneur of the Year, says: “transparency, openness and good communication with decision-making in the workplace, costs nothing except perhaps a bit of time, and is a great way to ensure employees feel valued.”

However, while Fenero does provide extra benefits such as free fresh fruit, in-house health checks and massage days, Sinead adds that these perks will “ring a bit hollow” if the underlying culture isn’t right.

So get involved in this year’s Workplace Wellbeing Day – it’s a Win-Win for everyone!