Employee wellness programmes are set to overtake flexible working practices as the focus of companies’ attempts to drive up staff morale and productivity, delegates heard.
Neil Snowball, global head of wellness at Goldman Sachs, said firms were “waking up to the realisation” that they can increase productivity more by concentrating on wellness and the working environment than through introducing flexible working practices.
Joseph Leutzinger, president of the Academy for Health and Productivity Management, agreed, adding that companies would have to “increasingly rely on the wellness of their employees to gain a competitive edge”.
He said that as companies moved towards a period of “advanced knowledge”, the skills levels of the top employees would be similar from company to company, meaning that the health and wellbeing of employees would be key to maximising performance.
“A healthy workforce will be a successful one and a higher performing one,” he said.
Leutzinger also said too many firms viewed wellness as being about cutting absence rates rather than about getting more out of employees while they were at work.
“Being healthy at work, rather than just being at work, could mean as much as 10 hours difference in productivity per week, per employee,” he said.
Snowball added the challenge for firms now was to create “more effective measurement techniques” to provide evidence to the board of the value of wellness activities.
That view was echoed by Mike Hall, chief executive of Standard Life Healthcare, who urged other CEOs to be “more passionate” about health issues.
“All chief executives will tell you their people are their most valuable asset, but hardly any of them take an interest in training and well-being,” he said. “You have got to get support from the people at the top.”