When the business case for wellbeing in companies is emerging as significant and the evidence of having a healthy workforce is growing, why does there seem to be a gulf between talking about the benefits of having wellness programmes at work and actually engaging in a proper, measured, strategic approach? Would you have workers who are fit to lead?
Of course, I can only make some observations based on the 16 years I have worked with progressive companies who do see that the wellbeing of their staff is critical on many levels but there is a large proportion of companies who don’t see why they should lead the charge for better health. Isn’t health our own personal choice, and if not shouldn’t government be at the forefront of legislating for better health if it’s so critical?
Some businesses are of course strategic, and do see how health is connected to better business but many and I would perhaps dare to say most are not engaged, interested and view it as simply not their problem. Just trying to navigate the choppy waters of day to day business is challenging enough. Many companies don’t have time, or the resources to step back from the flight and fight of running a business, and look at the longer game.
Many businesses genuinely don’t know where to start or where they should concentrate resources even if they were to take this issue seriously. Getting the metrics and knowing where to allot funds in wellness programmes is key. Without these hard figures, discussion around wellness is relegated to “lunch and learns” where the already motivated and engaged staff turn up for a revision session. As business leaders do you know your metrics? If you have high absenteeism do you know why? (the root causes) of why your staff are sick?
We demand ever longer hours from our people, and so when it comes to our staff being able to make good lifestyle options that lead to better health, often it is impossible. Long hours make it impossible to shop for good food and make it difficult to cook “real food”. The industrialised model of working makes it inconvenient to stand and move as much as is healthy (is sitting the new smoking?). Will it be found in the future, that actually the way we are working our people is actually making them sick?
Government will not change the health of our people. Only when there are more votes than pound sterling to change the law will government legislate (we have a very “successful” convenience food manufacturing industry), and long evidence based studies take time to conduct, committees need years to unravel findings. Business needs to engage because we need to be able get and retain healthy, motivated and engaged people in our companies – if we don’t do anything, when will be the moment where there are no good people, fit for purpose to recruit. As with many things within the experience of the human condition we get pulled slowly towards the abyss and only when the problem is critical or practically irreversable do we wake up “and smell the coffee”
My hunch through, and “backed” up the other day by an interview with Dame Carol Black (the government wellbeing guru) is that unless the CEOs and business leaders are personally motivated to see wellbeing as a vital, strategic issue, the health of our staff and indeed our nation will not change and we will sleep walk towards that abyss.
Even on a personal level we know how much better we feel, how much more energy we have, how much more balanced and even our mood if we eat well, exercise and have a positive mental outlook. Surely this has to translate into the wider business environment? If our CEOs are not fit, then are they fit to lead?