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Why employee health is your true wealth

Leadership Tips

The Industrial Revolution ushered in great advancements in production and manufacturing. It also led to child labor, 16-hour workdays, sweatshops, physical punishment for slow workers, and countless life-threatening injuries and deaths. Expanding the bottom line was management's top priority. Workers were a means to an end, and easily replaced by the next desperate soul on the assembly line.

These days, companies understand the value of human capital but many still fail to grasp the importance of employee well-being. You may not be working your employees to death 1800's style, but if you don't have an Employee Assistance Program in place, have yet to implement stress reduction initiatives at work, or are oblivious to signs of burnout, you are risking the well-being of your staff and your company. This in turn will impact your productivity and your bottom line.

The job of a firefighters and police officer comes with a great deal of pressure, but stress isn't limited to those who work in physically dangerous occupations or who face trauma on a regular basis. Jobs that involve strict deadlines, high-risk decisions, working with the public or in the public eye can all take a physical, emotional, and mental toll on an employee. And while these stressors are simply part of the job and generally uncontrollable, we are barely scratching the stress factor surface. Role confusion, micromanagement, a competitive job environment, and workplace bullying are just a few examples of issues that many employees face on a daily basis - issues that management may not even be aware of.

Managers who see stress as an employee problem are not seeing the big picture. As a manager, you may not have power over an employee's level of resilience, but you can help develop it. The type of coping mechanism employees choose to use may be outside of your control, but you can offer to teach them healthy alternatives. Here's a harrowing truth: Anything that affects your employees will affect you. This means stress isn't just an employee problem; it's also your problem.

The first step to reducing employee burnout and its impact on the company is to understand the different factors that can contribute to stress. The ultimate goal of this Well-being at Work series is to help you nip stress issues in the bud before they reach an unhealthy level.

The Happy Employee

Well-being sounds like a fancy, new-age kind of word. Like emotional intelligence and self-esteem, well-being is a broad concept that can represent and include many things. It encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. It takes into account everything from healthy personal relationships to a good night's rest, fun hobbies, and a fulfilling career. Moreover, well-being extends far beyond financial prosperity. So when philosophers in long robes or yogis in loin cloths sagely declared that money can't buy happiness, they weren't just spouting cryptic nonsense.

In a nutshell, well-being is a state of being happy, healthy, and prosperous. At the bare minimum, it's a satisfactory condition of existence. However, in order to truly grasp what well-being is, you also need to understand what it isn't: Well-being is NOT the absence of stress. Why? Because stress can be healthy, at least to some degree. It gives us a motivational push or the momentum to take action and to keep trying. It's only when stress reaches an unhealthy level that it starts to affect our well-being.

Well-being at work is composed of two main factors (aside from coffee and muffins in the break room): Job satisfaction and emotional well-being. Not surprisingly, both of these factors are positively correlated with job performance. If you're thinking that salary probably plays a role in job satisfaction as well, you are correct, but it's only part of the well-being puzzle. A cashier who gets paid minimum wage could be just as fulfilled by her job, if not more so, than a high-powered executive with a six-figure paycheck.

So how important is job satisfaction? Research reveals that satisfied employees are:

  • More cooperative
  • Engaged
  • Helpful to their colleagues
  • Punctual and have a better attendance record
  • Time-efficient
  • Less likely to quit

Research has linked emotional wellbeing with:

  • Higher performance ratings
  • Higher retention rates
  • Higher creativity
  • Better efficiency

A happy employee is a productive employee, plain and simple. High job satisfaction and emotional well-being means that employees are committed to their job, effective at dealing with clients, and better problem-solvers, all of which benefits their performance and the success of the company as a whole.

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