Employee wellbeing can solve the UK’s productivity Groundhog Day

With the slowest growth in UK productivity in 25 years, is a focus on employee health and wellbeing the key to kickstarting the dawn of a new day?

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Ever seen the 1993 film Groundhog Day? The one where the animal of the same name, Punxsutawney Phil, predicts a prolonged winter, or the early arrival of spring bloom? 

The release of UK’s labour productivity performance metrics feels much the same. The UK has been stuck in Groundhog Day on productivity growth for more than a decade. In fact, according to research from the University of Sussex and Loughborough, we’re seeing the slowest productivity growth for 250 years.  This is the bit where Bill Murray says, “Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?”

If GDP is ultimately about producing, we’re already busy doing that. The bigger question is, are we contributing our best? The answer is no. For any startup, this is unthinkable, unaffordable, and hurts far more. 

Employee health impacts productivity

Psychological and physical health, accompanied by factors outside work and job satisfaction all impact how well an employee functions in the day-to-day activities supporting their ability to perform. Poor health has a significant impact on absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as claims risk. 

However, employers can play a part in encouraging healthy practices, better work-life balance, and workload management techniques. Relationships with peers and the experience of being managed are also highly critical factors. They have a large impact on work and personal satisfaction and determine the desire to be heard, willingness to put in discretionary effort, and whether we inspire those around us. Simple but probing questions such as how many coworkers add value to the team help reveal opportunities to really sense and check our belief in each other. 

Employee feedback

Culture and business hygiene measurement is typically limited to boardroom feedback. But, understanding if the company is getting things right across all hierarchies changes the picture significantly. Asking whether employees feel comfortable taking their issues to their manager’s manager or whether status and reputation are earned through performance, reveal some incredibly telling insights. Democratising the survey together with privacy-based reporting helps everyone get an honest appraisal of the impact of their chosen culture on the business. 

Work environment

Every business should pay attention to the strong relationship between work environments and productivity. Assembling these factors opened us up to the world of facilities management and real-estate, and the investments made into curating and maintaining workspaces were eye-opening. 

In one company with 311 employees, the surveys found lighting and temperature alone contributed to three days lost time per employee/year. Overall, that’s a whopping three years’ work time loss for the company over a single year. Imagine the impact of untimely disruptions, lack of self-discipline, struggling with isolation, and poor IT systems. It all adds up. 

The value context

A study conducted by Bain & Co and reported by Harvard Business Review, found that manager perception of employee value was being reevaluated to better connect input to output ratio and outcomes. The results posited engaged employees delivered 144% perceived value to managers while inspired colleagues climbed to 225% value. 

Know the impact

According to the Engagement Institute: “Poor employee engagement costs organisations on average £210 per employee per month. That’s about 6% of payroll.” 

Final thoughts

The startup environment is the perfect breeding ground for talent because startups are more flexible, trusting, accepting, engaging, and supportive. Bill Murray makes it through Groundhog Day by making a series of marginal gains every day which eventually lead his character to success.  To deliver long-term success startups need to look at the marginal productivity gains they can unlock by making changes which enable their team members to flourish.

Ali Khan, CEO of SHAPE Global
Ali Khan - CEO of SHAPE Global

Ali Khan is a healthcare and connectivity executive and entrepreneur. He is known for founding, developing, and delivering transformative ventures that scale globally, despite the odds. Ali's experience spans over two decades, most recently developing and growing the global insurer AXA's flagship well-being services as CTO and Chief Science Innovation Officer.

SHAPE Global
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