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Perhaps it’s down to the length of time since the beginning of the economic downturn – but it seems that most of us, these days, are inured to constant headlines about the rising cost of living, the falling value of savings, uncertain growth figures, and so on. In fact, the only thing that seems to be certain these days is the state of uncertainty.

And while it’s safe to say that an economic boom is still very much in the future (although how far off it may be is an impossible guess), there are still many things small and medium sized businesses can do in order to help maximise productivity while also keeping sickness absence levels down.

For people who own or manage SME businesses this can mean a range of things. One way of helping recruit and retain the best people within an organisation is staff engagement – in the wider context of employee wellbeing. The two are actually pretty closely linked – after all, how many people in the workplace would feel engaged and part of their organisation without also feeling a general sense of wellbeing – and vice-versa?

Recent concepts such as the Third Metric are helping to redefine success in work as more than simply money plus success equals power. In fact, quite a few workplace survey findings that have been published over the past few years indicate that stress levels are high, and one study in the US has even shown that 20% of American employees are ‘actively disengaged’ as regards to their feelings towards the workplace.

Employee benefits are an investment not just in the individuals who comprise the workforce but in the continued value of the organisation itself. In a 2012 survey, over two-thirds of respondents cited group health insurance as an important way of reducing sickness absence, with employee assistance programmes (EAPs) also proving popular. The latter are schemes that provide stress counselling and other support for staff who may be having difficulties in their lives such as relationship breakups, bereavement and so on.

While the list of employee benefits can be as lengthy or as brief as the organisation requires, there are also other strategies that can be employed to engage the workforce. Given that one of the central factors of the third metric is health, this means that there are ways organisations can seek to provide a continuously improving workplace, looking at things like

  • Training staff in stress management and stress reduction
  • Promoting a mentally healthy workplace
  • Making adjustments to job design and management style where applicable
  • Providing flexible working arrangements where possible

Adding value to a work role isn’t necessarily all about money, as the third metric demonstrates. Indeed given the choice between similar jobs where one is in an organisation that is employee wellbeing centred and one that isn’t, it may well be that differences in remuneration are secondary to the tangible and intangible wellbeing benefits provided.

While economic uncertainty may be a fact of life in many nations right now, workplace wellbeing will continue to be at the forefront of productivity and profitability as businesses strive to attract, develop and retain the best talent that’s out there – and gain the maximum competitive edge.