Wellbeing, Human Resources

How do you increase productivity? With wellbeing

Lydia Watson

Wellbeing – it’s not hard to see why it matters. United by the global pandemic, we’re all feeling the strain of life disrupted and an uncertain future.

But what’s easy to forget is that wellbeing has always mattered. Not just due to the moral obligation leaders and managers may feel towards their people, or even its effect on their work performance. This is about productivity more broadly.

What is business productivity, and why does it matter?

Productivity isn’t just ticking off half your to-do list before lunchtime. In an economic sense, it’s a measure of how much output is produced in a certain period of time. That’s affected by the tools you have, the type of work you do, and a whole host of factors – so it’s hard to define productivity in the workplace. But ultimately, it affects us all by impacting wages and subsequently our standard of living.

On a micro level, improving productivity in the workplace is especially key for small businesses. Where a lack of resources – from cash to personnel – affects output, making sure productivity is optimised is crucial. And that’s true for all businesses who want to stay agile.

The Productivity Gap in the UK

You can look at individual productivity, or as a business – but to understand wider societal trends, many look at labour productivity by country. And if you do that, it’s less than encouraging reading when it comes to the UK.

Research suggests the UK is experiencing a “productivity gap” – having lagged behind in terms of output per worker since the 2008/9 recession. That’s not a small gap either: in 2016, it was 15% below the average of other G7 advanced economies. Although some growth was seen in 2019 (by 0.3%), it’s still cause for concern.

But what is the cause? There could be several things at play, with researchers pointing to these factors (among many more):

  • A lasting lack of demand since the financial crisis
  • The continued uncertainty of Brexit’s impact
  • Poor role fit (with the UK one of the worst in Europe)
  • Slow investment in research and development
  • Increased labour market flexibility
  • Weaker gains in computer technology since the 1990s

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So what’s the link between wellbeing and productivity?

Most of the causes of the UK productivity gap are out of our control. But as we’ve learnt in the past year, where so much has been out of our hands, it’s best to focus on what we can do. And in this case, that could be promoting wellbeing. Research suggests a significant link between employee wellbeing and productivity – and that’s something you should pay attention to.

But research shows that a third of UK companies don’t see the financial incentive of investing in health and wellbeing programmes. If the link alone between employee wellbeing and productivity isn’t enough, the risk to our global performance could be. Back in 2010, a report argued that poor physical wellbeing posed a significant threat to productivity in the UK – and that’s concerning. But tackling wellbeing isn’t without challenges:

The challenges:

  • It’s hard to measure: for example, while high job satisfaction and productivity are linked – with lower absenteeism a sign and cause respectively – this is complicated by individual levels of guilt or moral obligation to not miss work.
  • Context matters: one example points to care workers, who often have high job satisfaction likely due to their purpose-led role but also high turnover – due to their lower wages. This means high personal productivity, but low productivity as a sector.
  • Wellbeing is multifaceted: physical, mental, and social wellbeing need to be considered to promote long-lasting wellbeing – and this will affect different workers in different ways, meaning a tailored approach is key.

5 ways to boost employee productivity through wellbeing

1. Physical wellbeing perks

Tackling risk factors is an effective route to wellbeing, by offering benefits like ‘stop smoking’ support or gym memberships. 10 of the top 20 most sought-after employee perks were seen to be related to having a healthier lifestyle – and while 65% would be physically active more if their employer offered such perks, only 14% receive these benefits.

2. Mental health support

Supporting your employees’ mental health can take many forms. For some, that’s ‘resilience training’ – running workshops that help people recognise triggers of stress, and learn coping mechanisms. For others, it could be offering counselling services.  Supporting your employees’ mental health can take many forms. For some, that’s ‘resilience training’ – running workshops that help people recognise triggers of stress, and learn coping mechanisms. For others, it could be offering counselling services.

3. Social initiatives

People with high ‘social wellness’ were found to be more productive than others. In a remote working world, finding ways to keep your team connected is more important than ever. Maybe that’s through instant messaging apps, or social Zoom events – if in doubt, why not listen to what your people are saying?

4. Positive feedback

Research shows that psychological wellbeing is linked with strong work performance. Remember that recognition matters – praise your employee’s contributions, find tangible ways to give them recognition, and show their value in the organisation.

5. Empower managers

Leaders can’t look out for everyone in their organisation. By supporting the wellbeing of their management team, and giving them the tools they need, they can protect the wellbeing of their teams in turn. And that’s good news for everyone – especially your overall business performance.

Want to check in on the performance and wellbeing of your organisation? Book a demo, to see how we make it easy:

A faster, simpler way to measure wellbeing

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