Covid-19 or not, employee wellness is key to business success

Johannesburg – While Covid-19 and its resulting lockdowns have dispersed staff physically, companies across the world have placed more emphasis on worker well-being.

“While making working from home possible and practical — preferable even, for many — the global crisis has dramatically increased the requirement that employers and HR teams take care of employee needs beyond providing the tools of their trade and organising the occasional staff gathering,” says Brett Mackay, Investment Consultant and Group Retirement Annuity Manager at 10X Investments.

Mackay points to the Top Employers Institute’s global HR Trends Report 2021, which found that there had been significant growth in well-being practices at the 1,700 leading global organisations that took part in the survey.

“Employee well-being was traditionally a feel-good topic for organisations. Now, in 2021, 92% of Top Employers believe well-being is a strategic imperative for their businesses, up from 83% one year ago.”

Noting that employee well-being had multiple dimensions — including physical, financial, emotional and social — the report indicates that “the most innovative companies perceive it through a preventative lens”, investing in what can be described as a new breed of corporate wellness programmes to address everything from physical health and financial management to mindfulness, nutrition and stress management.

“Employers can advance employee well-being in many different ways, from facilitating Zoom fitness classes and giving employees access to counselling services to providing financial planning tools and access to such game-changing benefits as a retirement savings scheme,” adds Mackay.

The HR Trends Report also found that Top Employers were increasingly allocating a percentage of their total HR budget to programmes related to health and well-being.

“Some big interventions can be more about doing background research than making an additional financial outlay,” adds Mackay.

“Giving employees access to a group retirement savings scheme, for example, won’t necessarily cost a small business anything but it will involve some research in comparing fees and fund performance.

“There are companies, such as 10X Investments, that take all the work out of providing this benefit to staff.”

Mackay adds that 10X is extremely aware that smaller companies seldom have the staff or admin capacity to take on extra work although most would love to set their employees up with a simple, cost-effective solution to help them plan and save.

Research frequently shows that financial insecurity, or thinking that financial insecurity might lie around the corner, is one of a working person’s biggest worries. Even those who worry about providing for their old age are often too busy with more immediate problems, such as the ever-increasing cost of raising a family or supporting elderly parents, and have to put their own long-term needs on the back burner.

“Not only do those workers miss out on the great benefit of starting to save early, but there can also be no doubt about the high cost of internalised stress and insecurity,” says Mackay.

Each employee signed up to a Group RA receives an individual RA that they can add to via the company. It allows individuals to top up or continue their contributions into the fund even when they are no longer working for that company.

“Creating a long-term financial plan will give employees a sense of ownership and certainty that will relieve the stress of sailing head-first into the unknown,” says Mackay. “It also facilitates the opportunity for people to change the path they are on and possibly set them on a course to a different financial future.”

According to the HR Trends Report, when employees were actors in their own journey, preventive wellness programmes had a positive impact on their general health, lifestyle and behaviours. Additionally, well-being interventions achieve a lot more than just increasing the feel-good factor: they also impact positively on productivity and the perception of the company, including a reduction in costs and performance risks.

“In these uncertain times, companies that go the extra mile to assist employees, particularly to build security and resilience, will be remembered for years to come,” concludes Mackay.

“They will also get repaid in terms of staff engagement, productivity and loyalty.”

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