(Originally posted on Jan 31, 2021)
Our reality, all businesses have been affected by COVID 19. The ways of impact defer from absenteeism, changes in patterns of commerce, changes in supply and delivery, and the understated presence of increased anxiety and stress amongst managers and employees.
Considering these, to ensure business sustainability, there is no better time than the present to revise the business plan and develop innovative approaches to drive your business forward. Whether you are an SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) or a Large Enterprise, re-strategising is vital to staying a float, and even getting ahead in these COVID times. During these ‘make-overs’ as they are, it is important to realise the Human impact in our Human Resources which lends to the reality that Health, Safety and Wellness in our lifetime are now forever tied globally to business continuity. The only difference I see in the Caribbean will be our starting point for change, as investments of this nature are usually only embraced by Large Enterprises. SMEs, culturally have not seen the need for heavy investments in Health and Safety nor in the long-term retainment of employees.
But with the changing economic landscape, making smart financial and human resource decisions, regardless of the size of your business, will set the pace and culture for success. Investing in Workplace Intervention Programmes/ Employee Assistance Programmes and dabbling in the Corporate Social Responsibility Policy has become popular in the Corporate World but has often been the first to be cut when a financial crisis hits. The present financial crisis differs significantly from those of the recent past as it is linked to Health. For economists and business developers, it will be absurd to remove these key players from the business equation. What is needed, however, is redefining the capabilities of such programmes to match International Research and crossover into new territories where a lasting positive effect will remain. Due to the increasing levels of anxiety and poor mental health arising out of the various consequences of a ‘lockdown’, loss of jobs, loss of loved ones and changes in work, managing the health, safety and wellbeing of Employees and Managers is imperative. In the pre-COVID era, the last report in January 2020 from Deloitte UK, suggested that UK employers lost £42 - £45 billion due to poor mental alone. This was made up of absence costs of around £7 billion, presenteeism costs ranged from about £27 billion to £29 billion and turnover costs of around £9 billion. Absenteeism can be because of a direct effect of stress on the body which manifests in the form of physical symptoms such as Migraines, Lower Back Pain, Gastro-intestinal problems and even lowering our immune system causing us to be more susceptible to infectious diseases. This results in recurrent Sick Leave and unscheduled absences, which both have cost implications. But what was more compelling is the fact that ‘Presenteeism’ costs businesses 3 times more than absences. Presenteeism is when a worker goes to work but under performs due to poor health/ mental health. This loss of productivity costs organisations and even small businesses more than taking a sick day alone. With a similar footprint globally, small investments in Health, Safety and Wellness dictates the financial future of businesses, especially in these COVID times. The designing of such workplace interventions can start with simple COVID 19 Risk Assessments for the Workplace and for Employees, along with Employee Education and Wellness techniques, for any size business. These can also go beyond COVID into unique Employee Assistance Programmes which can assess your organisation’s cultures, human resource policies, your approach to safety and how to best manage individual employee wellbeing. Programmes like these are best developed with experts such as Occupational Health professionals, Psychologists and Allied Healthcare Workers, working as a team to achieve a common goal of turning better health into wealth, for the benefit of all. To ensure success and a good ROI, the level of engagement of the Business Owner and of the Employee is crucial. There is a saying that goes “Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I learn.” Having worked with many companies and various industries at home and in the Middle East, I have observed that the single most important factor when determining the depth of engagement in Health, Safety and Wellness strategies is the foresight of the leadership team steering the vision of the company, regardless of the company's size or budget. This is where true leadership potential shines. Interestingly though, stepping into the future armed with the tools for success isn’t for everyone but we at Noor Corporate Health are here for those ready to embark on a rewarding and fulfilling journey of Corporate Health, Safety and Wellness. After all, we epitomise, ‘Wellness in a New Light.’