As Covid-19 took a hold of the world, businesses had to quickly learn to come to grips with the new reality of managing a remote workforce and operating in volatile markets. Aside from the financial uncertainty which almost every industry has faced, employers now more than ever have to think about another very important aspect to their business’ success – employee wellbeing.
Employee wellbeing and employee productivity engagement aren’t just nice-to-haves. A study by Gallup has shown that businesses with a highly engaged workforce experience a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 17% increase in productivity, and a 24% decrease in employee turnover. All of these metrics can have a massive impact on your bottom line and the long-term success of your business.
Mental health issues, in particular, have seen a steep rise during the pandemic as millions of people faced lockdown, job uncertainty, and health concerns. This has put an added pressure on businesses, and their employees, to take necessary steps to counter some of these effects and create work environments that are safe, inviting, and adjusted to the individual needs of your employees.
As things start to ease up and offices begin to re-open, businesses have a unique opportunity to take stock of their workplace environments and introduce health-promoting measures that will ensure their employees will remain healthy and productive in the long run.
How the Employee Wellbeing Impacts the Workplace – and Vice Versa!
A study by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) revealed that between June 2018 and June 2019, Malaysian businesses have lost 10.7 million man-days in sick leave, one of the highest numbers in the region. The major reasons are cited as:
- outpatient sick leave at 78.7%;
- hospitalization at 65.4% and;
- absence without permission at 52.9%.
In the same study, the absenteeism and reduced manpower are estimated to have cost businesses around RM 1.66 billion per month, a number that many businesses cannot afford to lose. Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of MEF, shared that only 20% of employees made use of their vouchers issued via the Socso Health Screening Programme and has, instead, urged employers to take a look at work-life balance as part of their employee retention program.
Employee wellbeing depends on many factors – from the nature of the job, the relationships employees have with their peers and managers, all the way to the actual space in which they work. While some of these aspects are outside of the employers’ hands, there are certain things businesses can do to reduce sickness and encourage a nurturing, collaborative environment.
Most employees spend at least a third (sometimes more) of their day at the office, so one important and often neglected aspect of workplace health promotion is to create a workplace environment that is safe and comfortable. Office space can impact employee wellbeing in two major ways:
- Mentally – if an employee feels unsafe or uncomfortable in their workplace, this can often lead to demotivation, unhappiness, and decreased levels of productivity. Negative energy is just as contagious as positive energy, if not more. The way an employee is treated by their peers and higher-ups determine how they react to and with their surroundings. In addition, feedback and teamwork between colleagues can be a major factor of motivation and productivity, providing a more engaging work environment rather than a solitary contributorship. Overall, mental fatigue can also lead to physiological challenges.
- Physically – if the workplace environment is unsecured (exposed sockets or stray wires), employees can suffer a work-related injury that can cost the business money in sick leave and reduced manpower. In fact, in the same MEF study, a fifth (20.4%) of respondents attributed their illness to an accident or injury that occurred during working hours. This can easily be avoided by taking a look at how employees utilize the space and make all necessary adjustments to ensure the equipment they use is safe and suitably positioned. In addition, small things like flickering lights or the sun reflecting badly off the windows of a building from across the road would affect an individual physically as well. All these are aspects that can reduce the productivity of an individual and, therefore, the company.
Smart Workplace Environments Boost Employee Productivity
Today it’s expected that offices and workstations are built with safety in mind. Aside from removing the chance for work-related injuries, safe workplace environments can play a big role in boosting employee productivity. An office space that is organized and adjusted to the needs of the individual employee can motivate them to come to work and stay productive for longer stretches at a time.
However, businesses that want to thrive and keep the competitive edge need to think beyond safety and look at designing smart workplace environments. This refers to workplaces that are not only safe, but that also encourage employee interaction and collaboration. A study by Harvard Business Review has found that companies that use office space strategically to encourage unplanned or chance employee interactions have seen significant boosts in employee performance. Jon Fredrik Baksaas, the CEO of the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor, went as far as to attribute the massive success of his business to the actual design of their headquarters office in Oslo.
Other benefits from a safe and collaborative work environment include:
- Reduced costs – businesses can make significant savings by reducing the number of sick leave days employees have to take due to injury or stress. Likewise, a positive work environment can have a direct impact on voluntary employee turnover (employees quitting) which the Ministry of Human Resources estimates at 14% and which increases costs in re-hiring and re-training for the same position.
- Increased Profitability – depleted and unmotivated employees can spend long days in the office and have nothing to show for it. Instead of counting how many hours they have spent in front of their desk, look at the output they generate. Safe and inviting work environments can improve employee productivity, producing better results in less time, significantly impacting your bottom line. Instead of having to pay for overtime and incur extra costs in billing, encouraging your employees to work fewer hours but efficiently, can be a win-win for both the business and your staff.
- Improved Reputation – good word spreads fast, especially if what you offer as an employer stands out from other competitors on the market. Creating a professional environment that demonstrates care for your employee well-being can be an attractive factor when other candidates consider working for you or maybe tempted by a competitive offer. Not to mention the increased trustworthiness and brand awareness. Investing in a great work environment is the easiest way to demonstrate that you care about your employees and, therefore, your business as a whole.
How to Create the Perfect Workplace
The workplace you design will depend on many factors – the size of your business, the industry you work in as well as the budget you have to invest in office space. However, the good news is that creating a workplace that is nurturing and inviting for your employees doesn’t necessarily have to cost that much.
Here are a few easy things you can implement to start making some changes:
- Encourage positive relationships between managers and employees
Managers can become better leaders by helping employees feel appreciated and valued at work by acknowledging individual employee achievements and giving credit where credit is due. Instead of looking at “who” did something wrong, look at the process that led to the mistake and try to find solutions without blaming individual employees. Also, sharing the company vision and direction with employees can help them feel part of the team and work harder towards a common goal.
- Use positive reinforcements
Negative reinforcements at work, such as punishments and threats, can help you achieve your business goal temporarily. However, it can lead to a divide between you and your employees which, in the long run, can harm your business. Instead, use positive reinforcements to encourage good behavior. This can be rewarding successes and exemplary behavior or assisting your staff when they’re under stress. For example, if they are struggling with a deadline offering to offload some of their workloads if they need it.
- Ensure work is engaging
This is particularly important if the work employees are doing is repetitive. You can try and make their work more fun and engaging by either offering some time for their own creative projects or by doing job rotations where employees can have “a day in the life” of other job roles. Finally, if the type of work permits it, consider remote work as an option your employees can use. A study published by Inc.com found that, in some cases, employees who work from home are actually more productive than their colleagues who opted for an office environment. The above can all be easy win-wins for you and your employees, at no extra cost.
- Encourage team activities
Team activities, such as sports, board games, and social nights can improve team cohesion and the overall wellbeing of your employees. Team sports, in particular, are a good way to boost physical and mental employee well-being by encouraging collaboration while keeping employees active and moving.
- Workplace organization, maintenance, and safety
The cleanliness, neatness, and workplace layout also play a role in comfort in the workplace as it is more pleasing to the eyes. As the workplace is a second home for most people, it is important that they feel welcome and comfortable to walk through the front door. In addition, the ease of function and safety of the workplace can greatly reduce both mental and physical stress, not to mention diminishing work-related injury.
- Look at workplace ergonomics
Ergonomics is the study and science of the interaction an individual has with their surroundings and work environment. This is oftentimes misunderstood as a term to simply mean “proper sitting at the desk”. In fact, ergonomics has a much wider meaning and refers to the proper interaction an employee has with any workplace environment, be it an office, a construction site, or a factory.
Ergonomics is a powerful discipline for improving employee well-being because it combines biomechanics, anatomy, anthropometry, kinesiology, and engineering – all with the purpose to design a workspace that is personalized and that fits the needs of every individual. Ergonomics in itself can be a great cost-saving mechanism as it protects your employees from injuries and promotes good habits.
At Rehamed Therapy, we’ve worked with many businesses, combining ergonomics, psychology, and education to create workplace environments which are profitable investments rather than costly expenses. The Workplace Health Promotion program goes hand in hand with employee development and compliments the workplace safety policies, thus aiming to promote mental and physical health in your employees, reduce work-related injury, and the associated costs. Ultimately, it aims to reduce your overall employee sick leave and turnover rate and increase company profitability.
How Does It Work?
Our WHP program is HRDF-claimable and it’s designed to promote physical and mental health in your employees by improving their overall workday. Our team will visit your premises during working hours to observe how your staff interacts with their environment and we’ll conduct an initial workplace assessment. We’d look at the layout of the workplace and take notes on what’s working, what needs improvement, and where it is lacking. For instance, in an accounting firm, our team will assess the layout of the office desks, lights, room temperature, and the overall organization of the work environment.
Next, we’ll conduct an anonymous survey with your employees to understand their view on the current workplace and learn about their physical health, job satisfaction, and mental strength they might be feeling while at the office. This survey will narrow down our focus to specific areas of improvement which might need closer attention as we’re implementing our Work Health Promotion program.
Following discussion, we deliver workshops customized to the needs of your business which cover, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Fitness and exercise
- Injury prevention (especially work-related injury)
- Injury management
- Prevention of non-communicable diseases
In-line with the workplace assessment and survey results. Long-term employee wellbeing depends on the conscious efforts and awareness of both you as the employer and your employees to adopt healthy habits and maintain these throughout the day.
Finally, we’ll conduct a before-and-after survey to look at specific metrics and see how the implementation of our Work Health Promotion program has impacted employee well-being. Among others, we’ll look at metrics relating to the number of sick days an employee has taken, the reported injuries, and, hopefully, improved surveyed job satisfaction levels.
Our holistic approach in addressing employee well-being both through interventions and pro-active education has shown great results in the past in reducing employee turnover and increasing productivity. If you want to know more about the effective ways to boost employee productivity and improve retention, feel free to give us a call at 03-50315946 or send us a Whatsapp or Make an Appointment. We at Rehamed Therapy are always here to help!