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Importance of a proactive approach to employee wellbeing

Importance of a proactive approach to employee wellbeing

Amidst this pandemic, the economic downturn has distracted companies from focusing on and addressing the impact of COVID-19 on employee wellbeing. Negligence on this important issue can be detrimental to an organisation as previous studies have found that ignoring employee wellbeing cost the global economy about $1 trillion dollars in productivity.1 With 2.6 billion individuals around the globe2 now in some kind of lockdown or working remotely, organisations need to prioritize employee wellbeing and proactively manage it moving forward.

Employee wellbeing & Productivity

The fear of contracting COVID-19, social isolation, and emotional burnout has contributed to a global increase in stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of trauma.3 The shift to remote work has also given rise to employee loneliness as well. Significant increases in employee distress is a cause of concern for organisations as this has a direct impact on employee productivity, turnover, and job satisfaction.4

Figure 1. Direct impact of employee wellbeing on productivity, turnover and job satisfaction. 

Organisational costs

With mental health care on the rise, the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the wellbeing initiatives introduced are key concerns for organisations.5 Although such hesitation is warranted, studies have found that employee wellbeing is an important human capital investment3 and remains one of the most important factors in cutting costs for companies.5 In fact, wellbeing initiatives introduced to the company as preventative measures were far more cost-effective than intervention measures such as turnover, in terms of hiring and training costs, and absenteeism.5 These findings signal that, despite seeming less pressing than other issues in the pandemic, organisations need to be one step ahead and start promoting proactive approaches towards their employee’s wellbeing.

Figure 2. Preventative measure costs vs. Intervention measures costs. 

The proactive approach

On a global scale, many countries and organizations have taken the initiative to increase employee benefit programs, such as the Employee Assistance Program, to rising issues related to COVID-19.6 This progress, although crutial, is slow as many institutions and nations are still scrambling to create mental health support specific to concerns arising from the pandemic.7,8 Another way that organisations have sought to proactively manage employee wellbeing and abide by social distancing measures is to make access to existing online wellbeing tools more accessible to their employees. The accessibility and convenience of doing so makes this strategy sensible and scalable at a macro level.

That said, there are well over 3,000 employee wellbeing platforms and applications on the market, each one with its own unique features. In a bid to better navigate this space, organisations should look into mental health applications that also offer teletherapy. This is an important feature as long periods of social isolation due to remote work warrant a higher level of attention. Applications that offer teletherapy, in addition to other basic services, thus might be of interest to help organisations better support a human connection gap that many employees are currently missing.

During this global pandemic, anxieties have risen and new shifts in workplaces have become accepted throughout all parts of the world. Even though many organisations are finally starting to become accustomed to the new norm, there is a looming fear of the second wave9 and the different organisational and employee wellbeing costs it will bring. To minimise present and future losses, organisations need to implement proactive wellbeing solutions into daily work schedules to build a healthier workplace environment. Prevention is one of many lessons that COVID-19 has taught and is a forceful reminder of the old adage: Prevention is better than cure.

By Sadrish Pradhan