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Workplace wellness is no longer just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a competitive advantage. Employees spend more waking hours at work than any other environment, and increasingly they expect organizations to support their mental, physical and social health. Wellness programs can drive organizational growth by encouraging healthy behaviours, attracting and retaining talent, increasing productivity and reducing turnover rates and costs.
Law firms and professional services organizations have reported higher numbers of employees struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues compared to other sectors. In February 2020, the Employee Wellness Summit brought together legal and professional services representatives to discuss how their industry can start making a change.
Sprout’s Director of Sales & Partnerships, Brea Giffin, joined Philip Romm, Chief of Strategic HR, Growth Solutions Team, to discuss the value of workplace wellbeing in the legal and professional services industry. The session, “Wellness as a strategic growth driver”, was moderated by Denise Gaskin, Former Chief Operating Officer, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. We have summarized some of the key takeaways from the discussion below.
Tips For Starting A Corporate Wellness Program
Denise: What are some of the best ways we can better understand what programs employees will need to help better support their well-being?
Brea: There are so many options out there and I can only imagine that people are constantly hearing about the next trend, the next program and the benefits and perks that you need to offer to remain competitive. My one piece of advice would be to just step back and look at the data. Educate yourself and really decide exactly what you need and what supports you.
Start by looking at are the basic things: short-term and long-term disability; why are employees leaving your firm; what are your employees saying about you after they’ve left; and what are they saying about the interview process.
Most importantly, make your data set as diverse as possible. Look at the lowest level of employees, look at the highest level of employees, look at the part-time people, the summer students, and the articling students. Look at everyone and really compile the data set, then develop the strategy from there. Take you time—monitor, measure and prove.
Measuring Workplace Wellness Costs
Denise: How are you measuring your employee’s well-being to make actionable decisions?
Philip: I try to make sure that everything links back to some sort of business metric. I’m not only looking at retention, attraction and employee happiness, I’m also looking at how you link hiring decisions and compliance with, for example, expressing breastmilk at work.
We all know that we have to have an expressing breastmilk policy but business owners will say, ‘she’s got to figure that our on her own.’ My response is, ‘Ok Mr. CEO, you’ve spent $100,000 to recruit an attorney. You hired someone from Africa and spent $25,000 to $30,000 in fees to bring her in. You then spent another $45,000 to $50,000 waiting for her to become profitable. So, your investment at the moment, is now up to $150,000. Then she gets pregnant—yay, that’s fantastic—and you wait 26 weeks because you have a good policy for maternity. You now keep this person on your health benefits and pay them a little for another 26 weeks. So now you’ve spent $200,000. You’re going to tell me that you’re ready to risk you’re $200,000 investment over not providing a room to express breastmilk for an hour a day? When that person leaves, you’re going to suffer the loss of reputation and you’re going to need to hire another person at $25,000. You’re also going to suffer the loss of revenue that comes from this individual and burn out the staff who has to pick up the slack. So now you’re in the hole $500,000. When that CEO hears half a million dollars, the conversation moves on, right? When you can make those connections, you get a lot more buy in.
Denise: Can you shed some light on the cost of employee turnover and how we can mitigate it?
Brea: I think it’s important to note that turnover is not the cause, it’s a symptom of what’s going on at your organization. It’s a symptom of mental well-being not being there. It’s a symptom of not supporting employees across the psycho-social risk factors. And of not having those programs in place that are really going to make employees feel supported and accepted.
The cost of well-being in the US economy is about $300 billion. In Canada, it’s $30 billion and in Australia, it’s $11 billion. I’ve also seen stats come out of Nigeria and Brazil. It’s something that is happening all across the world.
There was a really staggering fact that I read in a McKinsey and Company whitepaper that said that the global cost of mental health issues in the workplace costs us more as a global economy than every country’s combined spending on warfare, prevention of terrorism and prevention of violent crime. Isn’t that staggering? I can turn on to any news channel and listen to them talk about wars or terrorism. Yet we live in a society where I probably don’t feel safe going to talk to my manager about my mental health issues. That’s something we need to change.
Making The Business Case For Wellbeing
Denise: Our employees are our strategic asset. How can we, as an employer, continue to provide for their evolving needs?
Philip: Everyone in HR talks about how employees are our strategic asset. We’ve got to make the workplace better for them. Then we say things like, ‘We’re not going to hire another paralegal because it’s not in the budget, so you’ve got to work 95 hours this week’. If you hire another paralegal, you may take on the additional cost in the short term but in the long term you’re saving money. If you had two people working at 100%, you would be able to carry 200% worth of work versus having one employee working at 50% productivity. You have to start putting this into financial numbers.
Brea: Wellness is a competitive differentiator and there is a business case to be made. It can be intimidating to get started but there are resources out there and really you just need to take the first step towards doing any type of program that’s going to support your employees and make you competitive in the workplace.
Sprout was honoured to participate in Employee Wellness Forum and learn about the challenges faced by the legal and professional services industry while sharing knowledge about how to implement and measure workplace wellness programs. Sprout is a leading global corporate wellness platform with a proven track record and the highest review rating in the industry.