Employees sacrifice wellbeing for company productivity


Engagement is a hot topic currently - and rightly so. In this era of skills shortages, rising costs and general economic uncertainty - focusing on 'engagement' makes good financial sense. ...

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Research seen exclusively by HR magazine suggests businesses are not taking wellbeing seriously

Three-quarters (74%) of HR professionals think employees are sacrificing their wellbeing to make a good impression, according to research from wellbeing charity CABA.

The research, seen exclusively by HR magazine, asked 172 HR professionals if employee output was more important than wellbeing. Two in five (42%) agreed it was.

Businesses were found to be putting pressure on staff to work outside of their contracted hours. More than four in 10 (41%) stated that their employer expected staff to work overtime regularly or very regularly, and another 31% claimed there was an expectation for employees to regularly check emails in the evening and at the weekend.

HR professionals are affected too, with 30% reporting that they work overtime on a daily basis, and another 30% working on their days off or at the weekend. Nearly two-thirds (61%) encountered stressful situations several times a week, including 18% having employees take their frustrations out on them at least once a week. A further 33% agreed this happens throughout the month.

Kelly Feehan, services director for CABA, warned that HR could be failing to properly support staff. “HR is there to help champion employees, as well as enable the business to deliver best practice that supports employees and gives them the opportunity to thrive,” she said. “However, it seems the desire to make a good impression or keep up with demanding workloads means HR [professionals] are falling into the same pitfalls as employees.

“This isn’t a long-term, sustainable practice. HR needs to be setting the example throughout the business, and championing a positive work/life balance, so that fellow employees feel empowered to do what’s right for them in terms of the balance between work and rest.”

The research found that employee wellbeing is not high on the corporate agenda, with 33% saying wellbeing strategies are not taken seriously within their business.

Feehan highlighted the impact that a strong wellbeing programme could have. “Well-rested employees are more productive, so for employers to be driving their workforce to the edge of burnout is illogical,” she said. “Investing in employee wellbeing will reap the rewards – taking a dismissive approach is short-sighted and fails to recognise how businesses have evolved.

“Trusting HR [professionals] to help employees thrive, and set manageable boundaries in the process will most likely increase output and more importantly engagement. The success of a business can’t simply be measured on sales; retention, engagement and client relationships should also be judged, all of which can be influenced by how well an employee is feeling on a day-to-day basis.”


Ironically, the title suggests that people are aiming to be more productive by sacrificing their wellbeing, when science shows the opposite to be true. One of the costliest mistakes a business can make is to assume that longer hours means greater and better output. It is easy enough to be duped into thinking that greater Face Time = greater Results, (I was once one of those people) but our brains simply aren't built that way. We need downtime, we need to recharge. Sure, we can sit at your desk all day staring at a screen typing away, but there have been plenty of studies to show that people produce much more and are more creative when they take regular breaks, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and take time out to relax and spend time with friends and family. Whenever I am stuck on a problem for too long, I put on my running shoes and head out for a walk/run - I almost always come up with an innovative solution as a result. Clearly there are times when people need to work overtime, including weekends. The problem arises when it becomes the expected norm and people do sacrifice their wellbeing in the long-term. Some of the most successful companies invest heavily in wellbeing and reap the benefits.


Engagement is a hot topic currently - and rightly so. In this era of skills shortages, rising costs and general economic uncertainty - focusing on 'engagement' makes good financial sense. Businesses that have successfully 'Operationalised Engagement', i.e. are actively driving an ROI from their investments in engagement, are the ones who encourage employee work/life balance. In a new book called "Human Capital - Your Last Differentiator" the author Gregg Gordon highlights three key elements to engagement - Transparency (communication and sharing with employees the 'Big Picture', Trust (empowerment, training and the right tools) and Respect (understand the whole person, making people feel valued and giving recognition). Respecting your employees means also understating their needs and lives outside of work.


"Kelly Feehan, services director for CABA, warned that HR could be failing to properly support staff" A commitment to wellbeing comes right from the top. If the CEO and exec team aren't committed to it, then HR from an operational/support side are unlikely to be able to support staff properly.

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