It’s been estimated that absenteeism costs the Australian economy $62 billion a year, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Staff wellbeing can have a major impact on business outcomes.
When employees are ill or injured, things just don’t get done. Corners start to get cut. Staff wellbeing suffers, activity dips, productivity takes a dive, culture sours and people start to disengage from their work. Often, employees resign. The remaining employees are overloaded with work to compensate. They become stressed and disengaged. The cycle continues.
It’s no surprise that if you asked any business owner or manager whether they want to keep staff safe and healthy, their answer would be a resounding ‘of course!’ However, the reality is staff health and safety often takes a backseat to other business priorities because the perceived time and cost is too high. What’s important for businesses to understand is that these two priorities are not mutually exclusive; in fact, numerous studies have proven that safe and healthy staff lead to a healthier bottom line.
The health and safety ROI
According to research conducted by NSW Government, businesses that invest in the health and safety of staff see an increase in productivity, morale and engagement. The study found that small to medium sized businesses are $100,000 better off over a five year period than businesses with unhealthy staff. In fact, effective workplace health and safety strategies produced a cash return of $3-$6 for every $1 invested.
There’s also a big payoff in terms of staff retention. Employees are expecting more from companies in terms of staff wellbeing initiatives, parental pay, flexible work and more. Last year Medibank and Deloitte launched the Wellbeing@Work index to give staff of SMEs around the country a chance to rate their companies on ‘soft’ measures (including culture, employees’ sense of meaning at work and diversity) as job seekers increasingly look at these factors when assessing potential employers. Indeed, a recent Gallup study found that well over half of millennials (57 per cent) say that work-life balance and staff wellbeing in a job are “very important” to them.
It’s clear that a strategy for health and safety can improve the profitability of your business, so how do you go about putting it in place?
Ways to build a strong safety culture
If you want to reap the financial benefits of a safe workplace but don’t have the resources of a large organisation, focus on getting the following basics right:
- Implement a secure and comprehensive system to record and report hazards, risks and incidents.
- Cultivate a culture of staff wellbeing and safety through a formal induction of new staff and formal training for all.
- Encourage a “safety first” mentality through strong leadership and communication.
- Develop clear communications about what good and behaviours look like in the workplace.
- If injury occurs, have a clear and transparent process to deal with any resulting claims.