An apple here and an anti-stress workshop there are not sufficient to improve employees' health in the long-run. In addition to strategic employee health management, the acceptance of setting a personal example and awareness of the fact that wellbeing precedes success, managers must learn to empower employees with responsibility for their personal welfare.
Investment in employees' health can in some way be compared to investment in renewable energy. Because if companies were to cause total burnout of their employees by demanding ever increasing commitment and levels of performance, they would very quickly have a problem with replenishment. It is therefore in the company's interest to employ healthy and motivated staff who are happy in their work. Forewarned is forearmed? In Germany for example they are heading in the right direction. Current surveys from state health insurer AOK and the consultancy firm Gallup, show a decrease in the number of burnouts for the first time in years.
Nevertheless, all too frequently a company's commitment to its 'people' falls victim to the demands of everyday business. Dr Ilona Bürgel, psychologist and expert in the economic implications of wellbeing, works as a consultant and author and knows how the balance between striving for performance and conserving resources in the new employment world can succeed. She provides people in companies with a new way of thinking, through know-how, experience and recommendations such as these, which can be implemented immediately:
1.) "Think about the health of your employees for five minutes each day!"
That way you're not in danger of losing sight of the issue. Even if you don't have something concerning employee health management on your agenda every day, you will still be aware of your employees' wellbeing. "Due to the very fact that the demands on employees to deliver maximum performance and commitment will continue to increase, managers need to develop an awareness for health issues. Because it is always easier and, incidentally, more cost effective to maintain and improve health than to repair damages."
2.) "Establish a new mind-set: wellbeing before success!"
Even in a dream job, performance suffers if wellbeing falls by the wayside due to increased pressure. "Effort and discipline are good and successful German virtues, but they alone will no longer take us forward", says Ilona Bürgel. Wellbeing and the ability to enjoy are, in her opinion, the answers to future productivity expectations. "Because a person who is feels well performs better than someone doing their favourite job. And because the ability to enjoy what we already have ensures motivation in difficult times."
3.) "Hand back responsibility!"
Managers can empower people in the organisation with more personal responsibility, enabling them to improve their wellbeing and performance. Because employees need to internalise the fact that they are once again responsible for their own health and wellbeing. Many people are more than happy to pass the buck. "Work, the boss or customers cannot make us stressed", says Bürgel. It is much more about the way employees react to new challenges at work or to insufficient recognition. "They have forgotten how to take good care of themselves", says the expert. "Knowing and using one's own strengths; being proactive in the job, instead of waiting for motivation from the boss; greeting people first, rather than observing other people's omissions; and, above all, appreciating how good our working and living conditions are, leads to wellbeing, self-motivation and outstanding performance."
4.) "Set an example!"
Healthy management has a role model function. Because managers that pay attention to their own health have a positive effect on the health of other staff. Furthermore, their behaviour can have a lasting effect on working procedures and teamwork. "People who don't 'walk the talk' lose credibility. Where managers struggle to ensure that employees take a reasonable lunch break, but don't do so themselves, this can damage the entire organisation."
5.) "Have a strategic approach!”
Ilona Bürgel knows that, "Things well-meant are not necessarily well done." The good intentions of many companies to do something for their employees often lead to a knee-jerk effect. "An anti-stress workshop here, an apple there, one year with initiatives, one without. Employees will recognise whether their employer takes the matter seriously and whether it changes corporate culture." She therefore recommends a strategic approach. "Start with a needs analysis so that you do the right thing for the right people. After the needs, it's necessary to define goals because there is a difference between you wanting to increase employee motivation or reduce the level of sickness. The goal then determines the individual initiatives."
6.) "Don't make false economies!"
Price is often the deciding factor in awarding contracts, especially in tenders. "This can be at the expense of the quality of the health initiatives, because the cheapest provider may not be the one best suited to the organisation." According to the expert, companies are also happy to make use of free services, such as those offered by health insurance companies in the form of 'health days'. "But, as in all areas of business, you get what you pay for - in this case mostly standard basic services, where there may be variations in quality and where the personal commitment of the supplier is not always included. This is passed on to staff."
7.) "Involve all sides at all times!"
"Irrespective of whether senior management is acquiring first-hand experience of day-to-day working conditions; involve the works council right from the initial deliberations about health management, let managers take ownership of particular actions and the employees themselves choose their favourites from all the recommendations made. Agreement is the magic formula that saves time, money and trouble." Ilona Bürgel therefore recommends involving all parties in planning and implementation. "Share tasks, look for partners in the teams. That way you not only share the work that is already falling on too few shoulders in HR and health management, but also increase motivation."
Further information at http://www.ilonabuergel.de/
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