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How Workplace Health and Safety Improves Employee Engagement and Retention

Elena Chow 04/27/22
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Employee engagement is one of the most important factors that determine the success of your business. When your employees are demoralized, disengaged, and don't feel safe at work, the organization suffers, too. High turnover destabilizes workflows and scalability, lack of employee buy-in worsens the client experience, and too much client churn will damage your revenue engine.

Whether it's through absenteeism, worry over arbitrary wellness policies and COVID-19 procedures, or burnout, workplaces that don't proactively manage workplace health safety are bad for workers and bad for business. In fact, in an analysis by Haiilo, "Employee engagement increases productivity in the workplace. Engaged employees outperform their peers that are not engaged. Overall, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable."

The news that employee engagement affects your company's bottom line may not be news to you, but the extent to which health and safety play a role in engagement might. Learn more about how the Great Resignation is impacting businesses and which workplace health and safety improvements can make a difference.

Still Struggling With the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is an ongoing phenomenon, and there are no single cause employers can point their finger at. A portion of the problem is the disparity between rising living costs and slow wage growth that didn't keep pace. Other employees suffered burnout, and the resulting shortages ramped up the burnout for other workers. COVID-19 caused a plurality of triggers for the Great Resignation, with sudden shifts in childcare needs, health scares, long-term effects of catching the virus, and shockingly poor treatment of front-line workers by customers.

Different sectors of the economy are seeing different rates of resignation and turnover, with Fortune explaining that "About 6.9% of those working in the accommodation and food services sectors quit in November [2021], while only 1.7% of those working in finance left their jobs." No matter what industry your organization is in, the direct and downstream effects of the Great Resignation will continue to affect employee morale, turnover rates, and new applicant expectations.

How This Impacts Culture

First, consider the ongoing pandemic: the risks are lower than in previous months, but the health risks for immunocompromised workers, workers with children and elderly family members, and others are still very real. The fall flu season and COVID-19's pattern of returning in the fall months will continue to cause uncertainty. When at-risk employees do not feel supported by your health and safety initiatives, it’s bound to create a negative culture.

Along with that stressor, the continual turnover adds to stress and erodes company culture. Without concerted efforts, new and old employees will feel disconnected. Collaboration will be harder, and cross-departmental communication will suffer. This is true for both in-person and virtual work — forcing employees to return fully to the office may just trigger other concerns and increase turnover.

How This Impacts Revenue

High turnover costs money that most organizations can't afford to lose. 

You can expect to spend at least half a year's salary to fit a salaried role, though that can increase based on the technical skills demanded in the role, the job market, and more. What’s more, those expenses just include recruiting, training, and onboarding costs. The money lost due to decreased productivity, slowdowns, and potential client loss are much harder to measure.

Using the Great Resignation to Your Benefit

However odd it may sound, there is actually a way for organizations to take advantage of the Great Resignation. As employees leave their jobs in search of something better, they will be attracted to those organizations that have a reputation as a great place to work. Savvy organizations that prioritize all the pieces that comprise great workplaces — flexibility, employee engagement, culture — will win throughout this reshuffle of talent. The question remains, how do you get there?

Can Health and Wellness Improve Engagement and Retention?

When employees feel safe, they're more likely to stay. Remember, one of the key factors driving the Great Resignation, according to SHRM, is how employers are shaping their future of work. Retain more employees and improve morale with these three actions:

  1. Maintain a Safe Workplace: Create clear and communicated health and safety protocols that make current employees comfortable working in a hybrid environment. If you offer convenient and effective resources to your employees, that helps employees feel safer and significantly decreases their risk of getting the virus. 
  2. Improve Their Mental Health: Employee benefit plans typically don't offer anything for mental health beyond cursory gestures. Make your workplace more wellness-focused by providing mental health resources as part of healthcare benefits, normalizing taking a break to preserve mental health, and taking the risk of burnout seriously by ensuring employees aren't overloaded and isolated and that they take their vacation days to rejuvenate.
  3. Create a Great Culture: A recent Office Vibe poll found that work friends are the #1 factor in happiness at work. Create programs that foster good relationships and fun to give employees even more reasons to stay with your business. Be creative in how you engage employees no matter where they are located. 

Focusing on those three elements can fundamentally address employee concerns and transform your workplace.

Workplace Health and Safety Initiatives

The task of "maintaining a safe workplace" can feel a bit vague and overwhelming. Break down that objective into different initiatives. These five can help you drive change in your workplace and start your new employee retention efforts off on a strong note:

  1. Sentiment: Make sure team leads, directors, and HR know the feelings, needs, and wants of employees (both individually and as a group) to ensure they're addressed.
  2. Wellness Pulse Check: Introduce polling or feedback mechanisms to check in on wellness. Even a simple smiley face scale allows your organization to operate with greater insight.
  3. Coaching: Managers benefit from ongoing training and coaching, especially as their roles continue to change during remote work and hybrid work setups.
  4. Mentor and Mentee Programs: Offer in-house or third-party mentor programs so employees can strengthen their skill sets, further their careers, and continue learning.
  5. Employee Resource Groups: Ensure your company's wellness benefits include access to resource groups so employees can access additional levels of support based on their health needs.

Adding these programs and initiatives shows employees you value their wellness, growth, and peace of mind. Not only can this go a long way in retaining current employees, but it can also help you attract new talent that thrives in the future of work you’re creating.

It's a Two-Way Street

A safety culture with wellness programs and workplace initiatives creates a continuous cycle of improvements. Organizations with a positive safety culture are unique in that they don't view safety-related rules and regulations as an impediment; rather, they recognize the benefits of a safe workplace and work to communicate these benefits throughout the organization.

Once employees have access to wellness resources, they are more likely to stay with your organization and use those resources. As a result, your workplace becomes safer and healthier, further increasing retention and engagement. Resources lead to engagement, which, in turn, results in better workplace safety in any organization.

Improve Engagement and Retention With Support From ReturnSafe

If you notice that your employees are struggling with engagement and have safety or wellness concerns, start implementing these solutions; it's a business-critical priority. ReturnSafe is here to help with future of work solutions that help you create a safe, engaging hybrid workplace. Contact us today to find the right solutions for your business.