Health is Wealth – The new bottom line: boosting employee health for better productivity and profit

Wellness in the workplace is becoming much more than a buzzword with the latest data giving businesses ample reason to make it into a central pillar of company policy.

Backed by numerous studies, research indicates that employees who feel healthy and happy are more productive, and likely to remain loyal members of their teams for longer.

To help business owners structure their wellness programs, we’ve put together a deep dive into the benefits of employee happiness, health, and comfort.

The benefits of wellness are real

The days when people spent decades going to jobs they didn’t resonate with passionately simply for the financial benefits are well and truly over.

As the option of self-employment and remote work becomes easier in our interconnected world, employees are becoming a lot more picky about who they work for – and how long they stay at a company whose culture doesn’t suit them well.

For employers, the result is a shifting HR landscape in which employees are coming to be seen as precious resources and potential partners in the Cape Town workplace rather than traditional employees to be managed by any means necessary.

Health, growth, and respect are the keystones of the modern management approach that has been evolving rapidly in the wake of the Covid pandemic. There is little doubt that having a healthy body and mind is essential to leading a successful and fulfilling life, yet it’s important to acknowledge that they are not mutually exclusive.

Recent research by the consulting giant McKinsey shows that wellness has a very real impact on employee productivity equating to “health is wealth”.

In a survey of workers around the world, researchers discovered that the most important factors for employees’ success were not necessarily remuneration and flexibility, but rather:

  • a sense of belonging
  • being part of an enjoyable team
  • experiencing positive pressure in the form of new skills and exciting projects
  • supportive mentors and managers

The study went further, identifying several modifications that any business can make to boost wellness and productivity.

The modifiable drivers of wellness

One of the biggest insights from the research on employee wellness is that happiness and well-being are not just subjective concepts or nice to haves.

In fact, there are six specific factors that define an employee’s feeling of wellness, and these can be modified by management to bring about favourable outcomes in terms of productivity and talent retention.

1. Keep the office social

One thing we all experienced during lockdown and throughout the pandemic was a sense of social isolation. Whether employees work remotely or in the office five days a week, that’s one thing that nobody is keen to repeat.

From a mental health perspective, McKinsey found that employees who consider their workplaces to be toxic are more likely to miss work, get sick, and ultimately leave their jobs.

Fortunately, there are ways of ensuring that things never reach that point.

  • Companies that provide ample opportunities for interaction will become natural magnets for talented employees with sought after skills.
  • These exchanges should not only take place during serious agenda-driven meetings, but also during lunchtime, downtime, and casual brainstorming sessions.

2. Foster ideal mindsets

Company cultures can be seen as a collection of shared beliefs and approaches that distinguish every business from its competitors. These beliefs also determine what type of person is likely to feel comfortable in the office and whether they perceive it to be a welcoming workspace.

Teams that have existed successfully for years or even decades tend to develop a unique culture of unspoken rules and assumptions that govern everything they do.

Whether it’s deciding who’s getting coffee at Vida or which member should prepare the numbers for an important presentation with a key client, the inside information shared between and within teams can seem daunting for newcomers.

  • Since company culture is such an important determining factor for the success of newcomers, the onboarding process should ideally contain a strong element of welcoming new members to the fold.
  • Making implicit values explicit by speaking about goals and the division of talent and tasks in each team, as well as the overall approach favoured by management is essential.

Finally, reaching out to members in terms of mentorship – even on a casual basis – is always a great idea, especially for veterans of the team and managers.

3. Ensure that everyone’s time is spent meaningfully

As people return to the office after the pandemic, they inevitably compare their daily schedule and the ease of carrying out tasks – and your Cape Town office needs to win them over.

The main factor for management to consider is that while employees value the opportunity to collaborate with co-workers and receive mentorship from management, they certainly don’t miss the tedious tasks that used to be part of pre-pandemic office culture.

Fortunately, it’s possible to eliminate these and use everyone’s time more productively.

  • Streamlined work processes matched with an office layout that emphasises collaboration can save workers valuable time and ensure that they feel professionally switched on for most of the day.
  • Hybrid work arrangements that let employees spend the best hours of the day at work to generate new ideas and brainstorm – with the option to find quiet spaces on or off the premises for independent work – is another option that some companies have explored successfully.

While 70% of South African workers reported being engaged at work in a Cultureamp survey  – this is a median average based on the global average – there’s always room for improvement. A company with 100% engagement will soon see the benefits on the bottom line.

4. Lower stress levels

Stress management is an essential part of professional success.

It’s impossible to render any job completely stress-free, but a desirable approach is to increase the amount of positive stress while reducing negative workplace experiences.

  • Examples of positive stress include working on fast-paced projects that expose workers to exciting new clients and let them learn a new skill set.
  • While the effort required to complete these activities may be tiring, the team should enjoy the challenge – provided that adequate support is available from managers.

On the other hand, negative stress includes factors like a large amount of boring, repetitive work, over demanding clients that cause team members undue worry, and a working environment that doesn’t emphasise growth and development.

Giving employees the chance to do more of what they’re good at and enjoy and helping them to develop is a great strategy that ultimately results in higher productivity and lower stress levels.

5. Provide a sense of financial security

Happiness at work isn’t all about interpersonal relationships. Ultimately, workers come to the office to develop their careers and boost their earning potential – and if the company isn’t matching their efforts with financial reward and security, they may start looking for greener pastures.

Economic security ranks highly on employees’ list of workplace happiness factors as revealed by the McKinsey research.

With uncertainty looming over many sectors in South Africa, companies with a long-term growth outlook can secure talent for the years to come. This can be achieved by providing above average compensation with the potential for multiple year contract extensions among other benefits.

6. Encourage a good night’s sleep

Finally, the positive effects of sufficient sleep on employees’ mental and physical health can’t be underestimated.

Getting sufficient rest is one of the cornerstones of good health, not to mention the positive effect that it has on problem-solving abilities and overall mental acuity.

From the company’s point of view, there are two factors that can help contribute to a well-rested workforce.

  • Discouraging excessive overtime so that workers get home on time and have an opportunity to unwind and enjoy time with their families before heading to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • Helping team members to moderate their stress levels so that they don’t start suffering from insomnia and other anxiety related conditions resulting from an overly stressful work environment.

Set up your business premises for employee success with us

Considering all of the factors that come together to create happy employees, now is the best time to create an office environment that facilitates health, happiness and productivity.

Our portfolio of modern commercial properties in the Cape Peninsula include innovative building designs that incorporate the latest approaches to ergonomics with usability and the happiness of employees in mind. Contact our team today to start the search for a new and cutting-edge office space.