My view: Investing in wellbeing

Jane Pavia-Davis, md of Vista Public Relations, offers her view on why business success should be measured around human capital and professional development, and not just growth and profit.

The Covid-19 pandemic was unique in that it affected every single one of us. As restrictions lift across England for anyone testing positive, our economic, social, physical and mental recovery will be far from a linear process.

When, for so long the standard measure for business success has been profit and growth, the pandemic turned a sharp focus to human capital and the business resilience resting on the shoulders and commitment of employees working remotely.

Business set-up dictates you start with a financial plan, a product and sales and marketing strategy and growth projections, not employee satisfaction, retention or investment. Our business had one fundamental objective and that was to prove that a PR firm could be successful with strong family-orientated principles: flexible hours for working parents, results driven part-time contracts, flexible holiday allowance with extra family days encouraged. This framework, at the time was such a stretch it was a challenge to draw up any kind of legal contract with those parameters, so trust and respecting boundaries was also placed firmly at our core. Eight years later, our resilience to the pandemic was due to our commitment to the wellbeing of the people working within the business.

Research from Westfield Health, with 1,600 employees and HR leaders during Nov-Jan 2021 estimated £14 billion was lost to mental health days during the last year and mental health-related absences on the rise. While business leaders scrutinise numbers to implement business recovery, the research reveals there must be a keener focus on safeguarding employee wellbeing.

Dave Capper, ceo at Westfield Health, added: “Across the country, business leaders are looking in the wrong direction. Keen financial management will, of course, be essential to recovery, but it cannot come at the cost of people. Without engaged, highly productive employees, recovery will be at best limited and at worst impossible.”

According to Deloitte, investing in wellbeing pays. According to the business, every £1 spent on workplace mental health interventions, the business gets back £5.

There is no doubt that a high level of wellbeing correlates with productivity and business profitability and the pandemic has forced all of us to review our personal limitations and priorities. Many people placed on the Furlough Scheme took the chance for personal development and new learning. Will employers capitalise on this opportunity to support further development and reward initiative? Is it time to shake up objective methods of ‘performance review’ to include more emotive, subjective measures, such as demonstrating pride and passion for the business, being a great team collaborator or achieving personal development?

Emerging from the pandemic and the last remaining restrictions, what have business leaders learned about the real value of their employees and an energetic, committed and enthusiastic workforce?

For this team, the pandemic has had a reverse effect on our desire for flexibility. We are moving to a new creative workspace where we are each selecting an art print for the walls and our office hours together will increase. Our monthly client deep dives will include sharing and celebrating our personal HSDs – high satisfaction days – and I know our business will be even stronger for it.

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