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Are wellbeing and employee productivity mutually exclusive?

Wellbeing 18 Sep . min read
As Sir Richard Branson famously said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” That’s the kind of mindset that leaders and business owners must give focus if they want to see their workforce flourish and innovate.


Think about it: treat them well, look after them - genuinely care - and they’ll do great things for themselves, and your business. It’s not just a nice position to be in, it’s fundamental for healthy, balanced and high-performing motivated people. 

Look at Unilever, for over ten years their wellbeing framework has been a crucial part of their global corporate brand. It supports people in four key areas of wellbeing: physical, purposeful, mental and emotional. All aspects are important for overall wellbeing and all are equally relevant, regardless of what individuals' needs are, for forming an “environment that is supportive of employees’ personal lives, while meeting our business needs.” 

The benefits of wellbeing on productivity

The best wellbeing programmes support important short and long-term health and business benefits. You saw with Unilever that it’s all about structuring the programmes in a way that they highlight the focus areas, and then packaging them up so that all employees can see the relevance to them personally.

But what does that mean for productivity? In the short term, you can expect to see healthier people. And healthy, balanced and purposeful people who feel safe, get stuff done. Not only through reduced illness and the resulting lower levels of sick leave, but through people being more motivated and more productive. 

It’s the long-term benefits that shift the way you do business and provide a launch pad for a sustainable workforce. Boosts in new strategies, collaboration amongst teams and higher project completion rates lead to new initiatives and more wins. You’ll also be contributing to a reduction in cost for public healthcare, a natural derivative for workplace support of wellbeing.

The motivational launch pad

Your people are your greatest asset; if you help to improve and maintain their wellbeing, their day-to-day platform for potential will grow. New Zealand businesses are doing a good job of this and seeing positive results: employees are on-board with future plans and less resistant to change, and leaders are empowering their teams to step up and make a difference, plus actively supporting career choices. You want people in your team who want to be part of the bigger picture, and they’re actively searching for organisations that work this way. They believe in what you’re trying to achieve. These are people with purpose. And you support that purpose when you take care of their wellbeing.

In energising that purpose you’re shaping focused, optimistic, and successful team players who feel empowered to own their roles, take calculated risks and drive the company forward. Sure, some risks won’t work out but at least overall contribution and the drive to perform better will result in meaningful decisions and greater resilience.

Show your people, don’t tell them

The employee-employer relationship is super special one, but it’s fragile. Showing employees that you care, that you have genuine concern for their wellbeing plays a pivotal role in keeping things humming. Besides being clear about the initiative in’s and out’s, the best way to do that is to make it personal: tell your stories, explain how you were supported, how management made wellbeing an initiative that benefited you. It’ll show employees that your talk isn’t just fluff, but that wellbeing is a real and important part of operating sustainably and productively.