How Wellbeing + Engagement = Productivity

In this guest blog, health and safety expert Sarah Piddington of SP Associates reveals how we can all improve the productivity of our organisations with a simple formula. 

According to one study, productivity in the UK is dismal. In the G7, the UK has the lowest productivity, with the exception of Japan. One of the reasons stated for this appalling fact is the poor quality of UK management.

There are, of course, a number of ways to improve productivity levels in the workplace. During this article, we will focus on 3 of the major elements – quality of management, engagement, and wellbeing.

For quality of management, evidence suggests that improvement in management practices may lead to significant improvements in performance. This makes total sense.

Part of the problem with management, is that many of today’s managers are old school – they don’t fit in with what people need from their managers today. And those needs have changed significantly during the past decade. How?

Managers need to be providing a different type of support to their people than before – altogether more intentional, personal, caring, involved and directional.

This is because people are feeling the pressure of living in these febrile, highly competitive times, when working patterns, everyday technologies, communication habits and devices feel sometimes like a runaway train. Where does it stop?

As for Millennials, they’re screaming out for connection. They want to be clear on their purpose, how this connects to the organisation as a whole and how well they’re doing (on a constant basis!).

Engagement is about how valued people feel, the satisfaction they get from their work, how resilient they are, their clarity of roles and responsibilities. It’s about how people connect to the organisations they work for, and the quality of work they produce.

Wellbeing is the overall state of a person, looking at that person holistically: their body, how they feel and how that condition influences them to respond and perform. It’s also their state of mental health, which covers stress, anxiety and depression

It’s not reasonable to leave a person’s wellbeing solely to themselves. Organisations and managers have a responsibility towards their people – and guess what – the government has recently formalised that requirement with their Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Agenda. There is now nowhere to hide.

Looking at mental health issues alone, the cost of poor mental health to UK organisations is massive, and the problem is only getting worse.

In the UK alone, 77% of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health, and 62% of these employees attribute their issues to work. Employees who suffer poor mental health are 31% less productive than their counterparts. As a result, mental health issues cost employers £26 billion every year.

According to the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion, by spending 80p on health promotion and intervention programs, businesses can realise a £4 reduction in costs due to absenteeism, presenteeism and temporary staff. That’s over a 400% ROI!

In essence, most organisations are falling short of their full potential because they’re neither managing nor looking after their people properly. They’re not doing enough to support the wellbeing and mental health of their people. This results in reduced levels of engagement and productivity.

If organisations spend time focusing on the wellbeing of their people, that is likely to result in them going that extra mile, putting in that discretionary effort – because they are more engaged.

When staff are more engaged, it stands to reason that they are also more productive.

So, Wellbeing + Engagement = Productivity.

It makes complete sense. So why are so many organisations still neglecting to put the wellbeing of their people first?

As Richard Branson says, “If you look after your people, your people will look after your customers.”

In October 2016, the chancellor Philip Hammond said: “If we raised our productivity by just 1% every year, within a decade we would add £250bn to the size of our economy.”

Can we really afford NOT to be looking closely at wellbeing, engagement and productivity?

A note about the author

Sarah Piddington is an Australian who has been living in London for over 15 years, all of this time working in industry in the Health, Safety and Wellbeing arena. She is current studying for a psychology degree.