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Businesses should be alert to how vital employee well-being is to productivity

Two years ago, research by Randstad found that “salary and benefits” stood 10 percentage points above “work-life balance” as the most important consideration for individuals in Hong Kong when evaluating a prospective employer. When Randstad released its latest findings in June this year, the gap had narrowed to just one percentage point.

In competitive operating conditions for many industries, the value of human talent as a key business differentiator continues to rise.

To attract and retain top performers, companies must make employee well-being central to their decision-making. This should start with a comprehensive assessment of the company’s existing employee wellness strategy and, if necessary, overhauling it.

Staff well-being programmes have traditionally focused on the negative consequences of employee ill health or dissatisfaction, such as productivity, days lost to illness and turnover rates.

However, forward-thinking companies are now developing strategies that place greater emphasis on the positive effects of having a happy, healthy and engaged staff. These businesses recognise employee wellness as a key driver of business success, with benefits that extend beyond the financial bottom line to include enhancing a company’s reputation as an employer among job seekers and as a brand among customers.

Creating a thriving human infrastructure means understanding that a workforce is a team of individuals, with diverse needs, motivations and goals. By allowing for different ways of working, encouraging employees to “speak up and speak out”, and demonstrating support for and trust in its people, a company can bring out the full potential of its staff and unlock the innovation and creativity that exists within its organisation.

Initiatives under a holistic staff wellness strategy will only lead to sustainable positive change if they are viewed as valuable by employees. Companies must therefore have robust channels for listening to and learning from their people.

Regular face-to-face interaction – through events such as town halls and informal exchange meetings as well as workspace design – supports open communication, facilitates the sharing and development of ideas, and helps build a culture that welcomes the open expression of opinions and views.

Good engagement also includes encouraging employees, who work on the front lines of day-to-day operations, to offer suggestions for enhancing a company’s performance as a service provider as well as an employer.

Making the development of business strategy a more participatory process gives employees a sense of greater ownership in company performance. It builds the trust that will encourage them to drive change and proactively contribute to business success.

Senior management can model positive behaviours by asking for feedback, demonstrating accountability and showing confidence in employees to make the right choices. This creates an environment that makes it easier for everyone to speak openly, ask for help and believe in their ability to achieve challenging goals and exercise good judgement.

Employees who feel they are growing alongside the company, and that their contributions are valuable and appreciated, will likely enjoy higher levels of job satisfaction. This can be achieved through career development, training and mentoring opportunities. But it can also be as simple as acknowledgement of a job well done.

Employers can look for ways to make work a fulfilling part of life by bringing the two into greater harmony. This may involve setting up exercise or craft classes, organising social events or ensuring staff have access to stress management resources.

Peer-to-peer personal interest groups or sharing sessions give individuals the opportunity to learn from their colleagues and to benefit from networks of workplace support.

Employees perform better when they feel connected – not just within their company but also to their family and friends and the wider society. Community-based activities strengthen ties to local populations and help reinforce a sense of corporate pride.

Employers can also make healthy life choices part of the workplace experience – for example by providing quiet relaxation areas and offering a range of well-balanced food options in staff cafes and canteens.

Flexible working hours, sabbaticals, and paternal, adoption and birthday leave demonstrate that a company understands that its people have a diverse range of responsibilities and working styles.

Technology can be leveraged to support remote working and give employees more time to focus on high-value-added areas of business by freeing them from more routine tasks.

Such initiatives will create a resilient and adaptable workforce that is better able to overcome challenges, respond positively to change and handle the pressures of working life.

Facilitating the blossoming of a happy, healthy and engaged staff will allow organisations to function at optimum performance. Employees who feel understood and valued will take pride in their work and drive the innovation, collaboration and creativity needed to help a company achieve its business aims and deliver on its growth objectives.