Modern technology, productivity and employee wellbeing

Published on the 01/04/2021 | Written by Heather Wright

Mental healthcare in workplace

You can’t wellbeing your way out of bad processes…

You can’t escape the employee wellbeing conversation at the moment. The huge changes to workplaces – and indeed to the world in general in the past 18 months – have seen wellbeing and mental health pushed higher up the corporate agenda.

Now Xero is weighing in on the topic, with research targeted at small businesses and suggesting they can get big returns from investing in organisational wellbeing programs.

Once you have technology you have to utilise it, properly.

The research, conducted by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, found small businesses can get an average of $5 back for every dollar they spend on wellbeing program, and clams poor wellbeing negatively impacts a person’s decision-making and productivity for an average of 13 weeks a year.

It’s not rocket science: “Improved focus and better decision-making leads to higher productivity during the workday. Feeling happy and like you belong can be a driver for upskilling and remaining part of the team,” Xero’s Next Level Guide says.

The report is a little light on specifics when it comes to those wellbeing program practicalities, however. Recommendations include having a check-in – Xero has the Check In pack helping businesses ‘get to know your team’ foster connections, support everyone to look after themselves, make it ok to ask for health and make a long term commitment to wellbeing. Also included: using online resources for managing mental health and, for Xero’s New Zealand customers, the Xero Assistance Programme, which provides counselling, support and resources for employers, employees and their families.

The report also pushes technology, specifically cloud technology (well, it is a report from Xero, come on!).

But while it’s easy to roll our eyes at a vendor report advocating companies buy products like those from the vendor in question, there’s undoubtedly truth in modern technology, delivering the productivity gains and making employees happier because they have good systems to use and a well organised work day.

Medical insurer Aetna International gave its verdict last year, with a report into whether technology was keeping workers healthy or making them ill.

Among its findings were that while technology can make demands on our time, it can also help employees make the most of their day – being more productive, communicating quicker and more easily and accessing information faster to help meet deadlines with less stress.

Kevin Browne, general manager at Kiwi drainage and scaffolding company ASR Group agrees.

“Having good technology – the right technology – definitely contributes in regards to helping make the jobs, and therefore the days, run smoother in regards to streamlining things and being able to just follow up simple process through your mobile phone rather than mucking around with paper forms.”

The company uses simPro, an end-to-end business management system for trade service, maintenance and project contractors. It includes health and safety checklists that need to be completed before staff log on for a job.

Browne says its proved a huge time saver. He estimates a 20-30 percent time saving.

“Even for the scaffold team who only use it for clocking in and out, it is hugely valuable for capturing their hours for time sheets and the time savings there alone have had a huge impact.”

But there’s a caveat: You need to have the right technology for your business and you need to use it well, Browne says.

“If you aren’t plugged into tech then you need to be. To be a modern smart working business you have to be using technology or you’re already behind the game from the get go,” he says. “It’s not expensive for the return you get in regards to time savings and efficiency.

“But once you have technology you have to utilise it. I’ve seen systems set up but not understood or really utilised. It needs to be used to its full potential.

“But another thing I’d say is to just use what you need, with the focus on simplicity and ease rather than getting software with all the bells and whistles or all the apps.”

Case in point: Collaboration and communication software might be a hot topic at the moment, but it’s not for ASR Group. They still rely on email and text messages, though Browne says they are looking at WhatsApp for social club.

In fact a State of Happiness 2019 report from G2 showed 52 percent of workers have become dissatisfied at work due to missing or mismatched software. Twenty-four percent went as far as to say they have considered looking for a new job because they didn’t have the right software at hand for the job, and 13 percent have actually left a job because of the software they were required to use.

In other words, you can’t wellbeing your way out of bad technology or processes.

While Browne doesn’t have any figures on ROI for wellbeing spend at ASR Group, he says intuitively he thinks the $5 return on wellbeing investment is accurate.

“If you have a happy business family – and that’s from management down – that equals motivated and productive individuals: People who are engaged and purposeful and who are heading into work with some drive and desire to produce so they can get the rewards from that.”

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