Having it all

How to have both a healthy organization and strong performance

We see it all around us, have helped create it, and yet know it’s not what any of us want: A business world that never turns off, forces constant stress, exhausts balancing acts and causes serious change fatigue.

Workplace stress is at an all-time high. As individuals, we suffer physical ailments, mood issues and behavioral challenges, and our organizations pay the price in increased absenteeism, low productivity and rising health care costs. Workplace stress is responsible for up to $190 billion in annual U.S. health care costs, and low employee engagement — only 32 percent of U.S. workers feel engaged in their job — is estimated to cost businesses over $550 billion.

Business owners and employees alike recognize the need for change. And increasingly, we are seeing evidence that it can be done effectively. We see organizations where health, wellbeing and purpose have become core to their culture and where inspired employees find meaning in their work and are willing and able to give their all because they care and feel cared for.

What’s more, this culture is good for the bottom line. Research is proving that healthier companies are more profitable and that inspired employees are more productive. According to the Great Place to Work Institute, companies deemed best to work for provide nearly three times the return of their peers.

There is a sweet spot in each organization where business performance, organizational health and community health align, but it takes work to find it. The good news is that we can shift toward the right balance, even with current resources and constraints.

We help employers address the root causes required to effect cultural change. We help find a new model — a new mindset and value system — that builds on strengths, listens to all voices, promotes a long-term perspective and connects employees to a common purpose.

As employers move toward that sweet spot, the benefits can be significant. According to McKinsey & Company, companies that manage with an equal eye to performance and health more than double the probability of outperforming their competitors and generate three times higher total returns to shareholders than those of unhealthy companies. This approach will also be critical in driving down health care costs, which account for one-third of a company’s total employee costs and two-thirds of all expenditures.

Despite the pace and intensity of our work — or more accurately, because of it — we can and must create workplaces that are people-centric and that focus on wellbeing and creating purpose. In so doing, we can make our businesses more competitive and financially sound.

In most cases, this can be completed with an alignment of resources and a holistic mindset. When we begin to align an organization’s goals and culture with health and purpose, we positively impact the organization, employees and community.

It is a win-win-win for today, and tomorrow.

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council