Insurance · 19 January 2016

Ways to improve staff productivity and wellbeing

It's important to channel staff members' good intentions
It’s important to channel staff members’ good intentions

Improving productivity and business growth isn’t about pushing your staff to do more, more, more, in the most efficient way possible. Improving staff productivity is about investing in your physical and mental health.

Did you know that most employees want their employers to help them to make positive lifestyle changes? Research published by Bupa found that a significant majority of employees (85 per cent) believe they would be more productive if they were able to stick to positive lifestyle changes. Two in five (44 per cent) of those questioned would love their work to help them achieve those changes.

These changes include exercising more (65 per cent), losing weight (61 per cent), eating less sugar (48 per cent) and drinking less alcohol (36 per cent).

Alcohol consumption amongst adults has never been such a hot topic. The government recently issued new guidance on alcohol consumption, the first revision in 20 years. Men are now encouraged to drink no more than 14 units a week, the same as for women.

Dry January has also been increasing in popularity, with more and more people taking a month’s break from drinking alcohol. Most adults who have taken part report health benefits including weight loss and better sleep, according to Alcohol Concern, the charity behind the awareness month. And if employees believe that positive lifestyle changes like this will make them more productive at work, it is a good incentive to look at ways you can help them to achieve those goals.

You may well be thinking that we are already halfway through January, but it’s never too late to start. What about inventing your own campaign for employees beginning in February?

Bupa’s research found that goal setting (34 per cent); rewards (29 per cent), peer support (20 per cent) and competition (19 per cent) would help employees to make positive changes to their lifestyles. So if your whole team is involved there is a far greater chance of any lifestyle changes sticking.

The first goal could be to help and motivate your employees to reduce, or even stop, their alcohol consumption for the month. For each day your staff go without drinking you could all put a pound in a pot to be spent on a staff event at the end of the month (preferably not to a bar!).

Another step would be to inspire your team to take up exercise if they don’t already. How about encouraging employees to cycle to work, or make it clear they can take an hour off for exercise during the day, provided it doesn’t conflict with meetings. Your employees will return from their workout refreshed and better focused on their job. Time lost on exercise is made back and more in terms of improved staff productivity – research backs this up.

It is well known that a good nights sleep makes everything seem better in the morning. There are simple ways that you can play a part in helping your employees to sleep more soundly, like helping them reduce their caffeine consumption. How about changing the office-supply of tea and coffee to decaffeinated options and provide herbal teas? You could also look into and recommend one of the free apps that monitor sleep cycles.

What about encouraging your team to eat lunch away from their desk? Getting out of the office, or even away from a computer for lunch every day isn’t always easy, but if it’s a culture set by senior management employees will feel they can. Taking a break is well known to help reduce stress which can have a positive impact on mental health.

Burning the midnight oil for weeks on end doesn’t help anyone achieve a work-life balance and can cause burn out. What about allowing each member of staff to finish earlier one night a week for that month to help them to unwind and take up an out-of-work leisure pursuit?

If you are a perfectionist, let it go and encourage your team to do the same. Someone’s best efforts should be enough rather than trying to meet every goal at the highest level. Perfectionism can impede staff productivity levels – if you spend excessive time fussing over minute details it can prevent you from moving on to other tasks.

Improving staff productivity and helping your employees to make positive lifestyle changes could be simpler than you think.

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Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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