Businesses should be looking at putting put more time into employee health and wellness, says Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central.
Chief executive John Milford is commenting on the latest Southern Cross Health Society-BusinessNZ Workplace Wellness two-yearly survey.
It shows that while absences through illness and injury are around the same or better than six years ago, there is more work to be done around employees coming to work when they are sick, and the stress levels they face. “Those two issues are often inter-related so it’s important they are tackled.
“The survey shows that at an individual level, overall absences are generally below entitlement, so lost work days are not a huge or worsening issue.
“Of concern is that more than 35 per cent of staff are turning up to work when they’re unwell. As a result they are less productive than they would be if they were 100 per cent well, and they also risk infecting others, and that can have an effect on the whole workplace.
“The survey also shows that workload is a key stressor for staff, so many may simply feel they don’t have time to be sick – they fear falling behind.
“Or it could be that, despite an organisation’s policy encouraging staff to stay home when sick, the workplace culture means people feel pressure to soldier on. This is more likely to happen in small businesses where there are fewer people to spread the load across if someone is out of action.
“Any opportunity for employers to support their staff and reduce the levels of absence, is worth exploring – for employee health, and for the health of organisations. An absent employee typically costs an employer between $600 and $1000 a year.
“It’s really important businesses make it clear they support staff taking the time needed to get well. Employees are more likely to feel engaged and be more productive and willing to go the extra mile when they know their employer cares about their health.
“Employers need to identify what lies behind the trends and consider what they can offer or change to make their workplace a healthier place for their staff – whether that’s health checks, free flu jabs, having more flexible hours, offering remote access to work … every workplace will have things it can do to keep staff healthy and engaged.
“Ultimately, the wealth of a business depends on the health of its workers. If employers care about their business, they care about their staff – not only as employees, but as people.
“Most businesses are doing a pretty good job, but there’s always room for improvement, especially when it involves their most valuable asset – their people.
“It’s an investment that will pay off in the long term.”