This week we are talking about workplace wellness with Vivian Acquah, founder at Viva la Vive.
Following the last interview with Munir Pathak on building authentic connections at work, we sat down with Vivian Acquah, Workplace Wellness Advocate at Viva la Vive, to talk about how companies can benefit from implementing activities to promote wellbeing at work.
Vivian spent a good portion of her career working in Finance and IT, before she decided to focus full time on educating businesses on the upside of healthy work habits and designed programs to support that.
With Vivian we touched on the perception of wellness activities, which are the core aspects that need to be put in place and the considerations to be made, what are the actual returns and the key learnings from her experience.
I thank Vivian for taking the time and I hope you'll enjoy learning from her experience.
Vivian, could you tell us a bit about your background?
I have 15 years of experience in finance and IT, working as a consultant, most of the time. So I have seen different work environments where people can and can't thrive.
In 2013, my life shifted. After dealing with Pregnancy Discrimination and not feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace that I was in at that time, I knew I had to make a change.
My son was four months old. I realised I was his role model - he was mimicking every move I made, and I did not want to pass my unhappiness regarding my work to him. I feel it was my son who inspired me to use my skills to help make the world a better place by starting from the workplace.
I first started as a nutrition advocate and by the end of 2016 I broadened my focus towards workplace well-being, as I was helping many clients who were dealing with stressful work environments but also facing burnout.
When talking about wellbeing at work for the first time what do people (employees and business leaders) expect? And what’s this truly about?
When I talk about well being in the workplace for the first time, people expect me to relieve their stress magically - to help people become more productive again at once, but it doesn't work that way.
Making a change for better wellbeing takes time. You don't become an Olympic swimmer from day one without the essential training. It takes time and effort to level up your well being and/or to become more resilient. Workplace wellbeing is about designing programs that help employees stay healthy or helps them improve their health by taking the six pillars of workplace wellness into account.
The workplace wellness six pillars are:
- Physical well being;
- Mental well being;
- Career well being;
- Environmental well being;
- Social well being;
- Financial well being;
It is important to acknowledge that everybody has different needs and values. This means they will also differ in the pillar(s) they need to work on.
How can companies include employees’ wellbeing as part of their strategy? And how do you go about setting this as a part of the company's goals?
Companies are now dealing with a war for talent, but besides that, they are also dealing with a higher turnover than they would expect or a higher absenteeism rate.
Used wisely, workplace wellness can be an essential part of the strategy companies can use to attract new people, and also to help them retain employees; as every time somebody leaves the company, they leave a knowledge drain that needs to be replaced, that can take up to 6 months to fill. Also, consider the time and cost of your company not being able to help clients, or the strain it will put on the rest of the team. They might end up being disengaged, leave the company or call in sick more often.
Don't forget about the added value workplace wellness has on the employer branding and attracting talent more quickly.
It is essential for leaders to not only support workplace wellness programs but also to walk the walk by participating. Doing so, it helps create psychological safety for people to participate as well.
Which are the top results you have observed in companies focusing on wellbeing?
The top results are:
- Higher employee engagement – which is positively correlated with better health according to Gallup’s research;
- Reduced absenteeism;
- A better company culture – workplace wellness programs have a positive influence on the company culture. Looking at a survey from Virgin Pulse 77% of the employees think that workplace wellness programs have a positive impact on the company;
- Lower turnover rate;
- Higher employee engagement;
- Better employer branding;
- Attract talent quickly – if a candidate has to choose between two companies that offer nearly the same benefits but company A has a good workplace wellness program, which company would they choose?
- Improved productivity – because when people feel better, they are highly energised. It helps them become more resilient which can lower their stress levels and prevent burnout;
Having a workplace wellness program is a way of your company saying it cares about its people, so they can care about the clients and the company.
Wellbeing can span across multiple areas (i.e. physical, mental, financial, and more). For a company starting to invest into this, what would you advise to tackle first and how?
It is essential to set up a workplace wellness program for success. This means that leaders are fully committed to supporting and participating in the program. Take the six pillars of the workplace well being ( physical, mental, career, social, financial, and environmental well being).
What are the critical KPI's for the senior leader? These can be retaining talent, lowering absenteeism, improving productivity, or boosting employee engagement. After the KPI selection, it is vital to survey the employees to create a benchmark for the starting point for the KPIs.
Having the support of leaders (engaged in the programme), combined with a healthy company culture, will lead to the achievement of the KPIs set - and ultimately increase the overall people wellbeing.
Results are important for every initiative. How would you quantify ROI in this area and how would you measure returns?
In terms of return on investment, when it comes to workplace well being it is not always easy to measure all the well being pillars in financial terms. Therefore a lot of companies are also looking into VOI: Value of Investment. The VOI is a soft measurement, where your company can see the benefits of employee health. You can expect a higher engagement, you can see increased productivity. You can also see that people feel like they belong in a company, that their purpose is aligned with the values of the company. This can lead to the desired results I shared previously.
Let’s look at the costs of disengaged employees. According to Gallup, the average disengagement rate is 17.2%. If you have 100 employees in your company, 17 people are disengaged. When you calculate the yearly costs of these people, it will be €397,664 for the group, meaning €23,120 per employee, based on a median annual salary of € 68,000.
Employee disengagement is very contagious it will start with a few people, and then it will spread throughout your company. This is why it is essential to do something about it as soon as possible.
It is the worst company fever that will rub off on others, and things can get bad pretty fast, especially in this digital era. That is why it is crucial to work on employee engagement before it hurts the future of your company.
Are there any resources on the subject that would you recommend our readers to check out?
I would like to share the following resources:
- Go2Thrive Podcast
- Let’s Humanize The Workplace Live Broadcast
- A Healthy Office Is Not A Guarantee For A Healthy Work Culture
- Why are your people leaving?
- "Putting Your People First"
- "Representation Matters! Inclusive Diversity"
- Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People
- Making Work Less Stressful and More Engaging for Your Employees
Where can people connect or find out more about you?
If you have experience revolving around startups, people and culture, ping us on Twitter @HumaansHQ or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to learn from your journey and share your learnings.
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