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World WellBeing At Work Week: The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Workplace Wellbeing

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This week, we’ve published a diverse range of articles offering insights into workplace wellbeing from multiple perspectives; professional, corporate, individual, and medical.

As World WellBeing At Work Week, sponsored by Deloitte LLP Jersey, concludes, Beverley Le Cuirot, the Founder of WellBeing World, sheds light on the repercussions of neglecting workplace wellbeing. She highlights the hidden (and often not-so-hidden) costs that not only affect employees but also leaders and organisations.

The range of approaches to wellbeing at work we have explored this week have prompted me to reflect on the potential repercussions of neglecting a human-centred approach to wellbeing in the workplace.

In my research, I’ve uncovered compelling evidence that disregarding workplace wellbeing exacts a substantial toll, impacting all stakeholders – employees, leaders, and the organisation. Below are some of the potential outcomes of not prioritising wellbeing.

The Employee’s Perspective: The personal toll

  • Physical and Mental Health: Apart from the obvious implications of ignoring one’s own health and wellbeing needs, employees who bear the brunt of a workplace that neglects wellbeing often also experience a range of physical and mental health issues. Stress, anxiety, burnout, and associated physical ailments become common companions. These health challenges can lead to significant personal costs, from increased medical bills to a lower quality of life.
  • Job Dissatisfaction and Disengagement: Neglecting one’s own wellbeing and that of others often results in decreased job satisfaction and engagement. Disengaged employees suffer from a lack of fulfilment, and their job becomes a chore, rather than a source of inspiration. This personal dissatisfaction affects not only their professional life but also their personal, family, and overall wellbeing and happiness.
  • Work-Life Imbalance: A workplace that ignores wellbeing often demands long working hours. Add into the equation an individual without boundaries, and this contributes to an unhealthy work-life balance. Employees find themselves torn between professional responsibilities and their personal lives, leading to strained relationships and missed life experiences.
  • Career Stagnation: Personal growth and career advancement may stall when individuals work in an environment that does not support their wellbeing. The inability to access training, mentoring, coaching, or other development opportunities hinders an individual’s potential to progress.
  • Financial Stress: Frequent burnout and dissatisfaction may lead to a high turnover rate as employees seek better opportunities. Job changes, possible relocation and uncertainty contribute to financial stress for individuals.
  • Emotional Toll: Personal relationships can also suffer when employees are preoccupied with the emotional toll of workplace stress, bullying, harassment, discrimination, or a generally unsupportive work environment and manager.

The Leader’s Perspective: The organisational impact

  • Decreased Productivity: When employee wellbeing is neglected, productivity takes a hit. Employees who are stressed or disengaged produce lower-quality work, make more mistakes, and are less efficient. The result is a direct financial cost for the organisation.
  • High Employee Turnover: Neglecting employee wellbeing results in high turnover rates, which increase recruitment, onboarding, and training costs. The instability caused by frequent turnover also disrupts the rest of the organisation and destabilises the culture.
  • Increased Healthcare Costs: Organisations end up shouldering higher healthcare costs when employees experience stress-related health issues, contributing to rising insurance premiums and expenses related to absenteeism and disability claims.
  • Decline in Innovation: A workplace that ignores wellbeing stifles creativity and innovation. Employees who feel disempowered and unsupported are less likely to propose new ideas, take risks, or contribute to the organisation’s long-term success.
  • Talent Attraction and Retention Challenges: In a competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent becomes more challenging. Organisations that do not prioritise wellbeing struggle to recruit the best candidates and keep star performers.
  • Legal and Compliance Risks: Neglecting workplace wellbeing raises the risk of legal challenges and compliance issues. Employees may file complaints related to bullying, harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions, leading to legal fees, settlements, time taken up in defending the complaints, and resulting damage to the organisation’s image.
  • Reputational Damage: A company’s reputation can take a hit when it neglects employee wellbeing. Negative press, online reviews, and word-of-mouth publicity can harm the brand and make it challenging to attract top talent or to retain clients who value ethical and responsible business practices.

The Organisational Perspective: Broader implications

A workplace that neglects wellbeing can lead to a decline in organisational culture, resulting in a lack of trust, transparency, and overall lower morale amongst employees.

  • Reduced Bottom Line: Ignoring wellbeing impacts the organisation’s bottom line through lower productivity, higher turnover, increased healthcare costs, and other direct and indirect expenses.
  • Lost Opportunities for Growth: Failing to prioritise wellbeing limits an organisation’s potential for growth. Companies that embrace a human-centred approach often experience increased creativity, collaboration, and adaptability, crucial for seizing new opportunities and expanding into new markets.
  • Cultural Decline: A workplace that neglects wellbeing can lead to a decline in organisational culture, resulting in a lack of trust, transparency, and overall lower morale amongst employees.
  • Higher Management and Leadership Turnover: The pressure and stress that leaders experience in an environment that ignores wellbeing can lead to high turnover amongst management and leadership positions, destabilising the organisation. This is why it is essential for all leaders to walk the talk and ensure that wellbeing is not ignored by themselves, and those around them.
  • Ineffective Leadership: Leaders who ignore wellbeing often struggle to inspire and motivate either themselves, or their teams, resulting in reduced team performance and cohesion.
  • Resistance to Change: Organisations that neglect wellbeing may face resistance to necessary changes or transformations, due to a lack of understanding and commitment to the change, hampering adaptability and agility in the face of evolving market conditions.
  • Difficulty in Strategy Execution: The inability to keep employees engaged and motivated makes it challenging to execute long-term strategic plans, leading to a lack of progress and growth.

In a nutshell, neglecting the wellbeing of employees has wide-ranging consequences for individuals, leaders, and the organisation as a whole. On an individual level, people can experience various personal costs, ranging from physical and mental health issues to career stagnation and financial stress. For leaders and organisations, there are substantial organisational repercussions, such as reduced productivity, high turnover, and the erosion of company culture and reputation.

Recognising the collective responsibility to make wellbeing a priority is not only a moral imperative, but also a strategic advantage. It results in a healthier, more engaged workforce, improved financial outcomes, and a resilient, forward-thinking organisation. When employees, leaders and organisations join forces to prioritise wellbeing, the outcome is thriving employees and a workplace that not only achieves its goals but also maintains long-term success. It’s a straightforward concept, really.

I encourage you to revisit the diverse articles featured this week; the price of neglecting employee-centric wellbeing is indeed substantial.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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