Wellbeing is a word often thrown around, but not often understood. For many workplaces, it's viewed as either "nice to have" or the softer, fluffier stuff - reserved primarily for new, innovative Kiwi companies.
That perception needs to change. The road to recovery is going to be bumpy and will impact all businesses. It's something that affects all of us.
Our latest Xero Small Business Insights show small business revenue in Aotearoa dropped 1.8 per cent year-on-year in July, while employment across industries like hospitality and professional services continued to drop.
So now more than ever, being resilient in businesses is important – this is both in terms of the structures of our business, but also the people within it.
Wellbeing can become the source of competitive advantage for businesses. Outstanding business results can – and will – arise from a culture focused on wellbeing, psychological safety and belonging.
And if wellbeing can improve the bottom line of our businesses, then ultimately, it will help us build a more resilient and productive national economy. Something that we need this year, more than ever.
Don't just take my word for it though. According to a 2018 He Ara Oranga Report into Mental Health and Addiction, for every dollar spent on mental health services in New Zealand the nation gains $3.50 in productivity gains and other savings.
And the 2019 Workplace Wellness Report by Southern Cross and Business NZ found stressed, unhappy employees caused New Zealand businesses to lose 7.4 million working days and $1.79 billion due to absence in 2018.
To ground this in the current year, we recently surveyed Kiwi small business employees about their general wellbeing so far in 2020.
Unsurprisingly, pessimism was in the air.
Since alert level 4 lockdown in March, 58 per cent of small business employees have not talked about wellbeing in their workplace, with more than a third (36 per cent) of Kiwi small businesses employees not being offered any wellbeing support.
Wellbeing support is something we all need at the moment. During the lockdown, 36.2 per cent of small business employees felt their financial wellbeing was impacted, and we also saw a steep decline in mental and physical wellbeing (26.2 per cent and 20.6 per cent, respectively).
But it can be really hard to know how to address it or get started. It can also be hard to juggle with everything else. But focusing on wellbeing doesn't require revamping your whole way of doing business. It also doesn't mean living a life of yoga and meditation.
It can be about finding simple ways to build a culture of appreciation in your workplace. Or changing attitudes towards talking about wellbeing in your workplace and asking for help.
It doesn't need to be a big change or cost huge amounts of time or money – but it is something Kiwi employees are yearning for. That's why Xero has created The Check In for all small businesses to help them support their team to thrive in this final part of the year. It consists of quick and easy activities that can either get businesses started or build on what's already in play.
It helps leaders get to know their team, foster better connections, support others to look after themselves and make it okay to ask for help.
We know more than a third (36.4 per cent) of New Zealand small business employees actively want more wellbeing support from their employer. Furthermore, 56 per cent of Kiwi employees would make use of a wellbeing and support programme if it was available at their workplace.
So, we've made it easy for Kiwi business owners to start taking steps to help engage with their employees and begin to create a workplace that acknowledges wellbeing.
Leading a wellbeing culture is something we can do every day. It's about asking how does my leadership practice impact wellbeing? Is it safe? Is it supportive? Will it strengthen wellbeing?
If you still aren't convinced, consider this: after specialist mental health services and primary health care, workplaces are the next biggest place of mental wellness support.
They can – and indeed must – play a central role in increasing their people's wellbeing so they can better cope with setbacks, take advantage of opportunities and be productive, contributing members of families, communities and workplaces.
- Craig Hudson is the Xero managing director for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.