Sound mind, body equals improved productivity

Organisations are developing a deeper understanding of workplace wellness and how effective programmes of this nature boost both employees and the business.

Johannesburg, 19 Mar 2024
Nqobile Twala, Human Capital Consultant, Altron Document Solutions.
Nqobile Twala, Human Capital Consultant, Altron Document Solutions.

In recent years, there has been a distinct shift in the way companies are approaching corporate wellness programmes, with such efforts not only focusing on physical health, but also encompassing mental, social and financial health as well.

Employee wellness has become, in the past few years, a serious focus for most enterprises, at least partly driven by the global COVID-19 pandemic. After all, during lockdown, employees had to adapt to new ways of work, new stresses on their personal life and the general paranoia around the pandemic.

Nqobile Twala, Human Capital Consultant at Altron Document Solutions, notes that as a result, there has been a huge transformation in the mindset around this topic. This shift is being driven by advances in technology, changes in workforce demographics and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between employee health and business success.

“A key element that organisations struggled with during this period was the issue of work-life balance. After all, the rise of remote work meant that more employees were having to bring work into their traditional living spaces. This, of course, impacted on personal boundaries, notably employees’ family life. Under such circumstances, it is inevitably more difficult for them to strike the right balance as to when to end the work aspect of life and attend to the personal areas,” she explains.

“However, finding the right balance is critical, as working from home impacts people both emotionally and mentally, and it is important to know where to draw the line. I know of companies that now implement a 4pm shutdown, whereby remote employees can no longer access their e-mails or calendars, making it much easier for staff to shut off from their work. This type of support is vital if you want your people to flourish, both in their work and personal lives.”

As for more direct help, Twala points to the example of Altron’s Employee Assistance Programme, which she says is a confidential counselling service that staff can use to deal with both personal and work-related issues. This includes counselling around mental health, stress management, financial challenges and even offers abuse support. Organisations should thus look to implement programmes like this, alongside health screening, which will help to encourage healthy behaviour among employees.

“It is really important that workplace wellness is not overlooked by businesses. It is, in fact, something that should be at the forefront of HR conversations, because it has a direct impact on turnover and productivity – the better care you take of your employees, the less absenteeism you will have. Thus, there is a direct connection between wellness and return on investment (ROI).

“The key to implementing an effective programme is to adopt a holistic approach to addressing the various dimensions of wellness, such as physical, mental, financial and social, to ensure that the staff’s diverse needs are met. You also need to craft a supportive work environment where wellness is encouraged, by ensuring open communications around physical and mental health issues as a way to reduce any stigma attached.”

The company should also provide education and resources to employees, to help increase awareness of health issues and empower employees to make informed decisions around their health. Furthermore, she says, it should be aligned with the organisation’s mission, values and business objectives, as this will help wellness to become an integral part of workplace culture, by weaving it into the fabric of the business.

“A successful workplace wellness programme absolutely must have leadership buy-in to be truly effective, and it is equally important to conduct thorough assessments – through surveys or focus groups – to determine exactly what your employees need in this respect. Communication with employees throughout the process is vital too, as this is the only way to be sure you are putting what they want into the nascent programme,” continues Twala.

“Remember that a wellness programme offers a range of benefits to both the business and the employee. From the company perspective, it will help drive increased productivity, enhanced employee engagement and an improved company culture, which will see reductions in both turnover and absenteeism. For the employees, it equates to reduced stress and burnout, an enhanced work-life balance and even better financial well-being.”

Companies should certainly not overlook these programmes, simply because of other competing business priorities, or because there are difficulties measuring its ROI, she adds.

“Ultimately, the link between workplace wellness and improved performance is now being recognised by businesses, as is its impact on reducing churn, making employees more proactive and increasing their productivity.

“My advice is for companies to never lose sight of the potential benefits such programmes offer the business, and my suggestion for employees is that they should never shy away from utilising these programmes as these can play a major role in helping you achieve a significantly improved state of mind, along with a healthier body,” she concludes.