Why leaders need to play a more active role in improving health and wellbeing

Why leaders need to play a more active role in improving health and wellbeing

With many companies actively seeking to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce, business leaders need to play a more active role in proactively supporting health and wellbeing strategies and driving associated outcomes, according to SAP.

Leaders need to bring empathy in their teams, and they can do this by being both gatekeeper and role model, said Dr Natalie Lotzmann, VP HR and chief medical officer, global health management, SAP SE.

“Expressing a positive mindset and behaviour will percolate through the team,” she said.

“And through these multiplying behaviours, they foster the empathetic culture that meets people’s emotive needs whilst unleashing their highest potential, rather than triggering their sense of stress and anxiety to scramble for short-term results.”

Lotzmann observed that smart business leaders know that people are the organisation’s greatest asset and understand employee health and happiness levels greatly influence performance and ultimately the organisation’s success.

“They know the business imperative of mitigating the risks of the VUCA world to safeguard business success against avoidable health-related productivity losses,” said Lotzmann, who spoke about the critical role business leaders play in health and wellbeing in SAP SuccessFactor’s e-book, The True Impact of Health and Well-Being: Ten Leading Experts Weigh In.

Technology and data management can also play an important role in transforming health awareness to action.

“Technology provides insights on how people perceive their leadership, their environment and their ability to keep up with work requirements,” said Lotzmann.

“It can also quantify the impact of employee health on business success.”

“Expressing a positive mindset and behaviour will percolate through the team”

An internal 2016 Business Health Culture Index (BHCI), for example, calculated that for every 1 per cent point increase, operating profit would increase by €80-90 million (A$127-143 million).

Furthermore, a recent study from Quantum Workplace and Limeade found that 88 per cent of employees who feel they have higher wellbeing also feel that they are more engaged at work.

“Looking after employee health is not primarily about reducing operational cost; it’s about driving stronger success in every sphere – be it personal or business,” said Lotzmann.

Addressing the needs of the whole individual
Greg Tomb, president of SAP SuccessFactors, also observed that employers of all sizes are struggling to find solutions to retain and engage employees and create a culture of healthy individuals who perform at their best.

“One of the first steps that many teams take toward solving this issue is to deploy a standardised wellness program across their organisation,” said Tomb.

“But here’s the problem: the vast majority of wellness programs on the market today fail because they strictly focus on the physical health and do not address the needs of the whole individual.”

Instead of only focusing on wellness, the solution is to focus on employee health and well-being, according to Tomb, who explained that the mark of a successful employee program is one that promotes individual, relational and organisational health and wellbeing.

“These areas of focus address both the various health concerns and habits of individuals as well as their overall happiness and engagement in a way that ultimately impacts workforce productivity, engagement and costs,” he said.

Health, family and social relationships, and work
Dr Steven Hunt, senior VP human capital management research for SAP SuccessFactors, also observed that happiness in life depends largely on three things: health, family and social relationships, and work.

“What we often fail to realise is how much work influences the other two,” he said.

“Stressed-out employees are unhealthy employees, and unhealthy employees are not fully productive employees”

“The quality of our work directly and significantly impacts our health, the quality of our non-work relationships, and our happiness.”

“Healthy workplaces” are often associated with physical health such as safe work practices, nutritious cafeteria food, and onsite fitness centres.

While these are valuable, Hunt observed that they are not the primary factors that impact employee health in most jobs.

“The main things that make work unhealthy are things that cause mental and physical stress,” said Hunt, who said these are often things that many employees sadly assume are “just a regular part of work” such as:

  • Poor quality relationships with managers or co-workers;
  • Concerns over employment security and access to career opportunities;
  • Intrusion of work activities into off-work hours such as e-mails and phone calls;
  • Lack of clear job goals and role ambiguity; and/or
  • Being assigned tasks or goals that seem unattainable given existing resources and time.

“These work characteristics aren’t just unhealthy for employees, they also undermine business productivity,” said Hunt.

“Stressed-out employees are unhealthy employees, and unhealthy employees are not fully productive employees.”

SAP SuccessFactor’s e-book The True Impact of Health and Well-Being: Ten Leading Experts Weigh In contains more information on how to create a successful health and wellbeing strategy from experts including Arianna Huffington (founder & CEO, Thrive Global, on identifying the root causes of employee burnout), Josh Bersin (president & founder of Bersin & Associates, on why organisations must commit to health & wellbeing) and Caryn Dashukewich (corporate VP HR, Olympus Corporation of the Americas on developing an integrated approach to health and wellbeing). To download the e-book please click here.