Employees form a critical part of the engine that drives businesses forwards, and this is particularly true for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In a recent Bupa survey of 500 SME leaders, two in three respondents (63%) said that their early hires were critical to the growth of their business.
Yet in the same survey, a quarter (25%) of SME leaders admitted that their business has become less concerned with health and wellbeing as it has grown. A further quarter claim they don’t have the time to think about employee health. More than half (53%) do not provide employees with any health and wellbeing benefits, whilst two in five (43%) say they will never consider providing such benefits.
This interesting juxtaposition results in a huge amount of lost productivity which is prohibitive to growth. Research carried out by Dynamic Markets revealed that over the last three years 80% of people have suffered from an ailment associated with the way they are working, resulting in 20% of them taking time off work. So it’s not a surprise that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimates that employee illness costs UK companies in excess of £29billion each year.
The case for enhanced focus on employee health and wellbeing is strong. In addition to reducing absenteeism, greater wellbeing in the workplace can increase staff retention, commitment and productivity. Broader benefits include improving internal and external ‘employer brand’, and companies that support and celebrate the wellbeing of their employees are more likely to win the war for talent.
And SME’s needn’t exclude themselves from this issue based on financial restrictions. Even simple, subtle changes to an organisation’s culture can have a hugely positive impact on its staff and performance. A series of small campaigns including discounted gym schemes, free fresh fruit in the office and team building days helped SME, Middlesbrough Environment City, to reduce their annual sickness rate per employee by nearly 50%.
Or even more basic, introducing ergonomic solutions to the workplace to ensure a good ‘fit’ between people and their work environments can reduce work-related injuries and strains which are known causes of fatigue and decreased productivity.
The pitfalls of ignoring this issue are too vast to ignore. It’s time business leaders took a pro-active approach, and thought more broadly about the business case for investing in the wellness of their employees.