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Survey Reveals How Employees Are Really Feeling About Their Work

It really is the small things that count - that is one of the key findings revealed as part of the inaugural EMA Workplace Wellbeing Survey in partnership with nib.

The online survey of nearly 600 people - spanning all business sizes, sectors and from leadership to frontline staff - was recently conducted to better understand the link between wellbeing, retention and productivity.

EMA Chief Executive, Brett O’Riley, says the survey uncovered the small business choices which have the most significant everyday impact on their people - and that ignoring them could be a huge risk to your business.

"While 84% of survey respondents strongly agreed that staff wellbeing initiatives contributed to the retention of high performing employees, the most common methods of measuring staff wellbeing relate to turnover and retention levels (65%), absentee rates (63%) and exit interviews (48%). Of course, many of these measurements are occurring at a point when it’s too late to make a positive difference," he says.

"In a world where challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic mean retaining and upskilling your people is crucial to your ongoing success, businesses have got to take this seriously and be more proactive to keep their people," Mr O’Riley adds.

Overall, survey findings indicated that one in six companies do nothing to track and measure wellbeing, and of those, 33% were small businesses with less than 15 employees. On a positive note, small businesses were seen as particularly good at responding to requests for flexible hours, with 62% of respondents from organisations with less than 15 staff saying their employers did so ‘really well’, compared with 43% overall.

nib New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Rob Hennin, says strong communication and support during the height of the pandemic saw 55% of respondents report improved job satisfaction over that time, but that worryingly these levels have since dropped.

"Initially many businesses were quick to introduce positive communication ways to support their people but over the last year there has been a significant increase in the proportion of workers feeling concerned about all aspects of their wellbeing," Mr Hennin said.

The survey showed 32% of respondents were concerned about the health of their family (up 10% from pre-pandemic levels), one in four had concerns about their own health (up 11%), closely followed by 23 per cent being concerned for the mental health and wellbeing of their family (up 6%).

"It’s telling that these concerns came in ahead of those around personal financial security and that of their household. This just demonstrates why supporting the health and wellbeing of your workforce should be a top priority for employers," Mr Hennin said.

One in three employee respondents also believed their employer could be more proactive at prioritising, adapting and implementing wellbeing strategies.

"There’s a significant opportunity here for businesses. It’s not about being tokenistic, but offering solutions that truly make a difference to employees’ lives. Not only does it show you care, it plays a pivotal role in retaining high performing staff - saving you money in the long-term - and can also give staff peace of mind, improving productivity as they have greater ability to focus," Hennin concludes.

When asked which initiatives would make the biggest difference to addressing these areas of concern, the two top areas spontaneously mentioned by respondents were flexible working policies and mental health initiatives. These ranged from an annual mental health day for all employees to attend workshops or seminars to mindfulness, yoga, pilates, meditation in the workplace and resilience training.

"These aren’t big things, don’t take up a lot of time and money, and highlight that it’s the little things that can make a huge difference to ensuring your people are happier and healthier in mind and body. That makes them more productive, leaves them feeling good about the contribution they’re making and stick with you," says Mr O’Riley.

In the workplace, a lack of adequate staff resourcing, failure to manage resources to mitigate burn out and failure to manage reasons why people leave were the key areas where survey respondents felt businesses were underperforming, especially in larger organisations.

"I think this is an area we need to delve into more as this could suggest a number of things. Is it that in increasing agility, adapting quickly and improving capability of existing staff has actually stretched them too thin, and has that had a flow on effect to recruitment in that businesses are not hiring the right people with the right skills to fit in with what is actually a new business strategy since COVID-19?" Mr O’Riley asks.

"We believe it’s time to look at a refreshed management playbook to make sure open, honest relationships with deeper levels of understanding with everyone in an organisation for their sake, and that of your business, but the most important thing is to just make a start as it is all intrinsically linked."

Please see the survey results highlights infographic for more detail.

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