Research by MIT Sloan Management Review in March 2022 revealed that people are leaving their workplaces due to toxic work environments. A toxic work environment often sees the presence of what is described as the ‘Toxic Five’ attributes — disrespectful, non-inclusivity, unethical behaviour, cutthroat and backstabbing behaviour, and abusiveness, including bullying, harassment and hostility.
These attributes and a host of other behaviours lead to employee disengagement, negative comments about the employer and employees eventually quitting the company. MIT Sloan’s review has also indicated that employee attrition is not just limited to smaller companies. Even highly innovative organisations are experiencing higher attrition rates than their competitors.
Any organisation wishing to stop the rotting of their cultures, reputation and success must be aware of the toxicity in the work environment and pave strategies and actions to turn it around.
A key strategy that organisations may embed into practice is the Culture of Health or COH. The concept of COH is derived from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Harvard University, which uses a 4-pillar framework to examine organisational and societal well-being. One of the pillars is Employee Health.
Employee health hinges on the treatment of the workers in the organisation. The way people are treated often acts as the driver of employee turnover; therefore, how employers approach employee health needs to be reviewed to stop the brain drain in organisations.
The message that the Culture of Health framework pushes for, is the implementation of programmes and initiatives that ensure the highest standards of health and wellbeing of employees across the organisation’s operations and policies.
What strategies can we implement in the Employee Health pillar to engage employees? Here are some tips:
Employee Emotional Wellbeing
A June 2020 survey by McKinsey discovered that nine out of 10 employers reported negative effects of Covid 19 on their employees’ mental and emotional health, while SilverCloud Health’s 2021 research showed noticeable mental health issues of anxiety and depression in two-thirds of the employees surveyed.
According to Kirkham (2022), companies may look at several options, including reducing stress by managing workloads efficiently by providing greater flexibility in the allocation and scheduling of work, including remote working options to reduce workplace social interaction stresses. Organisations can also train and equip managers with skills to address
mental and emotional health issues, encouraging an open environment for employees to come forward and get the assistance they require. They can also provide employee assistance programmes for counselling and psychological support as well as training on mental and emotional health awareness. The availability of such programmes needs to be well communicated organisation-wide.
Employee Physical Wellbeing
An emphasis on physical well-being can help mitigate health risks at the workplace. According to World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s 2021 report, efforts to enable this aspect may include providing access to healthcare such as medical coverage, insurance and basic onsite medical facilities, sponsoring gym or sports memberships and supporting healthier lifestyle options by providing healthy options in canteens and vending machines, optimising indoor environmental quality and introducing health-related apps and platforms.
Employee Financial Wellbeing
Financial wellbeing is a state of wellness that arises out of the ability to manage
finance-related issues one faces. The rising pressures of the cost of living, housing,
medical care and education contribute to anxiety and fears for the future. A 2022 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey suggests that 56 per cent of employees say that their financial stress has increased since the pandemic and expressed the need for support from their organisations.
To address the financial well-being of their people and organisations can pay living wages that allow employees to meet basic needs and at the same time enjoy leisure and financial security. They can also conduct financial literacy and financial management programmes that educate employees on financial issues and offer financial assistance programmes such as grants or study loans and scholarships or training and employee loans.
Organisations need to realise that the well-being of their people often translates into several business benefits, including greater productivity, improved retention and an increase in the psychological contract between employees and their organisations. An emphasis on employee health and wellbeing also acts as a key factor in the attraction of talent and in creating a positive employer brand. Covid-19 has prompted many to reset the way employers and employees work together. Businesses that fail to reset this relationship run the risk of being left behind by competitors who use the culture of health as their competitive leverage.
By Vijaya Malar V Arumugam, School of Hospitality and Service Management, Sunway University; assisted by Dr Tan Ai Ling, Ng Siew Cheng and Dr Sivakumari Supramaniam