Wellbeing in Treasury: More than a Healthier Balance Sheet
In today’s ‘always on’ culture, companies focused on growth and productivity are realising the importance of wellbeing within their corporate social responsibility strategies . Not only are wellbeing programmes a positive way to look after the health and happiness of your treasury team, they can also add value to the bottom line , explains Lance Kawaguchi, Global Head – Corporates, Global Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC.
As the lines between work and home become increasingly blurred, investment in workplace wellbeing is growing. In fact, corporate wellbeing is now a $43.3bn global industry  which is no longer just about subsidised gym memberships, or supplying fruit in the office. Rather, the concept of wellbeing is shifting towards a more inclusive definition that touches on several aspects of an employee’s life: from physical health through to mental and emotional health.
And as the notion of wellbeing evolves, conversations around this topic are becoming more commonplace among corporates of all sizes, and across multiple geographies – under the umbrella of good corporate citizenship.
Senior executives are also waking up to the fact that as well as being a moral imperative, an investment in the wellbeing of their workforce is actually an investment in the long-term health of the company. By encouraging and supporting wellbeing, you ultimately end up with happier, healthier employees who are more alert and ready to deliver against a common purpose with clarity.
Potential benefits of wellbeing programmes
The productivity link
For those who are yet to be convinced of the correlation between wellbeing, productivity, and the balance sheet, the numbers speak for themselves. According to research by the Centre for Mental Health and the Health and Safety Executive, UK companies lose £26bn in productivity every year since 9.9 million working days are lost as a result of poor mental health. In addition, £15.1bn is lost annually by UK companies because of ‘presenteeism’  – which is when employees are at their desk, but not being productive for a variety of reasons, such as ill health, exhaustion, lack of motivation, or stress.
Meanwhile, in the US, worker illness and injuries costs employers $225.8bn per year, which is equivalent to $1,685 per employee, according to the Centers for Disease Foundation. Moreover, the Milken Institute estimates that $1tr. is lost annually due to unaddressed employee
chronic disease .
Some of the other benefits of wellbeing programmes are a little more difficult to quantify; but no less impactful. Especially when the definition of wellbeing is broadened out to include the social and relationship aspects that are inherent in the workplace as well.
When team members feel valued and see a clear upwards career path, for example, their overall experience at work can be significantly enhanced. Actively recognising strong performance is another key ingredient here; everyone likes to feel that their efforts are being noticed.
As well as improving employee wellbeing, these relatively small actions can result in significant positives from a talent retention perspective. For instance, a 2017 survey by CABA – the charity that supports the wellbeing of chartered accountants – found that 39% of employees have left jobs due to poor treatment in the workplace . Fostering a positive culture around wellbeing can also attract new talent, which in an era when incentives schemes are being increasingly scrutinised, can be a powerful recruitment weapon .
Figure 1. The Future of Work
Source: Global Wellness Institute
Making wellbeing work
But making a success of wellbeing in the workplace requires careful planning, and consistent action, especially from management, who must set the tone from the top and cascade the importance of wellbeing down to their teams. This is something I take very seriously as a senior executive.
For me personally, and many others, family is extremely important – and plays a pivotal role in wellbeing. I would argue that stability at home leads to clearer minds, in turn making it easier to focus on professional tasks. As such, I always encourage my teams to take their annual leave and spend time with their family when they need to.
After all, wellbeing programmes are no longer just about ensuring people are able to perform for their customers and their employer. Leading organisations now recognise the value in extending wellbeing programmes into an employee’s family too.
I additionally recommend showing flexibility. Life comes at us fast and from time to time there may be things that come up and derail the original plan. Where possible, I always elect to offer flexible working arrangements to my employees as they work to bring balance back into their lives. In an era of 24/7/365 connectivity to the workplace, this is extremely important – and arguably represents the future of workplace dynamics (see Figure 1).
I’m a firm believer that this flexibility is also a representation of the trust I have in my team – if they can get the work done in another setting that’s more conducive for them at that time, then I’m supportive of that. And research shows the positive effects of trust on wellbeing, making it a virtuous circle: according to a 2018 workplace study by healthcare provider Bupa, 23% of UK employees said they would feel more motivated if trust was placed in them .