Kiwi business leaders united in support for workplace wellbeing

Thursday , 7 November 2019 by Alaina McGregor
Ryan Picarella

Southern Cross Health Society is helping our nation’s business leaders navigate employee wellbeing and safeguard a healthy workforce at its fourth annual BeingWell conference today.

More than 500 people from all corners of New Zealand industry are convening at Auckland’s Aotea Centre to hear a line up of speakers talk about creating a company culture of wellbeing, the value of investing in wellness, mental health and the needs of a new generation in the workforce.

The presenters include Ryan Picarella, President of the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), a company whose founding directors included Warren Buffet which has successfully impacted the lives of 20 million workers in America, and Michael Henderson, a New Zealand corporate anthropologist who uses what he learned studying tribal systems in remote parts of the world to work with some of the country’s biggest brands.

As awareness grows around that a culture of health leads to a healthy culture, employers are increasingly focused on supporting employees with their health and wellbeing

Southern Cross Health Society CEO, Nick Astwick, says they launched the BeingWell conference in 2016 because they wanted to be at the forefront of driving the step-change in workplace wellbeing in New Zealand.

“We have since engaged almost 2,000 business leaders in this forum, and I think we’re now maturing as a nation and seeing a real shift in the culture around health and wellbeing in the workplace.

“What’s good for employees is very often good for business, and organisation are starting to focus on helping their people flourish. It’s great to see evidence of more businesses wanting to make positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of their people but there is always room for improvement,” says Astwick.

In August, Southern Cross released the 2019 Workplace Wellness Report in conjunction with BusinessNZ. This research revealed the current picture of health and wellness in the New Zealand workplace.

The findings showed that absenteeism is on the rise at an annual cost of $1.79bn to businesses, in part due to an increase of employees going home sick. In addition, a net 23.5 per cent of businesses surveyed reported an increase in general stress experienced by staff.

However the research also showed that 35 per cent of staff are likely to turn up to work despite being sick – that’s down from 49 per cent in 2012, and is now at its lowest point since the survey began.

“Positive indicators like this are heartening but it is vital that we keep these conversations top of mind. This is why we have gathered some of the best speakers in this space today to inspire our nation’s business leaders,” says Astwick.

The international keynote speaker Ryan Picarella says that healthy employees are fundamental to the success of any business and are critical to maintaining a company's financial well-being and long-term viability.

“Traditionally employers didn’t feel responsible for supporting their workforce through personal problems such as financial stress or relationship breakdowns, despite the impact this may have had on productivity.

“But now we are realising that home-stress impacts work performance and work-stress impacts wellbeing at home. The lines are becoming blurred. Organisations that look at employee wellbeing more holistically rather than as two separate parts – home life and work life – will gain the most commercial benefit,” says Picarella.

Michael Henderson, another speaker at the conference, believes company culture is eight times more influential that an organisation’s strategy in determining its performance.

“I think culture has moved from being seen by senior executives as a nice-to-do project, to a vital contributing component of the organisation's brand, customer experience, performance, strategic delivery, social reputation and employee value.

“From what I’ve observed in my conversations with New Zealand employers and business leaders, I am optimistic about the future of the quality and commitment of company culture in New Zealand,” says Henderson.

To view the full 2019 Workplace Wellness Report, click here.