There is no doubt that the world of business has come a long way since the days of the industrial revolution when many people where considered just another cog in the production wheel.
But how far have we really come in understanding what it takes to optimise the contribution, efficiency and productivity of people at work?
Too often I observe leaders underestimating the importance of their team’s health and wellbeing to their ability to optimise business results. To drive productivity two things matter the most: first that people turn up to do their job and second that they apply the full strength of their talent and energy to achieving the task at hand. Neither of these things is likely to happen when people are either unwell or unhappy.
Put simply ‘productivity’ is an efficiency ratio of outputs versus inputs: a measure of the rate at which goods or services are produced. It has long been understood that effective engagement of ‘labour’ is critical and underpins the results achieved in any production process. And yet research consistently shows the ongoing battle to overcome high rates of absenteeism and disengagement in workforces around the world.
According to a 2010 PwC report Workplace Wellness in Australia, the cost of absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $7 billion each year. The report also reveals the cost of presenteeism is nearly four times more, estimated at almost $26 billion in 2005 to 06. ‘Presenteeism’ is the impact of people turning up for work but failing to contribute all that they are capable of. While presenteeism can reflect a broad range of engagement challenges the influence of poor health and wellbeing shouldn’t be underestimated.
Typically only 20 to 30% of people report a strong sense of commitment to and connection with their work. More than 50% of people are indifferent to the jobs they do and organisations they work for. What this data reveals is that on average 70 to 80% of the global workforce is functioning at a suboptimal level. There is a staggering amount of untapped potential just waiting to be unleashed by leaders who understand how to influence the strength of the their teams spirit and engagement.
It’s critical that managers understand that when people are both mentally and physically well they are entirely more likely to be energised and connected with what they are doing. While we are all unique in how we respond to our circumstances, when unwell or unhappy the spirit of most people will be drained. That is, the depth of positive energy we have in reserve and draw on to get our job done is diminished. There is no question that the strength of our spirit profoundly impacts on the choices we make about how to behave and in turn what we are able to achieve.
When energised, people are entirely more likely to be focused, resilient, optimistic, determined and driven. In other words, to behave in ways that optimise productivity. In contrast, when drained of positive energy people more often choose to behave in ways that undermine success. Lethargy, apathy, hesitation, guardedness and resistance are just a few examples of the types of behaviours that are productivity killers.
Working to positively influence the health and wellbeing of your team is unquestionably commercially smart. In my second book The People Managers Toolkit I share why the environment in which people work and the strength of their relationships matter as much as they do to their wellbeing and success at work. I share what I have learned about the things that have greatest influence on the strength of the human spirit, and the business results that are subsequently achieved.