How can leaders embed the concept of wellbeing throughout their organisations?
First, leaders need to understand the importance of creating a wellbeing culture, and second, understand that not all leaders from shop floor to top floor have interpersonal skills – this is part of the problem with productivity.
Many organisations in both the private and public sector have had to downsize due to the recession (anywhere from 20-40%). Therefore, there are fewer workers who are now doing more work, and being bottom-line managed. As a consequence of that we have a growing sickness absence problem in what are referred to as the ‘common mental health disorders’, these being stress, anxiety and depression. These are now the leading cause of sickness absence to the UK economy – costing £26 billion per annum, and that’s a direct cost to employers.
The UK’s productivity per capita is very poor. This is because we don’t have the right culture in place and we don’t have the right line managers. Our productivity per capita is seventh in the G7. Leadership needs to focus on getting the costs down and focus on how to make your people more productive. The line manager is critical when it comes to this. If the managers can’t communicate properly with their people it simply won’t work, therefore we need more socially skilled line managers.
Technology is another issue; email is having a counter-productive effect. People are overloaded, and it’s interfering with work-life balance. As a leader, if you have control over technology and flexible working, you will have higher productivity per capita. It’s not low because we don’t have the right resources; we are one of the leading countries in consumer technologies in the world. The government argues we don’t have the right equipment – that’s not it; it’s that we have a culture where people don’t want to contribute or can’t contribute. There are enough returns on this to prove it’s needed going forward.