Employers put on notice over worker wellbeing

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A new report warns Canterbury businesses will be out of pocket and people if they don't start taking wellbeing more seriously.

Skills Consulting Group interviewed almost 2000 employees across the country from a range of sectors - and while it found that everyone was doing it tough with an average wellbeing score of 61 out of 100, Canterbury ranked the lowest at 56.

General manager of wellbeing at Skills Consultancy Jane Kennelly said employers needed to hear the alarm bells about worker wellbeing.

"The recipe around what can happen if this isn't taken notice of can actually be really disastrous for businesses."

She was appalled to find a third of businesses in New Zealand do not have any wellbeing plan in place.

Kennelly said the labour market and continuing Covid-related stresses were creating a perfect storm for workers and employers needed to acknowledge the strain.

"People have got such a lot of burden on them," she said.

"It's not unusual, particularly with the labour market right now, to hear people say 'I'm doing the job of two people'."

But Canterbury has its own set of issues, with the aftermath of the earthquakes and terror attacks affecting the region before Covid-19 arrived.

Annabel Turley, chair of the Central Christchurch Business Association and owner of three central city pharmacies, said the problem stemmed from local and central government dragging their feet on earthquake rebuild projects.

"People in Canterbury are feeling like they just want to get on with it.

"Seeing empty sites because the city hasn't progressed as it should have, all of these things take a mental toll on people."

She said employers were doing what they could to support workers through the shared struggles.

For her business, a genuine relationship with employees was what kept morale high.

"I have a really open door policy, I actually work with all my staff.

"I like to make myself available to them, because I do like to think of them as family."

While Canterbury was the hardest hit region for worker wellbeing, government and healthcare workers were the lowest scoring sectors in the report.

Public Service Association national support manager Jayne MacFarlane said there was no denying the unprecedented strain on these workers. She wanted more opportunity for unions to represent employee needs.

"Unions don't seem to have been part of the colation of this report ... I think we've got a lot to add to the understanding of these pressures."

Kennelly said overall, if employers wanted to look after their workers, support needed to go beyond free fruit and discounted gym memberships.

"It's actually deeper and more important issues that need to be addressed as far as people are concerned."

She said genuine care for individuals and accommodation for different needs were essential to curb burnout.

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