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HR Metrics For Employee Wellbeing: The Third Metric

Posted by Mathew French

16 July 2015

In an era of digital overwhelm, overworked employees and disengaged talent looking to abandon ship, the wellbeing of the workforce might just be the metric that turns the ship around. A plethora of scientific research on stress and creativity, along with statistics reflecting the desperation of big business to engage and retain top-tier talent, herald the potential demise of the traditional business model. Let's take a look at the HR metrics for wellbeing, and why you need to consider measuring these HR Metrics in your business.

The recent statistics are startling and a little disheartening:

  • ComPsych reports that 'elevated stress levels are the new norm for employees.' The employee assistant provider says its 2014 Stress Pulse Report found that 62% of employees indicated high levels of stress, and that one-third lose an hour a day in productivity as a result of stress.

  • Gallup’s research reveals that 70% of American employees are either disengaged or miserable at work. 

However, leaders have started to wake up to the fact that they can make the workplace better by building employee engagement and job satisfaction through programs like wellness and work flexibility. When your employees can’t wait to get to work in the morning, you’ll know you’ve created an environment where your team will radiate a highly contagious fulfilment and happiness.

CIPD reports that the number of employers making workplace cultural changes to try to reduce long-term absence levels has increased more than 20% in recent years. In CIPD's Absence Management Survey 2014, over 80% of organisations indicated that they’re making changes to working patterns, environments and flexibility, because they know that this will have significant positive benefits.

The Third Metric For Success

According to media mogul Arianna Huffington, wellbeing is critical to organisational success and as such, she believes it should be trending high enough for the c-suite to take more notice. Huffington's story, which was the basis of her book Thrive, illustrates what happens when you're running on burnout, sleep deprivation and exhaustion. She is calling for a redefining of what we identify as 'success' in the shape of the third metric. However, there is not just a single word to attribute to the third metric, as it is built on pillars of wellness, wisdom, wonder, and giving.

'The truth is that we no longer have the luxury to ignore our wellbeing, our wisdom, our ability to make good decisions, because the world is moving so fast that we can no longer be in maintenance mode. We have to constantly be innovating, constantly creating, and we can’t do that from the surface. We can’t do that from burnout,' says Huffington.

In an ever accelerating world where our lives are becoming increasingly integrated with technology – demands, information and complexity seem to be on an infinite upswing, yet we haven't actually developed the capacity to manage all the stimulation.

With overflowing in-boxes and the way we work making the world increasingly complex, it is difficult for individuals to find ways to become resilient at the same rate of the change that envelops us. We are facing more convoluted problems than we’ve ever dealt with before, therefore leaders need to be more complex and adaptive in their thinking as a counterpoint to this complexity. Leadership needs to be more agile and self aware so as to provide the guidance and the container for employees to be able not just to survive, but to thrive.

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Basic Rest Activity Cycle

The current statistics about stress and burnout at work really illustrates that it's time for leaders to take the reins regarding wellbeing in the workplace. However, the road to wellness is still paved with potholes of resistance unless the metrics prove the benefits of wellbeing oriented programs. This raises the question of whether its better to take personal responsibility for your own wellbeing, both inside and outside the workplace, rather than waiting for your employer to do so. If employees learn to better manage their energy and work flow, they just might see an improvement in their performance and ability to manage stress.

Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk, some of it controversial, about BRAC (Basic Rest-Activity Cycle) also known as the Ultradian Cycle. It’s a bodily rhythm that is said to ebb and flow in our sleeping state and some research would argue has implications in our waking state. The gist of the concept is that the body and brain can go full throttle for 90-120 minutes before needing a rest, for a good 20 minutes. It’s at the core of the work of Psychologist Ernest Rossi PhD who wrote The 20-Minute Break back in the 1991.

According to Rossi, 'everyone needs to learn to recognise and respect their own personal rhythms of peak performance and need for healing rest and recovery.'

The implications are more crucial than ever before as the global marketplace becomes more competitive. The potential for talent driven creativity and innovation to catapult a company above the rest, means that wellbeing is an important metric for the future success of business.

The question remains, whose responsibility is it to nurture the wellbeing of employees - the individual or the organisation? As we've reflected on in previous blog posts, a 'both and' approach is often better than an 'either or' perspective.

If you're interested in learning more about the neuroscience of stress and relaxation, activity and rest, watch this video. Want to understand the evolution of HR metrics; past, present and future so that you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure that you're measuring the right performance indicators? Download this free White Paper.

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Topics: HR Metrics, Employee Wellbeing, The Third Metric

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