Why invest in corporate wellbeing when employees are likely to leave anyway?

stressed officesmall.jpg

''The reason business leaders in the UAE are reluctant to invest in corporate wellbeing is because of the transient workforce across the region. Why would they, when faced with shrinking budgets and though market conditions, invest in corporate wellbeing programmes? Why would they spend money to help someone lose weight and reduce their risk of being diagnosed with diabetes, when the person is likely to leave before the real benefits will kick in?''

These are some of the most commonly asked questions I've had over the past couple of months. Why? 

I think it's because we tend to forget about the impact wellbeing can have on the ''thing'' we use the most whilst at work. Our brain.

Stressed? Me? No.....!

Job insecurity, financial pressure and requirements to ''do more with less'' are putting unprecedented pressure on people across the region, negatively impacting employees' mental stress levels. Several studies, including our own, Exercise4BrainFitness, have found that nearly half of us are stressed to the point that it negatively impacts us at work and at home. But - we're neither talking, nor doing, much about it. Many of us don't even admit to ourselves (or even realise) that we're stressed to the point that it is severely damaging our bodies and brains and that we might be at risk of burnout. Stress has, to some extent, become the modus operandi.

Let's consider some brain related facts:

  • Our brain's pre-frontal cortex (which is in charge of many of the functions we use at work) does not work properly when we are stressed. You can almost think about stress as an ''on/off switch'' for the brain.
  • In our study, Exercise4BrainFitness, non-stressed employees scored 24% higher on executive function performance than their stressed peers.
  • Other studies have found that presenteism costs ten times that of absenteism, or equivalent to three months per person per year. Put differently, that is 25% of your payroll.
  • Scientific studies have found that we spend around 30-50% of our time ''mind-wandering'' on things unrelated to what we're supposed to be focusing on, and nearly one third of that time is spent on negative thoughts.

That's a lot of brain energy and individual potential going to waste.

This also means... not only are employees at risk of severely damaging their bodies and brains, as an employer you're also only getting a fraction of their true potential and performance. 

Physical activity and some forms of ''active disconnection'', e.g. mindfulness, meditation and yoga will release neurotransmitters in our bodies which can have immediate (as well as more long term) positive effects on our brains. E.g. employees can become more focused, better planners and decision makers - and ultimately feel, be and perform the best the can.

Thus, if we start broadening our horizons to recognise the brain-body connection and focus more on the impact stressful environments and unhealthy living can have also on our brains - then, we should start to see the more immediate returns of Corporate Wellbeing. But we will only find it if we look for it.

Thus - the true busines case for corporate wellbeing is not to be found in cost cutting and absence reduction, but in healthy bodies & brains - which will lead to individual (and organisational!) potential maximisation.