HR and Health & Safety
Healthy people, healthy business

Trainer and health coach Rich Ellis explains the compliance and business performance benefits that come from looking after the health and well-being of your employees.

Richard Branson, as an easy example, is a big believer in looking after his employees first, ahead of customers and shareholders. He believes that this supportive, nurturing environment will create a culture of motivated driven employees who are more likely to do a good enough job to delight customers who will vote with their wallets and in turn give shareholders the value and return they are looking for.
Does your business provide benefits for the team? 
The Warehouse Group makes a point of giving people the day off on their birthday. There are other benefits like product discounts. 
But compliance and benefits don’t usually go hand in hand. One is a safety thing and the other is seen as a ‘cost’ rather than a way to leverage a tax benefit.

Tax benefits for employers
When Exercise New Zealand and the IRD sat down they decided to make things better for businesses and those working for businesses. The SMEAEP programme was born. 
This under-utilised programme offered by only a couple of handfuls of people around New Zealand allows businesses to not only claim the investment back as a standard expense but also avoid paying fringe benefit tax at 49 percent. Both these are payable on standard gym membership type arrangements for businesses.

The Health and Safety Act 2015, updated from the 1992 legislation, amongst other things requires stress to be managed in the workplace. It comes in two forms according to the Act. Stress may be caused because of a hazard or, may be the cause of a hazard. Either way employers must have processes in place to monitor and manage both of these.

High performance
What if a programme that was focused around the wellbeing and health of the employees of a business meant they actually performed better? This may be measured in absenteeism, productivity, physical and mental health. 
What if that investment in the workforce meant the business performed better both from a financial point of view but also from a preferred employer perspective – looking from the outside in. Potential employees will undoubtedly scope out company benefits as a key aspect of their job search. Having a programme in place is a massive point of difference if all other things are equal.

Return on investment
Ron Goetzel of Cornell University has said there may be as much as a three to four-fold return on investment with these programmes. 
Does your business measure more than just what the payroll data spits out? Is it analysed for opportunities so that the business can improve on its current position? 

If a business of 500 employees lost a day of sickness for each person, multiplied by the average hourly rate of, let’s say $25, that’s a loss of $12,500. If even 50 percent of those were recouped that’s $6,250 saved. 
If that same business invested $12k in a programme that saw some of those 500 people supported, given a programme to improve their fitness, their eating and sleep habits for example – do you think that would be well invested? 
If the stats are correct the amount of lost time in businesses is into the millions, if not billions. Research by Business NZ and Southern Cross Society found workers were absent for an average of 4.4 days in 2016. That was down from 4.7 in 2014 but still cost employers around $1.5 billion a year. 
Interestingly ten percent of absenteeism was thought to be caused by people taking sick days when they weren’t actually sick. The research found that stress levels had risen a lot in those two years as well.

Get it the right way round
Many businesses still put shareholder value at the top of their list when they effuse their business points of difference or share their 60-second elevator pitch with someone. 
But logically if the shareholder value is generated out of positive performance from sales then those sales must be generated by a motivated sales force – in simplistic terms. 
Therefore it makes sense to look at those responsible for making the business perform if you want to improve that performance. 
Just paying people to turn up every day isn’t enough. Leadership is required and finding ways to give your team the feeling of belonging, and being part of something bigger than themselves that they are contributing to, is what may make them tick. Tap into that and add a supportive culture where everyone is heard and provided for may make the difference between good and great.

Rich Ellis is an award winning trainer and health coach at Fit 4 Life and a registered SMEAEP provider.

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