Now, more than ever, employees are under constant pressure to remain accessible and engaged both within and beyond their working hours. Work-related stress has taken a negative toll on employee productivity, increased absenteeism and reduced engagement; all of which are hurting Australian businesses.
A recent report by Safe Work Australia found that psychological distress amongst employees is costing organisations approximately $1 billion every year. The report also highlighted that employees facing psychological distress took four times as many sick days per month, underscoring the impact of a stressful work environment on productivity.
Mental health issues – resulting in absenteeism and lowered productivity – cost Australian employers billions of dollars annually.
What can businesses do?
Investing in employee wellbeing initiatives affords long-term rewards of enhanced productivity and engagement. Moreover, such an investment doesn’t necessarily come with a price tag. There are several cost-effective ways in which organisations can mitigate work-related stress to create a productive and engaged workplace.
Flexible work practices are increasingly preferred amongst employees, and it’s an option that can be offered by the employer at no cost.
Employees, especially Millennials, prefer to join organisations that offer flexible work options. Labour trends mapped by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found an increase in the proportion of part-time employees over a ten-year period from 2007 to 2017.
Offering the flexibility to work remotely or providing employees the option to choose their working days/hours allows them to balance work and family commitments. Not only is this a great way to enhance productivity, but it is also a mechanism to retain high-performing employees.
Provide financial education
Financial wellbeing is fundamental to an employee’s sense of happiness. An easy, low-cost and scalable approach to enhancing the sense of wellbeing and security is educating employees on various aspects linked to their salary and rewards package.
Providing financial education on salary packaging, superannuation & life insurance options, and how to optimise savings and benefits equips employees to be informed and take control of their finances.
This process helps employees understand and appreciate the contribution made by an organisation towards their wellbeing and long-term savings. As such, an improved sense of wellbeing and security significantly boosts an employee’s engagement and productivity at work.
Schedule regular breaks
If you’ve noticed, your energy and concentration levels are usually at their peak in the morning (especially if you’re a morning person). As the day progresses, your concentration tends to wane and naturally shifts towards activities that ‘dis-engage’ you from work, such as swiping through social media updates, surfing the internet or engaging in informal conversations.
Research indicates that breaks at regular intervals are essential to re-energise the mind, boost productivity, enhance focus and improve decision-making. Beyond this, it also reignites creativity and improves engagement.
Scheduling regular breaks as part of a daily workplace routine, both in policy and practice, enables organisations to reduce work-related stress, improve performance and employee wellbeing at no cost.
Integrate breakout spaces
As much as providing regular breaks is essential, ensure that your workplace has designated breakout areas for employees to ‘temporarily escape’ from work. These could include communal areas for employees to interact with other colleagues, ping-pong tables or snooze pods where employees can power nap and recharge.
Studies indicate that mindfulness is the key to increasing attention, whilst breaking disruptive behavioural patterns and improving emotional regulation; all of which impacts workplace productivity. Improving mental concentration and focus is essential to an employee’s efficiency and productivity.
Offering employees access and time to engage in activities that contribute towards their mental and physical wellbeing, including yoga, meditation or gym-related activities, is one way to encourage a healthy lifestyle and reduce stress.
Beyond productivity, nurture evangelism
Securing higher productivity by enhancing employee wellbeing translates into long-term gains for employers in the form of improved retention and financial performance. Beyond this, engaged employees are more likely to turn into lifelong brand advocates who actively promote the organisation and its initiatives within their internal and external networks.
Recommended resource: We’ve put together a complimentary guide for you on “Employee Benefits: Talent magnet or necessary cost?“; prepared by CEB’s International HRD Forum and Flare HR.