Workplace wellness: watering your sunflowers.

Let’s learn about sunflowers for a minute.

  • They are remarkable flowers said to represent positivity. Perhaps this is because they have a habit of following the sun, called heliotropism.
  • Due to their large size and rapid growth, they demand lots of water and the correct soil conditions to accommodate the deep roots needed to support their size.
  • They grow best with a consistent watering routine.

What do sunflowers have to do with workplace wellness?

Just like a sunflower, employees need to be watered and nurtured to grow. The potential for them to grow rapidly and impressively is there, if only they are consistently watered and nurtured.  The potential for such rapid growth starts with their roots. If the correct foundation is not built for the employees, you cannot expect them to reach their full potential. In fact, wellness is so important that if it is ignored, you may find that just like a sunflower follows the sun, your employees will turn to other companies for brighter employment conditions.

What are the benefits of workplace wellness?

Workplace wellness is an investment

A study conducted by Harvard researchers K Baicker, D Cutler and Z Song, on the ROI (return on investment) of employee wellness programs, found that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs fall $3.27 and absenteeism drops $2.73. That’s a 6:1 ROI.

According to Cogito, companies with highly engaged workers report 20% higher sales

Therefore, it stands to reason that if the people/staff cost is the most expensive line item in your budget, that it is an investment you’d want to look after. Unfortunately, many companies are still looking to “save” on this cost. Costing them their workplace wellness in return. Not the kind of return that makes business sense.

Promote productivity

People can’t perform optimally if they aren’t looked after. When staff are engaged, they will be more productive and deliver, keeping clients satisfied and the company profitable.

Historically companies were all about measuring metrics, numbers, outcomes. It’s a statistic driven environment – yes, those are important. But the stats don’t end there. For example: how is the person doing behind the stats? Ignoring the human element and ONLY looking at the stats is short sighted for your business

More than 90% of business leaders say that promoting wellness can affect employee productivity and performance, according to survey results from the non-profit Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO).

A productive employee wastes less time, produces better business results, and increases those all import stats more that cracking the whip ever could.

Promote loyalty

The World Happiness Index, an annual publication of the United Nations rankings of national happiness based on responses from residents in that country reported in 2019 that South Africa was right at the bottom with a happiness index of 4.72, likely due to being overworked and not having much free time.

Altogether it is clear we have a workplace wellness crisis in South Africa. Even with an unemployment rate of 34.5% in 2022, a staggering 53% of professionals are unhappy in their current position and would change their employer, given the opportunity.

However, 80% of surveyed employees who worked at companies with health and wellness programs said such programs would encourage them to stay longer with their employer.

By ‘watering your sunflowers’, you are lowering staff turnover and in turn becoming a more desirable employer.

Workplace wellness makes you a desirable employer

Everybody wants to work for Google. It’s not a trope, Google has been voted the Best Company to Work For, multiple years in a row by the Fortune Group’s audience.

And surprise, surprise, the reason is employee wellness. Google offer a range of wellness programmes. Including medical, dental and vision insurance, mental health support, onsite wellness centres, advocacy for transgender employees, competitive compensation, 1-on-1 financial coaching, student loan reimbursement, flexible working hours, parental leave and baby bonding leave, backup childcare, on-site meals and snacks, fitness centres, massage programs and even bicycle on campus.

The truth of the matter is people talk. How many of your friends tell you how great their job is at a social gathering? Chances are it’s a pretty low number. To really stand out when trying to attract top talent, you need your people to be saying great thing about your company, consistently. The only way to achieve that is with workplace wellness.

How can you improve workplace wellness?

Wellness is important, but don’t just implement wellness for the sake of it – what are you targeting, what do your employees need, what is your wellness strategy. What motivates your peoples, what makes them perform better?

Generally, it is very important for leaders to understand the role of workplace wellness and the result of that. Leaders need to have their finger on the pulse of what their people need. A disconnect between what leaders deliver as workplace wellness programmes and what employees need, will mean that the initiative will fail.

Workplace wellness is more than having a ping pong table or keeping the fridge stocked with snacks. It’s about culture that filters from the top down. Would you be committed and motivated by a ping pong table if your pay check was 20% less than others with similar qualifications and experience? Would you be committed and motivated by snacks if you were seen as lazy for asking to take your Employment-Act-mandated leave days?

Of course not.

Take it from the top

Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for workplace wellness. By understanding and driving the company’s vision they provide direction to employees. However, it is crucial to work wellness into this strategy.

Workplace wellness looks different for each company. For Google, it’s a long list of benefits. But for your company there may only be one or two critical factors to identify initially to make a huge impact. Perhaps your employees are too scared to ask for leave. Maybe they are in need of a support programme to help them achieve their physical fitness goals.

Firstly, when deploying a successful wellness programme you need to listen to your employees. What are they in need of? The second step is to have culture flow from the top down. You’re going to need unconditional buy-in from leaders to make this work.

Above all, whatever your workplace wellness programme looks like, the bottom line is simple. You need to water your sunflower to get them to flourish. Happy sunflowers make for beautiful bottom lines.