Opinion: Helping your workforce shape up and show up

Looking to gain a competitive advantage over your competition? Perhaps it's time to consider investing in the health & wellbeing of your employees, writes Paul Taylor

Opinion: Helping your workforce shape up and show up
>Looking to gain a competitive advantage over your competition? Perhaps it's time to consider investing in the health & wellbeing of your employees, writes Paul Taylor

When former premier Jeff Kennett called for CEO performance bonuses to be tied to the mental well-being of their employees, there were undoubtedly some eye-rolls at boardrooms across Australia.
 
The outgoing chairman of national depression initiative Beyond Blue went further suggesting every private-sector executive and every government department head should have the mental health of their workforce mandated as a key performance indicator.
 
“If some of these people think this is all sort of rubbish and over the top, well, tie their bonus to it, tie their salary,” Mr Kennett told The Australian last year. “Let them understand that this is a major contributor to the effectiveness of their administration.”
 
What exactly does the very personal mental or even physical health of employees have to do with their employers? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
 
Poor lifestyle habits remain the leading cause of death for Australians and have a huge impact in the workplace through reduced productivity and performance.
 
Obesity alone was estimated by Medibank research in 2011 to cost Australian businesses more than $33bn in lost productivity.
 
Absenteeism is an obvious measure of an unhealthy workforce but the more insidious problem of run-down employees fronting up to their desks and muddling through the day continues to gain more attention under the popular catchphrase of “presenteeism”.
 
These workers suffer from reduced energy levels, alertness and concentration due to an unhealthy lifestyle, poor work-life balance, high job-related stress or allergies, asthma and other medical conditions. In short, their work slows down and they make more mistakes.
 
The mental and physical ailments these workers silently bring into the office are often invisible to employers and often left untreated by workers either in denial or unaware of simple measures to improve their health.
 
Smart companies now recognise this costly problem and are doing something about it. Small investments in workplace well-being programs can pay enormous dividends in boosted productivity as well as staff engagement and retention.
 
Whereas siloed approaches to workplace wellness often have little impact, an integrated and balanced approach to workplace wellness that addresses physical activity, sleep, stress, social connectedness and diet in a way that engages employees can result in long-term sustainable change and uplifts in productivity.
 
Our approach to transforming an organisation to make its workforce more productive, engaged and driven through the Ritualize program involves helping employees develop positive lifelong habits. The best way to accomplish this is by setting goals that are broken down into small, achievable steps over a 12-month timeline, with different focus areas through educational Quests.
 
The results are encouraging. Over 8,500 staff from Johnson & Johnson, Medibank, Rio Tinto, Oracle and other major corporations completed the Ritualize wellbeing program with 83% reporting an improvement in their physical or mental health while 75% reported improved morale.
 
A further 67% of participants reported improved workplace performance and concentration with decreased stress levels.
 
Significantly, the holistic approach to improving workers’ mental and physical health resulted in shaving off five years on average of their BioAge, which is the key metric Ritualize uses to engage users.
 
While improving the mental and physical health of employees might not be compulsory as Kennett would like to see, forward-thinking executives at some of Australia’s top companies are gaining an edge over their competitors by investing in the wellbeing, and ultimately, performance of their staff. 

About the author 
Neuroscientist, Nutritionist & Physiologist Paul Taylor is a former British Royal Navy air crew officer who founded the Ritualize online wellness program.
 
 

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