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15 Sep 2021
by Debbie Bullock

Why wellbeing is now a business risk – and what we can do to mitigate it

Employers generally recognise that healthy, happy employees tend to perform better. And that there’s a risk involved to the productivity of their business if they don’t take wellbeing seriously.

But the business risks of failing to prioritise wellbeing go so much deeper than this.


Imagine the cost of replacing a high-performing employee who leaves due to burnout. Or the impact on the business if it has to replace a senior female employee who felt unsupported when she was experiencing menopause symptoms…and left to join an employer who would offer better support.

And it isn’t just a case of risking the cost of replacing these employees. Priorities have changed. Now more than ever, people are looking for organisations that look after their employees properly – and with more opportunity to work remotely, employees can now cast the net wider in searching out prospective employers who will go further to protect their wellbeing.

Recruiting good people is good business. And employee wellbeing plays a big part in the ability to do that successfully.

So, the risks are real. But what can we do to reduce them?

Good Group Income Protection can play a major part here. Employers need to source policies which focus on supporting employees while in work, as well as providing support to get them back to the workplace quickly through access to rehabilitation services.

This means including guidance on mental and physical wellbeing, such as training to help line managers recognise and address signs of worsening mental health. You might also look for help in easing access to expert assistance when needed, with a focus on prevention as well as cure. For example, some providers will include access to services such as annual self-administered health checks, digital GP appointments, or consultations on important considerations such as mental health or nutrition. All of this could be part of the package. 

To cut the risk, implement a wellbeing strategy now

Now’s the time for businesses to implement strategies to support the wellbeing of employees, if they don’t have them already.

Failing to address wellbeing issues promptly can lead to more problems in the future – bringing an obvious threat to the resilience of businesses as well as the people they depend on. Wellbeing practitioners have a phrase which they use to describe this threat: if you don't make time for your wellness you will have to make time for your illness. And we’ve seen that illness leads to business risks that go far beyond a temporary dip in productivity.

A wellbeing strategy is for life

Once implemented, wellbeing strategies need to be monitored regularly to ensure their effectiveness. It can be hard to quantify the effect of wellbeing, since it is one of several factors affecting a wide variety of metrics – from engagement, retention and recruitment to productivity and absenteeism. It’s important to aggregate available data from all sources, not just take-up of your employee assistance programme or absence figures.

One source of valuable data is from regular employee satisfaction surveys, or ad hoc ‘temperature checks’. At Aviva, for instance, we ask employees whether they agree with the statement ‘Aviva values my health and wellbeing’. For the record, 79% of those surveyed answered ‘yes’ – the result of a comprehensive and personalised approach to wellbeing.

Once you’ve got some meaningful data, you can then work with providers and intermediaries to decide what you want to achieve and how to assess your progress.

What getting wellbeing right really means

The pandemic has made many companies recognise that employees are a key asset – one that performance and profits are dependent on. Employers have an opportunity to take the initiative and make their employees’ health and wellbeing a priority.

Crucially, this doesn’t just mean free fruit and yoga classes, though initiatives like these may well have their place. Getting wellbeing right is about good job design, giving people clear accountabilities and empowering them to deliver, in a job that has real purpose. This, alongside a culture of psychological safety, good workload management and prioritisation, should underpin any wellbeing programme. These are the factors which will have the greatest impact on employee wellbeing and therefore the greatest potential to counter some of the biggest risks the business might otherwise face.

By listening to their employees and understanding the dynamics of their workforce, business leaders can create a personalised approach to the wellbeing of the people on whom they rely.

The alternative is to take risks which are, quite simply, bad business.

The author is Debbie Bullock, wellbeing lead at Aviva.

This article is provided by Aviva.

In partnership with Aviva plc

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