How employee wellbeing is worth more than income

rethink sustainability

How employee wellbeing is worth more than income

Now more than ever, we have a lot of choice in how to build a career. Technological advances have made it easier to have a flexible working life. We may choose to freelance or work remotely. As a result, many choose not to stay in one job for their entire career – there is more mobility and greater opportunity to move between industries with common skills - which means companies frequently need to do more to make people stay.

January is a time for new starts, so it makes sense that the new year is also the time employees start to evaluate their happiness at work. As part of this they may consider how their job impacts their wellbeing and whether their employer is doing enough to keep them happy and healthy at work.


What is wellbeing and why does it have a place at work?

As the number of freelancers increase across all sectors (up 66% since 2008) and companies hire more contractors rather than full-time staff, businesses have started to focus on wellbeing - a catch-all term for being comfortable and happy - in the workplace.

Studies have shown that a link exists between employee happiness and productivity - and that poor work conditions result in absenteeism and lower productivity. Businesses are finding more frequently that it is important to listen to employees about what would improve their working culture.

"Large companies like Google focus a great deal on wellbeing and provide 'play' opportunities in the workplace plus beyond the norm training programmes. The employee feels nurtured and the employer's reputation for being enlightened is enhanced," Ivor Twydell, from coaching consultancy Alquemy.

Successful, large companies that manage to retain their workforce often do so because they've created support networks for staff. Lloyds Banking recently launched a colleague volunteering programme that partnered with LGBTQ charities, volunteering over 1,000 hours and raising £30,000 for them throughout the year, demonstrating the bank's commitment to supporting LGBTQ colleagues. In addition, they host a day of awareness, which raises awareness and acceptance across the workplace, boosting wellbeing.

Large companies like Google focus a great deal on wellbeing and provide 'play' opportunities in the workplace plus beyond the norm training programmes. The employee feels nurtured and the employer's reputation for being enlightened is enhanced.

Do we want to work less for better at-work wellbeing?

There are some industries where wellbeing will always come second to earning a high salary, the two on opposing parts of the divide. But for some people, money is coming second place.

Esther Harcourt, a management consultant from Liverpool, found that her wellbeing greatly improved when she was able to condense her five day working week into four. “As a single mother, I was spending a lot on childcare. It helps to have one day to spend with my young son, and it's worth working a few hours longer during the rest of the week. It's made me and my family happier, and I'm glad I was able to have that conversation with my boss. Plus, I didn't have to take a payout," she said.

Andrew Humphries, co-founder of The Bakery, a start-up incubator, is currently collaborating with AXA PPP healthcare as part of SME Work and Wellbeing, a programme which is exploring how to manage health in a small team. “I firmly believe that people today value quality of life, wellbeing and the contribution they are making every bit as highly as remuneration, and that's as it should be. I have seen a definite shift with people wanting to positively impact both their own lives and the world around them, with simple monetary benefit not being as important as perhaps it was 20 years ago," he said.

People [want] to positively impact both their own lives and the world around them, with simple monetary benefit not being as important as perhaps it was 20 years ago.

How can companies start to introduce successful wellbeing policies?

The key to wellbeing at work is centred around trust. Much work takes place online, using collaborative tools such as Google Docs, Slack or Skype. Employees may question why they need to spend so much time and money commuting when for some sectors, a few goals could be achieved remotely. As start-ups offer greater flexibility and wellbeing initiatives, bigger, more bureaucratic businesses need to protect themselves from a mass employee exodus. Installing wellbeing programmes and support initiatives is one way of doing this.

Ali Neilan and Chloe Cunningham founded Health Is Wealth, a corporate wellness consultancy, three years ago. They work mostly with private banks, helping employees get to grips with their own health and wellbeing at work to avoid exhaustion and burnout.

"When you have a team that are sleeping well, eating well-balanced meals, have a good grasp on how to build resilience to stress, and are avoiding the afternoon slump, you'll see a transformation as their productivity, efficiency and general cognitive performance are all enhanced," said Neilan.

By using external consultants to find out what would make your workforce happier and more content, or simply by listening to what employees are asking for (whether that's pets in the office or more flexibility), employees may become happier, more relaxed, and perform better.

If there are employees who are lethargic, anxious, stressed, sleep deprived, or experiencing mental health conditions, it's a sign that wellbeing needs to be prioritised to avoid haemorrhaging workers.

Andrew Humphries has thought hard about what will make his team more content. “We run regular away days for our team to build knowledge and to cement relationships. We encourage healthy eating and always have fresh fruit freely available. We support the cycle to work scheme, and enable a flexible working environment to support a healthy work-life balance."

In 2017, the Swiss sensor company Sensirion was awarded for the way it treats its staff in annual awards based around the quality of workplaces. Through its 15 years of growth, it offered generous packages to workers in order to attract them to work in the firm in what is a competitive environment for staff.

When you have a team that are sleeping well, eating well-balanced meals, have a good grasp on how to build resilience to stress, and are avoiding the afternoon slump, you'll see a transformation as their productivity, efficiency and general cognitive performance are all enhanced.

An improvement worth working for

Boosting office wellbeing won't happen overnight. It requires a change in management style and an awareness of mental health issues. Sustained change is vital when it comes to creating office wellbeing – even encouraging employees to take the stairs or removing free sweets and cakes from the office and replacing them with fruit are small starts. Most of all, employees need to feel confident about boosting their wellbeing, and know they have the space and support to do so in the office.

A strong and well cared for workforce is vital for the future of a company and ensures that they have a much lower risk of reputation damage when staff move on. As workforces change, it is imperative for companies to change in the face of shifting norms to ensure that they are sustainable in the future. At Lombard Odier, we believe that established models of governance, economies and society have to move with the transformations in life and current everyday norms should be examined and challenged.

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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