Guest Post by Simone Fenton-Jarvis, Director Workplace Consultancy at Relogix

How many times have you heard a business leader say that people are their greatest asset? It’s a common mantra, especially when times are tough. Revenue drops or a pandemic hits, and all of a sudden, it’s the employees who the company owners rely on and recognize as the secret sauce behind its success.

But what about in the good times? Instead of being a ‘fair-weather friend,’ the best business leaders take this view all – not just some – of the time, and rightfully attribute their prosperity and success to those who make, sell, and market their products. They see the big picture and understand the importance of creating a human-driven culture centered around their employees. People are the purpose behind everything they do.

A large driver for this has been the COVID era, which flipped the script on how businesses operate. The 9-to-5 workdays gave way to hybrid, flex, and remote structures that are now increasingly the norm. Employees welcomed the change, and employers accommodated them, despite initial concerns by pundits and business owners that productivity and engagement would suffer.

It didn’t happen. In fact, a recent Reuters article highlighted  that “little change in productivity or trend growth” is expected to impact the U.S. economy as a result of the pandemic.

The Great Resignation or the Great Realization

Over the past few years, many companies that eschewed remote work suffered what was dubbed “The Great Resignation” as employees realized there were greener pastures with employers who considered peoples’ needs over established work norms.

By contrast, I prefer to call this period “The Great Realization” where employees looked for employers that value purpose and putting their needs first over dictating the place the work gets done. A significant driver of this movement continues to be employee wellness and its strong correlation to engagement with the workplace. In fact, according to Gallup, disengaged workers are 63% more likely to call in sick and burned-out employees are three times as likely to be on the look-out for a different job.

Compare that to businesses that emphasize wellness programs to build employee engagement who experience: 20% greater sales; 21% higher profitability; 17% productivity boost. Many businesses launch wellness programs with good intentions but scale back due to perceived impacts on revenue and costs.

The initial costs may feel burdensome, but leaders must consider the bigger picture – what’s the cost of not doing it? According to the World Health Organization, a $1 investment in mental health programs results in a $4 return in improved employee health and productivity. Well-being initiatives equate to hiring great people and providing top-notch tools for employees to perform their work. Each require budget but pay off in the long run.

Money aside, businesses should emphasize educating leadership on the necessity and benefits of well-being cultures underpinned by solid programs to deliver the value-driven cultures. This includes understanding issues and challenges employees may face in both their work and personal lives. Finances are a great example. Nearly three-quarters of employees experienced moderate to extreme personal financial stress in the first half of 2022, according to a John Hancock report.

Company leaders can’t control how employees spend and save, but they can offer resources to assist and help educate their workers through hard times. They should ask questions, listen to concerns, share personal anecdotes, and continually direct employees to business-sponsored wellness resources. Ultimately, it comes down to communication and action. Value-driven cultures are built around transparent, proactive dialogue between leadership and employees, leaders doing what they said they were going to do. The simple act of caring about people over budget will pay off via productivity and engagement over the long haul.  It’s time to put your people first and look at the work they do, the reason they do it, who they’re working with and the tools they need – only then should location come into the equation.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis is Director Workplace Consultancy at Relogix