Wellness in the Workplace – leading from the top

What makes a great leader, and how is that leadership reflected in the business they lead? According to Forbes magazine a great leader knows their team, recognises that these people are the key to the success of the business, encourages and facilitates them to be the best they can, focusing on helping them achieve their goals, as individuals and as a business.

Business leaders are uniquely placed to directly influence the health of those they lead, and the return on investment is significant. Research shows that there is a saving of $5.81 for every $1 invested in employee health and wellbeing in less absenteeism, greater productivity, better morale and less staff turnover. In order to fulfil potential, whether it be as individuals, part of a family or community, or as an integral part of a business, being healthy is central to that goal.

Businesses that do not manage health and wellbeing well are four times more likely to lose talent in the next twelve months. It has been estimated that staff turnover costs Australian businesses $20 billion dollars per year.

Not surprisingly, healthy workers are more productive at work than unhealthy workers. Healthy workers are three times more effective (143 effective hours per month) than unhealthy workers (49 effective hours per month). A 2016 report showed that absenteeism increased by over 10% from the previous 12 months. According to another report absenteeism and presenteeism, that is showing up for work but not being at your best, costs the Australian economy $35 billion/year or 3% of GDP. Employees that are unhealthy are nine times more likely to take sick leave than healthy employees, with 18 days per year lost compared to 2 days per year.

More than half of the Australian workers surveyed don’t get enough sleep, which affects every measure of physical and mental health. Poor sleep, affects memory, empathy, cognitive skills, energy levels, immune system and much more, in turn affecting engagement and productivity. Lack of quality sleep is a significant business issue, affecting leaders and employees alike.

Stress plays a significant part in the lives of at least 53% of the Australian workers surveyed, which said they feel over-whelmed a significant proportion of the time. Business leaders are not immune from stress either with studies showing that up to 80% of business leaders are concerned about stress in their workplace.

Almost 30% of Australian workers are suffering from some form of chronic musculoskeletal pain, like neck ache or back pain, while 34% of the Australian workers surveyed are overweight with a further 28% being clinically obese.

When it comes to exercise people in the workplace reflect the reality of a broader community, with 62% of the workforce doing no exercise or less than 1 hour of exercise per week.

People make up the businesses that drive our economy. These are the people that business leaders lead. A workplace that that recognises the strengths and weakness in their business, a healthy or unhealthy workforce, and prioritises health and wellness, is a business that people will want to work in, and a business that people will want to work for.

While businesses recognise health is important, what is the best approach? One way is a clear health message, a holistic approach to the challenges in our modern world. Public health messages are confusing and often contradictory. Because the majority of people acknowledge that stress plays a significant role, defining what those stressors are is a good start. In order to solve a problem, it helps to know what that problem is. Recognising and minimising stressors is key. Then build resilience by focusing on five pillars of health, by prioritising sleep, breathe, nourish, move and think.

A leader focused on a healthy workplace, invariably leads a healthier business. The trickle-down effect of leader that recognises and prioritises the greatest asset of any business, the people that reflect its values, and deliver its services, is part of what it takes to be a great leader of a healthier business.

Dr Ron Ehrlich
Dr Ron Ehrlich

Dr Ron Ehrlich, or ‘Dr Ron’ as he is affectionately known, is one of Australia’s leading holistic health advocates, educators and a holistic dentist. Dr Ron also hosts a free weekly podcast called “Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich” and is the author of, “A Life Less Stressed: the 5 pillars of health and wellness”.