By James Webb, European Marketing and International Key Account Director at Fellowes
For the global finance workforce, health and wellbeing on a personal and professional level is becoming increasingly intertwined. This is especially true given the ever-changing nature of the way the industry workforce operates. It’s now commonplace to find teams working around the clock on global projects in different time zones. Flexible and mobile workers monitoring markets need to be “always on” and “always connected”. The lines between work and home continue to blur, and the pressure to be even more productive persists.
The reality for the industry is that this has a negative impact on the wellbeing of the workforce, which in turn has huge financial implications. According to research by Fellowes, rising sick leave and lowered job performance caused by poor health and wellbeing at work costs European businesses €73 billion per year. What’s more, the quality of the skills in any given financial institution is also at risk: 54 percent of employers have actually seen good people leave their companies due to poor physical working environments. The cost implications of that are further compounded when you consider that employers need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train his or her replacement.
As a result, businesses are increasingly turning to workplace-wellness initiatives to improve the health of their employees. Already, two-thirds of European companies have introduced such programmes, but the research suggests this still isn’t enough. One in four workers describe themselves as healthy at home but unhealthy at work. One in three feel they have little or no control over their health at work and, notably, hold their employers responsible.
Lack of employer accountability is as unhealthy for businesses as it is for employees. Why? In a cut-throat industry in which generous remuneration is standard, competition for the best talent is on the rise. It’s more important than ever to provide a work environment that is attractive to both today’s—and tomorrow’s—employee.
Investing in the work environment for greater returns.
As Millennials and Generation Zers continue to enter the workforce in droves, they bring a fresh perspective on what it really takes to protect wellbeing and health in the office environment or whilst working on the move. Employees now use wearable devices to monitor the number of steps climbed between meetings, or join conference calls from treadmills in company gyms—they proactively move towards a healthier, more active lifestyle at all times, recognising how it helps them to perform at their best. Significantly, 85 percent of employees believe that workplace wellbeing should be made more of a priority in their company. It’s safe to say that the days when a subsidised gym membership and a free healthy breakfast were sufficient are long gone.
It makes sense, then, that employers facilitate a workplace environment in which employees can look after their health and wellbeing and excel in their job role as a result. According to Stephen Bowden, ergonomist and thought leader in active working, “To stay competitive, organisations need to hold onto their top talent. The cost to replace and train new employees can be very disruptive. By understanding wellbeing, organisations can look to retain top talent.”
As such, employers should take note that an overwhelming 95 percent of European workers believe that office environments and workstations are now the most important factors for wellbeing at work. In fact, 60 percent of employees claim their productivity and performance have been either significantly or moderately affected as a result of ailments caused by working at their desks on a computer, laptop or tablet. Moreover, nearly a third (32 percent) have taken an average of two weeks off work because of such ailments. To address such health concerns, more than half of employees wish they could be more active and introduce more movement into their working days. Employers must, therefore, challenge a sedentary working style to avoid bearing the brunt of both an unhealthy and disengaged workforce…and suffering the financial consequences of subsequently reduced productivity.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to start improving wellbeing in the office. Established trends include non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), otherwise known as “micro-movement”, which can be as easy as fidgeting in your seat, or tapping your foot. The result? Burning up to 10 times the number of calories of static workers in the process. Foregoing the boardroom and conducting meetings while walking, meanwhile, not only gets employees moving but has also been found to boost creative thinking. And then there’s the simple act of standing up, while you work.
Stand up for workplace wellbeing: the five benefits.
Sit-Stand solutions that allow employees to alternate between sitting and standing whilst working at their desks add more movement to their working days and can make employees significantly more productive, healthy and happy.
In Scandinavia, Sit-Stand solutions are already transforming the working lives of 80 percent of employees in these ways and beyond. In fact, Scandinavia continues to lead in workplace wellbeing, according to the most recent Universum Global Workforce Happiness Index. In turn, this is bolstering the bottom lines of its businesses, which has to be the biggest focus for senior management.
Fellowes’ own research shows that of all industries, the financial sector has the highest awareness (58 percent) of Sit-Stand solutions, yet usage is less than half that (23 percent). If the rationale is still unclear, here are five ways businesses will benefit:
- Reduced absenteeism
When a third of employees are off for two weeks a year due to ailments caused by working at a computer, the benefits of Sit-Stand solutions are obvious. Standing and moving during the working day can reduce the risk of such symptoms, eliminating the need to take time off sick and the associated cost to business—or, better still, eliminating the hidden cost to business of those workers who still come into work whilst sick, and pose a concealed risk to performance levels.
- Higher productivity
62 percent admit to finding it harder to stay alert the longer they sit at their desks. Sit-Stand workstations allow the introduction of movement whilst working, to help employees keep alert and focused on the task at hand—without having to stop what they are doing and physically move away from their desk.
According to Stephen Bowden, chartered ergonomist for Morgan Maxwell, “Modest gains in staff wellbeing and productivity can deliver significant financial savings.”
- Talent retention
More than half (51 percent) of Human Resources (HR) managers say they have seen good people leave their companies because of the work environments being bad for their health. The impact on health can range from headaches, a sore neck or backache, to the compounding of a pre-existing health condition. Eventually, this impact is too much to bear. Fellowes’ research also found almost a third of all employees confirm they would quit their jobs because their working environments are bad for their health. Embracing the Sit-Stand way of working shows talented staff that the business is committed to improving their wellbeing. And appreciated workers stick around.
- Attractive employer brand
70 percent of European employees believe that companies with strong health and wellbeing ethics attract the best staff. A healthier working environment in which talented people do good things for their company that cares will help with new talent attraction, particularly among younger generations.
- Happier employees
72 percent of HR managers believe employees would feel happier in office-based jobs if they had Sit-Stand desks. And happy employees are 12 percent more productive.
All of these are direct results of a greater focus on workplace wellbeing. And they’re easier to realise than businesses think. Businesses can even measure the bottom-line benefits to prove this is one wellbeing initiative that’s worth the investment: our ROI (return on investment) online calculator provides the hard evidence.
Where billions are potentially being lost each year, and a talent drain to more progressive companies is evident, the question isn’t whether a business can justify the cost of investing in workplace wellness, but rather, can it really afford not to?
References: Sit-Stand Research 2017, commissioned by Fellowes Arkenford Research 2014, commissioned by Fellowes Loudhouse Research 2016, commissioned by Fellowes