Think Howe Pty Ltd

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Work, Money and a bit of Love

Work. From my time within cubicle work spaces I know that Mondays were prime for getting things done, productivity from 8-10:30am. Maybe with a coffee walk placed in there somewhere for exercise and mental health purposes of course. I had to be as productive as possible Monday and Tuesday to avoid the 'Friday 5pm and still at my desk' situation. Plus, there are budgets to meet to keep myself, my direct manager, my team, and my big boss happy. The long afternoons spent staring at a computer, answering phones, signing up for 12 hour days on occasion to get things done. By the time Friday rolls around, your brain is dribbling out your ears, you may be on a sugar high or be seeking one to get you through the afternoon, and starting to think about that first sip of (insert alcoholic beverage here). Through access to different industries in my career, I’ve witnessed the same kind of scenarios played out in different environments. Long days, internal and external pressure, dealing with peers/ managers/ customers/ etc, over the course of the working week then layered with an actual home life can start to show the day to day picture of why shows Australians spent an estimated A$8 billion on mental health related services in 2013-14, which is approximately $344 per person (released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).

This kind of blatant data gets me thinking and makes me a little mad. There is clearly an issue happening out there in the ether of the world and it seems too large to comprehend or find a place to start. The other day I had a social conversation with a gentleman who at one point in his career was GM of a mining site for a global company. We were talking about what it is that I do with my work days, which includes assisting companies in identifying the need and benefit of an engaged workforce. The first question he asked me was “how do you get anyone to pay for that?” said with a somewhat miffed tone. My reply was something to the effect of “with returns of $2.30 for every dollar spent, in association with an increase in an engaged workforce which in turn decreases your physical and psychological insurance compensation claims, the long term benefits are hard to ignore. This isn’t a once off deal, this is a long term situation where you invest in your people in a lot of different facets. There is a study out of Johnson and Johnson where they found a return of approximately US$6 on every dollar spent, saving approximately $250 million over 10 years. Just because it’s not happening in large industry here doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t.” To this he replied “Well, you sound like you’ve done your research..." Courtesy of The Harvard Business Review (2010), I have.

I have done so much reading which tells us the same thing, over and over. As a culture we have a bunch of things that are happening in our lives, some work related, some not. Does it matter? Work comes home with us in the form of physical fatigue, mental and emotional fatigue, stress, pain and sometimes injury. Humans and all their feelings show up at work, whether the employee is engaged and productive or disengaged and distracted is partly personal and partly the culture of the employer (Maslach, 2013). I have had many jobs in my time, one career with many jobs. You can feel how engaged the staff are when you walk into a workplace. Sometimes this shifts depending on the time of the tax year, budget dates, etc, however in an engaged environment there is laughter, a contented and productive silence, team camaraderie, a level of appreciation. You show up for your team and your friends at work. Things going on at home? You might lament about it to your work friends during a break, your employer may have the opportunity to offer your some flexitime, work from home, or simply to go and deal with what is happening because you give 110% every day normally. A conversation between the employee and their manager may allow for a plan to be formed to offer support through the situation. With options for flexibility, movement, personal and work related conversations and accountability for the process, some of the pressures may be alleviated and thus mental wellness and personal resilience may remain somewhat robust (Page, 2014). I would show up for a work place like that.

The flip side to this comes from another conversation I had with a self-proclaimed ‘uneducated man’ (his words due to his lack of university education, I find him to be a very insightful individual). He caught me in the middle of reading how much money is being spent and lost in the world of mental health in Australia, which I proceeded to educate him on in a slightly manic manner. “...And I quote: “$11 billion every year, largely due to absenteeism ($4.7 billion) and reduced productivity ($6.1 billion) from unwell workers still attempting to work (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW))”. This enrages me. There are so many things that can be done. Large companies still need to see the dollar figures to justify it and here they are. Massive losses in decreased productivity documented and yet I still come across quotes from actual face to face interviews where health professionals within the industry still see wellness programs as ‘fluff and stuffing’. I’m fuming that this is still fricken happening when we can see the bottom line costs to health and pretty much humanity....” His response to my emotional outburst was as expected: “What would you do to change this, given this is how it is?”

#Milliondollarquestion. Well, a $4.7 billion question for business and industry specifically.

Where would I start? There are solutions and ThinkHowe are offering seminars in a capital city near you, supported by QBE. The ThinkHowe team will be presenting on topics of Better Health, Resilience, and Mental Health; Bullying and Harassment; and Managing an Ageing workforce. The seminars are founded on evidence based information, mixed with employer based experience and provide the participants with a proactive point of view, no matter their role within the company.

Bookings can be made via the links for "Building Better Workplaces" workshops over at the QBE National Training Calendar

Oh, and be sure to wear clothes you can move in, we are all about practicing what we preach.

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