#CFO#Employment#Wellness#People and skills

Why wellness has become a top CFO priority

Dominic Parsons
|Jun 13|magazine15 min read

Australians like to think we’re the most laid-back country on earth but, as a nation, we’re increasingly stressed out.

Recent research from Reventure found 73 per cent of Australians feel anxious at work, with 85 per cent believing their employer is obliged to address it. Given the broader cost and performance implications, responsibility no longer sits exclusively in the HR department.

Deloitte found 70 per cent of chief financial officers (CFOs) view workplace wellbeing as a strategic priority. This is largely because there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest employee wellbeing is closely linked to business growth.

In a digital world, where customers can buy whatever they want from wherever they want, products and services are no longer a core differentiator. Your people play a huge role in how customers and potential customers your business. Your staff are a valuable business investment and must be managed like any other asset.

Safe Work Australia found workplace stress costs Australian businesses $10 billion every year, by reducing productivity, retention, talent attraction and innovation. For this reason, the CFO is increasingly joining HR in finding measures to address employee wellbeing and improve the business bottom line.

What does wellbeing look like?

While wellbeing is often spoken about, it can be difficult to clearly articulate what it means in a business environment where pressure and stress abound. Many leaders will say they have a wellbeing program if they get a daily fruit basket delivered or offer free yoga classes. But wellbeing has more to do with workplace culture than perks.

Reventure found the top three elements that workers believe contribute to workplace wellbeing are a pleasant working environment (44 per cent) flexible working hours (36 per cent) and realistic expectations (36 per cent).

Looking at these elements, it’s clear the causes of most workplace stresses are within your organisation’s power to change. Providing people with the right tools is an important part of creating this environment.

As a CFO, there are also concrete benefits of employee wellbeing that flow directly onto the balance sheet.  For this reason, creating a healthy workplace culture is an essential part of building a resilient, successful organisation.

Improving productivity

Dolly Parton once sung about working nine to five but digital and mobile trends have long since made this an outdated notion. Today’s workers are cramming hours in wherever and whenever it suits their lifestyle. This increasingly connected and always-on working environment makes it very easy for employees to feel burnt out.

This has led to an increase in presenteeism – where people are physically present at work for long hours but not necessarily productive. The impact of overworked and unhealthy employees is that they’re more likely to underperform, spread illness and impact productivity. In fact, Carnegie MG estimates presenteeism costs Australian business about $33 billion a year.

Avoiding the costs of sick leave and unplanned absence is the most obvious benefit of improving employee wellbeing. Happy and engaged staff members are also more likely to be working to the best of their ability. A study from the Royal Australasian Colleague of Physicians called the relationship between productivity and wellbeing a “virtuous circle”. Recruitment firm Robert Walters found that 93 per cent of employers agree a workplace wellness program has a positive impact on productivity. So wellbeing is just as likely to improve the balance sheet as it is your workplace culture.

Talent wars

There’s a huge amount of competition for top talent in every industry. These potential hires are holding the cards and making demands before they’ll consider joining your business. Looking after their wellbeing is near the top of the list, with 87 per cent of professionals saying a wellness policy is important when considering new opportunities.

It also works in reverse. People understand how valuable their experience is and will look to leave their current workplaces if personal health needs aren’t being met. 

Hiring new employees is a significant expense – on top of any salary package you’ll need to factor in the cost of recruiting, onboarding and training. There’s also a knowledge cost if your businesses has high staff turnover as acquired expertise continually walks through the exit door.

So supporting your existing staff is much more cost-effective than replacing them when they leave.

Enabling Innovation

In the digital age, innovation separates the leaders from the followers. Wellbeing also has a huge role to play in helping your businesses compete in this space.

Innovation is a team sport played by smart people – it’s not a process. And employees with better job satisfaction are more willing to go the extra mile in thinking of new approaches to the status quo. A quality work environment supports employees who take risks and come up with new ideas.

Whether you’re primarily motivated by increasing productivity, attracting talent or driving innovation, employee wellbeing is an important piece of the puzzle. It adds quantifiable value and has quickly become an expectation of top talent.

CFOs who address this need will reap the benefits of building spaces where people want to work, strengthening the bottom line and fuelling continued business growth.

Dominic Parsons is the CEO of CALUMO.