Absenteeism costs bring out employers’ caring side

Stress, absenteeism, diminished productivity — such are the trials and challenges of the modern workplace, and particularly in the ‘always on’ economy of 2018, writes John Daly.

With multiple studies underlining the strong links between wellbeing and employee retention, the ambition of a healthy workplace is no longer just a worthy concept across corporate Ireland but nowadays a necessity ary essential for company growth and success.

Up to 11 million days are lost through absenteeism every year at a cost of €1.5bn to the Irish economy.

Research shows that engaged and healthy employees are, on average, up to 30 days more productive and likely to give greater company loyalty to employers who demonstrate an interest in their wellbeing.

Research published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) indicates

the most common types of work-related illnesses — that stress, anxiety, and depression (SAD) and musculo-skeletal disorders (MSD) account for 50% and 18% of work-related illnesses, respectively.

The rates of these illnesses increased during the economic boom years, only to have decreased during the recession.

“The findings point to a need for targeted measures to address work-related illnesses, not only to assist workers experiencing difficulties, but also to tackle the issues of lost productivity, and the associated costs for healthcare and social protection,” said Helen Russell, associate research professor at the ESRI and an author of the report.

“As the rate of work-related illness increased during the boom years, it is especially important to consider implementing such measures as the economic recovery accelerates,” she said.

With a significant majority of millennials listing wellbeing as “very important” in their choice of employer, major companies have responded and now offer yoga classes, nutrition seminars, stress management advice, and fitness challenges as part of their corporate structure.

Adventure weekends and incentive team-building excursions have also proven successful in encouraging greater staff retention and increased productivity. KPMG’s Be Mindful assistance programme promotes open support, awareness, and learning for the benefit of company staff.

“Mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, don’t just impact us while we are in the office, the chances are that they will have a knock-on effect on an individual’s home life, their loved ones, friends, and family,” according to Be Mindful director Nick Baber.

Similarly, Deloitte Unplugged is the tax firm’s recently-launched wellbeing initiative focused on “reminding our people to refuel, both physically and mentally”.

A report published by EY last September found that 30% of employees admitted to worrying about personal finances while on the job, with more than half indicating they would be more productive without such concerns.

“Employees are juggling multiple challenges, and no matter what stage of life they’re in, financial stressors often top the list. Student loans and other debts bog down millennials who are just getting started. Members of Generation X may be in the prime of their careers, but are pinched caring for children and aging parents,” said the report.

Office furniture, light settings, thermal comforts, and air quality are simple measures companies can take to ensure employee health and wellbeing, in addition to encouraging flexi-hours and regular breaks.

That age-old cliché of getting out in the open air to walk, run, or scramble up a hillside applies with even greater effect in the economy of 2018, it seems.

“In today’s competitive and demanding business environment, employee wellness is no longer a luxury extra — it’s a necessity,” according to Kieran Keenan, personal trainer and owner of corporate adventure company, Fitsquad.

“The number one reason for absence from work is reduced mental wellbeing, and a large percentage of people need help in managing their stress levels. Employees are at their most productive when they are fit and healthy, and providing corporate wellbeing facilities is an investment in not just its people but in the company itself,” he said.


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