Environmental, social and governance (ESG) has become a cornerstone of corporate attitudes. Throughout the last decade, companies have ramped up their sustainability initiatives and concentrated on creating diverse and equitable teams. However, employee well-being tends to get overlooked.
Following nearly three years of pandemic pandemonium, employees, companies, and investors view health as integral to the future workforce. Businesses that want to thrive should invest in their workers’ mental and physical health.
Poor health among employees comes at a cost to businesses across the United States. The U.S. economy loses $3.2 trillion annually from lost productivity and premature mortality. Sadly, this isn’t all too surprising — Americans between 20 and 40 years old are 46%-50% more susceptible to diseases.
The pandemic heightened employees’ concerns about health. Although fears of contracting COVID-19 have subsided, 26% of Americans still worry about catching it amid return-to-office mandates.
Mental health has also taken center stage. Aside from many people feeling shaken by the pandemic, the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that emotional wellness is gravely impacted by rising inflation, employee monitoring, workplace discrimination and office toxicity. It has become so crucial that 81% consider mental health benefits when applying for jobs.
Wellness woes and health-related absenteeism are signs employers can no longer afford to put their teams’ health on the back burner. In a time when work-life balance is as crucial as health benefits, perks and occupational safety, companies should make more room for employee wellness in their ESG strategies.
Businesses will see a high return on investment (ROI) in employee wellness. The benefits of strategizing new initiatives for workers’ health include the following:
- Ample savings on health care costs
- Healthier employers for greater productivity
- Less absenteeism
- High job satisfaction and morale
- Improved hiring and retention rates
- Potential tax incentives
Employees have shown greater interest in company-offered wellness initiatives and are apt to participate. As a result, leaders can build a culture of health and well-being with the right approach.
Although businesses can take several measures to implement a health-based ESG strategy, they should provide programs and incentives that matter most to employees in the current economy.
Businesses calling workers back to the office should invest in upgraded technologies and designs for enhanced comfort. Removing potential hazards like mold and asbestos will also improve employee well-being. Those that smoke have a 90 times greater chance of developing lung cancer when exposed to asbestos.
A focus on hygiene and cleanliness is also necessary — that means business owners should work with HVAC specialists to optimize their heating and cooling systems. Likewise, a chief sustainability officer may suggest energy-efficient updates to improve performance, aligning with the company’s sustainability and health-related ESG goals.
Investing in wellness programs demonstrates care for workers’ health. Some potential offerings could include the following:
- Nutrition counseling
- On-site fitness centers or classes
- Smoking cessation coaching
- Career and mentorship opportunities
- Bike-sharing or public transit programs
- Yoga and meditation classes
- Workplace paramedical offerings, such as massages
- Employee assistance programs
- Wellness screenings
- Healthy snacks and lunches
Business owners have countless other ways to implement unique wellness programs for their teams. Rather than pull back on these perks and incentives, employers should continue investing in and expanding their offerings.
Demands for flexible scheduling have employees deadlocked with bosses that want them back in the office. Many see the end of remote work as an end to work-life balance.
Studies have shown that work-life balance can increase job satisfaction by 8.3% and retention by 4.4%. A hybrid schedule enables employees to spend more time with their families, care for personal needs and receive enrichment from activities they enjoy.
According to HR global leader Randstad’s Workmonitor 2023 report, 93.7% of workers agree that work-life balance is crucial for career happiness. Additionally, 83% want flexible hours, while 71% want the option to work off-site.
Employees proved they could keep up productivity from home. By providing flexibility, businesses demonstrate trust in their teams and genuine care for workers’’ well-being.
Making employee wellness a cornerstone of a company’s ESG strategy is the best way for businesses to ramp up productivity and achieve their goals. Healthy workers are also happier — becoming a workforce that trusts leadership and is excited to contribute and be part of the team.
Jane Marsh is Editor-in-Chief at Environment.co.