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Worker well-being moving up business agenda

Workplace health and safety is focusing more on well-being as organisations consider mental health, work life balance, stress levels and team relationships as important supports for productivity, says a global expert.

Dr Todd Conklin, an international health and safety advocate and author, is in the country on a speaking tour hosted by the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management (NZISM).

He says well-being complements and supports the more traditional focus on incident prevention because happier and more content workers are safer, as well as more productive.

The benefits of workplace well-being have been highlighted by the Mental Health’s Foundation, Working Well Guides showing it delivers 31% higher productivity, 37% more sales, three times more creativity, increased customer satisfaction and a better reputation as a good place to work.

He says the increasing attention on well-being indicators come as director responsibility grows and high profile cases of worker maltreatment are reported regularly.

“Health and safety in New Zealand has evolved rapidly over the last decade and the recent focus on well-being mirrors the current national debate,” he says.

“If you take each organisation as a microcosm of a country, it is important to ensure everyone has the best environment in which to work - and this means, a physical, personal and relationship environment. Many of the things people consider important now such as respect, acceptance, a chance to be heard, positivity and encouragement weren’t on the agenda in the past - but they are now,” he says.

“People also have more confidence to comment and share their views to contribute to a healthier and safer work environment. Health and safety is not manna from management and takes workers to learn from each other, and management to look to their workers for guidance - there needs to be a trusting pan-organisation environment to improve safety.

“This all-of-worker approach is also vital in looking after New Zealand’s talent, made even more important by the fact there is a shortage,” he says.

Dr Todd Conklin spent 25 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a Senior Advisor for Organisational and Safety Culture - Los Alamos is one of the world's foremost research and development laboratories.

While well-being is rising up the agenda he also emphasises that ensuring safety remains critical:

“Incidents that injure grab headlines and while we are not going to prevent errors, because people make mistakes, we can create systems to absorb error and train organisations to fail safely,” he says.

“This means learning about areas of potential weakness before an incident occurs - this is called pre-accident assessment, a far better way of learning than after something has happened when there’s been impact.”

Dr Conklin says health and safety is now more accepted as an essential part of everyday management, and its status as a profession, as well as the numbers involved, is growing.

“It has moved away from the image of a person getting in the way of business and ticking healthy and safety boxes on a clipboard.”

Dr Conklin is speaking at six events in New Zealand between 15th-25th July. His talks will look at the evolving practice of health and safety, its acceptance by organisations and its status. He will provide his insight on what more needs to be done to improve New Zealand’s workplace health and safety performance.

Conklin holds a Ph.D. in organisational behaviour from the University of New Mexico. He speaks all over the world to executives, groups and work teams who are interested in better understanding the relationship between the workers in the field and the organisation's systems, processes, and programmes.

Conklin defines safety as “the ability for workers to be able to do work in a varying and unpredictable world." He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and thinks that Human Performance is the most meaningful work he has ever had the opportunity to live and teach.

For tickets to Dr Todd Conklin’s events in New Zealand go to:


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