Linking health to performance

by Iain Hopkins24 May 2017
Instead of believing health and wellbeing initiatives have a minimal impact on business performance, it’s time to build a bridge between the two. Here’s how to start

When was the last time you considered the health and wellbeing of your employees as an integral part of your business strategy? If it’s been a while, or perhaps you’ve never considered one having any impact on the other, it’s time to reconsider.

Amanda McMillan, co-founder, Wellineux, says it’s “essential” to link the business strategy to the wellbeing strategy. Without this link, she says it can feel like the wellbeing initiatives are really just singular interventions that don’t support the greater strategy of the business as a whole.

Wellineux is on a mission to change how organisations approach the wellbeing of their employees.

The company starts by gathering as much information from their point of contact within the client business as possible – usually this is the HR manager.

“We’ll gain an understanding of the overall company strategic plan, and gather statistics around workers’ compensation claims and absenteeism, for example,” McMillan says. “An assessment via an online survey or face-to-face for employees and also at leadership level, at team level, and at the organisational level is an incredible tool that allows us to gauge where the business is at with regard to their wellbeing, what is important to them, what is front of mind. We also look at the EAP and HR strategy and then link this information with the creation of a wellbeing strategy that actually delivers on overall business outcomes.”

Once the link between wellness and business success is clarified, McMillan says it’s “fascinating” to view how managers shift their view of their team’s wellbeing. “You’ll find colleagues placing increased importance on the wellbeing of their team members because they understand that wellness is paramount to the business strategy actually being delivered. For many organisations, employees are their greatest asset, so if that asset is not functioning at peak performance, the business as a whole is not going to be able to successfully deliver on their strategic business plan.”

McMillan cites an example of how the wellbeing strategy can be tied to business strategy. It’s an example many organisations can relate to: disruption and change caused by technology. She suggests that organisations should put in place a ‘values’ based intervention, which gives everyone the opportunity to feel aligned to organisational values. They might also look at resilience, because over a long period of change people need to be able to adapt with positivity. Mindful conversations can also help in times of change. “By simply setting up these conversations and allowing people to talk about the change and what might be affecting them at that moment can be very powerful,” McMillan says.

What happens if the wellbeing strategy is not aligned to the business and HR strategy? It’s simple, says McMillan: the wellbeing strategy can come across as feeling sloppy, not integrated, or disconnected from the business. Hence, the Wellineux team aim to create a very strong link to show how the wellbeing strategy can help deliver on the strategic plan.

Eight pillars of wellness
The benefits of healthier employees are well documented, but one-off initiatives or ‘set and forget’ benefits like gym discounts may be missing the mark.

“Employers need to pay attention to the health and wellbeing of their team members across all of the eight pillars of wellness. Currently, employers are doing a good job looking at people’s nutrition and movement, but they are not often paying attention to the remaining wellbeing pillars,” McMillan says.

Wellineux defines wellness as the sum of eight integrated pillars: discovery, nutrition, movement, connection, resources, growth, rest, mind.

“With the increase in mental health challenges within the workplace, we are finding that a focus on the mind is particularly important,” McMillan adds.

Today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) business world means employees have almost no down time away from work. Indeed, Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends survey of 2,500 business and HR leaders showed that the “overwhelmed employee phenomenon is a global business concern. According to
Deloitte, today’s worker actually initiates interruptions themselves 41% of the time because of their need to check in, be “in the loop” and constantly “on.”

“By addressing all eight pillars and looking at their employees’ wellbeing from a holistic point of view, an employer ensures that their employees are given the tools to foster resilience, to manage stress, to stay well, and thus operate at peak performance.

Therefore their organisation can also operate at peak performance,” McMillan says.
Can a wellbeing strategy impact on innovation? It can, provided it harnesses the creative power of our brains. Amanda McMillan explains: “We are not able to access our gamma waves – the brain waves responsible for moments of breakthrough and exceptional ideas – unless we are already in alpha – a state of relax & calm. However, most of us traverse life in beta, which is associated with logical thoughts and a heightened state of awareness and mental function. Beta waves are all about productivity, pushing us to go faster and do more, and we find it quite difficult to get to the alpha wave, let alone give ourselves mental space.”

A series of mindfulness workshops such as Wellineux’s series of eight lunchtime Mindfulness in the Workplace workshops, accompanied by support tools, such as Wellineux’s Mindful Minutes, can give employees the tools they need to tap into the creative and innovative gamma waves that lie within their brains.

The cost of inaction
The cost of unhealthy employees for the employer manifests itself financially and, in time, in their inability to solve problems quickly and, most importantly, achieve their strategic goals. When employees are not operating at their peak the business goals begin to crumble.

McMillan cites a multitude of research pointing to the cost to business:
  • 70% of leaders report regularly being unable to be attentive in meetings
  • 59% of workers feel unsatisfied, physically depleted, emotionally drained and lacking in meaning and purpose
  • 20% of Australians have taken time off in the past 12 months due to feeling mentally unwell
  • Untreated mental health conditions cost workplaces an estimated $10.9bn per year
“Organisations that embrace wellbeing and really support their employees are able to be at peak performance for longer periods of time,” McMillan says.

For example, a PwC study in 2014 showed that organisations that successfully implemented programs to support a happy workplace could, on average, expect a positive ROI of 2.3. So, for every $1 spent, $2.30 would be returned in benefits gained.

However, the ROI is in the intangible as well as the tangible dollar figure. Absenteeism, presenteeism, retention, and on-time strategic delivery are all elements that can be measured.

However, it is often the intangible benefits that come from implementing a wellbeing strategy that can be most powerful.

“Intangible improvements in motivation, a sense of community, feeling connected, feeling comfortable to communicate, feeling courageous to have difficult conversations, and boosts to physical energy and mental stamina – these all have an immense impact on delivering to the strategic plan,” McMillan says.
A white paper by Robert Walters, ttitled The Value of Promoting Employee Health & Wellbeing, found that 88% of professionals surveyed believed that employers had a responsibility to support and enhance employee wellbeing. However, 56% believed their employers did not do enough. Other key findings included:

• 35% said a wellness program was offered but was partially implemented, ineffective and/or poorly utilised
• 29% said a wellness program was offered and was fully implemented, effective and/or highly utilised
• 27% said no wellness program was offered and the organisation had no plans to introduce one
• 9% said no wellness program was offered but the organisation had plans to introduce one

A new era
Where health and wellbeing was traditionally a personal matter solely up to each individual to manage, today there is a subtle shift occurring. “Millennials do have an expectation that employers share in their health and wellbeing,” McMillan says. “However, older generations potentially are more private about their health and wellbeing. They may not fully understand the link between their own performance and business success, and they may well hold a stigma around mental health.”

Increasingly, however, all employees are starting to understand that a holistic approach to health is required – and ultimately every employee wants to show up as their ‘whole self ’ in the workplace.

“If the employees are not comfortable showing up as their whole self then the business is actually missing out on a whole chunk of what they have to bring to the role,” McMillan says. “By creating an environment where people are encouraged and supported to bring their whole self to work, then people really thrive.
Free Wellness Strategy Session
Interested in becoming the Workplace Wellbeing Champion of your workplace? Receive a complimentary 1-hour Workplace Wellness Strategy Session with Amanda McMillan to get you started. Email

“Wellineux exists to ignite wellbeing within you and your organisation to ensure you thrive” – Amanda McMillan, Co-founder. Developed by a group of positive psychology and mindfulness experts, Wellineux offers a range of dynamic, interactive and fully customisable wellbeing interventions that address the root cause of common workplace ‘problems’ to ignite inspired wellness, and support peak performance and business success. When you think of wellbeing in the workplace, what problem are you trying to solve?