LAURA GORDON

People are the backbone of any business as employers know only too well.

They’re savvy enough to realise it’s essential to invest in their staff in order to get the best out of them.

This might mean providing impressive wages, bonus pay-outs, company cars and suchlike.

It could entail creating a modern and appealing workspace with first class facilities and cutting edge technology.

Or it might simply mean the investment of time.

For example, taking the time to create initiatives like a good induction, appraisal or mentorship scheme. It’s a great way to ensure employees are clear on expectations, goals and career progression opportunities.

There’s also another way of nurturing staff that’s higher on the agenda than ever before, and that’s investment in staff wellbeing.

It’s a broad term that covers a myriad of topics like mindfulness classes, gym provision, health clubs, or even relaxation time to escape the daily grind and recharge.

Once upon a time benefits like this were few and far between, and indeed were even considered to be ‘perks’.

But we have woken up and we now know these aren’t optional extras – they are crucial.

More and more companies are putting defined wellbeing strategies in place in order to improve recruitment, retention, engagement and organisational culture. Most now recognise that the impact of high pressure working environments can be a threat unless you look after your people.

Google has got it right. Apparently the company demands that 20 per cent of the time, its staff should be thinking rather than working. It enhances productivity.

Then there’s Microsoft Japan which went even further by introducing a four day working week. It increased productivity by 40 percent. Those who think Finland is mad for considering a four day working week might want to consider that statistic before they dismiss the idea as madness.

With this change in perceptions when it comes to wellbeing, it’s no wonder spending in this area has been steadily rising year-on-year.

Even the government has cottoned on. In the middle of last year Gus O’Donnell, former head of the civil service, launched a report which said the primary aim of government spending should be personal wellbeing rather than economic growth.

As an employer, you shouldn’t be thinking ‘can I afford to implement wellbeing initiatives?’. The question you really need to be asking yourself is ‘can I afford NOT to?’.

The responsibility for managing stress and burnout in the workplace lies with the leader.

This couldn’t be clearer when you consider last year’s report from CIPD and Simplyhealth revealing that, over just one year, heavy workloads and poor management styles were behind a 37 per cent hike in stress stress-related absences.

I think it’s fair to say that some of the advances that have made working life easier have also created fresh challenges when it comes to wellbeing.

I’m talking about technology and the fact we are now ‘always on’. Even if we technically work a 9-5 shift many of us still check our emails on our smartphones the second we wake up, or have the laptop on our knee on the commute home.

So employers themselves need to move with the times too and cater for this change in order to support and provide balance for today’s workforce.

Those who get it right will reap the rewards with staff who are committed, loyal, motivated and engaged.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs.