HR Review: Neil Shah: Building a business case for workplace wellness

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Prevention yields more than you’d expect when it comes to investing in employee’s mental wellbeing – international stress management and wellbeing expert Neil Shah explains how.

In the uncertain political and economic environment following the Brexit referendum, there is an overriding anxiety being experienced in Britain. We’ve seen the drop in the value of the pound, rising inflation, and unease about international trade deals. In short, Britain is unsure of its new position on the world stage. Are we the fourth largest economy or are we a sinking ship?

It feels that we’ve not even recovered from the last economic downturn in 2008 and 2009 – it could be argued that we have all become used to austerity being the new normal and that there hasn’t in fact been any recovery.

These factors coupled with the perception that there doesn’t appear to be any clear plan on how Britain will exit the EU or renegotiate its ties/relationships with the rest of the world on trade, political or cultural basis. The natural scare stories in the media of course accompany all of these anxieties, newspapers like to sell copy and such fear mongering sells papers.

Business leaders will already be feeling the stresses of their responsibilities to their employees – providing them job security, paying them on time and appropriately. Increasingly The Stress Management Society is seeing industry leaders waking up to the business case of investing in their employee’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. However ever-tightening purse strings mean that a concrete business case is vital in securing valuable investment for your workforce.

An employer tends to push the ‘more button’ – first of all they want the same for less, then they want more for less. People don’t have a ‘more button’, you can red line an engine for temporary acceleration. However, if you red line an engine all the time, eventually you’ll blow a piston. People are exactly the same.

We know that there is a sound business case for prioritising your employee’s wellbeing or investing in a culture of wellbeing being central to how you do business. If we take care of the main asset of any organisation – the people – the people take care of everything else. We then see excellence.

Let’s start by putting some hard numbers on the impact to your organisation:

According to the UK Health and Safety Executive, stress is responsible for the loss of 11.3 million working days a year.

It is estimated that workplace stress is directly responsible for 25% of sickness absence, 70% of visits to the doctor and for 85% of serious illnesses. At an organisational level, it is estimated that the average amount of stress-caused sick days to a company with 1000 employees would cost that company £269,730 annually.

Workplace stress doesn’t just burn money though absenteeism; employee retention is another major financial factor. Over 300,000 employees leave their jobs each year because of stress. When you look at advertising costs, time spent on recruiting, training costs and loss of productivity during the subsequent induction period – according to the CIPD, recruiting a replacement can cost up to six months’ salary.

So, how can an organisation prevent these kinds of losses, while boosting happiness and productivity in their workforce? Allow us to share an example from Allianz UK , one of the largest general insurers in the UK and as part of the Allianz SE Group, one of the leading integrated financial services providers worldwide and the largest property and casualty insurer in the world. Allianz consulted with The Stress Management Society because they were concerned about the team’s low scores on work-life and health management in its annual employee engagement survey. It is well recognised in the organisation that wellbeing is a contributing factor to strategic and commercial success and Stuart Daws, the Risk Control Surveyor Manager emphasized that “if you don’t tackle the work-life balance, you will end up with a stress problem.”

Following a comprehensive audit, The Stress Management Society identified specific investments that would be most effective for the organisation and the issues affecting their workforce. What we went on to supply –focus groups and management training for team leaders and senior managers – was tailored and formulated to produce optimum results.

After partnering with the Stress Management Society, Allianz saw a 19% improvement in stress management scores in the following annual employee engagement survey. Not only does stress management improve an employee’s wellbeing but also the company’s wellbeing. The increase in manager support from 62% to 76% and the increase in work life and health management from 51% to 64% indicates the broad advantages of implementing stress management procedures.

This expert-led, research-based approach to tackling stress really did yield the best possible outcome – a workforce who are healthier, happier and more productive. Banu Gajendran, Occupational Health and Safety, Allianz stated – “Our experience with The Stress Management Society was great and we would most definitely recommend their services to other organisations. They made the course thoroughly enjoyable and are obviously experts in the field of stress.”

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