Does your company have the "it’s not my responsibility" syndrome?
Factors Outside Work

Does your company have the "it’s not my responsibility" syndrome?
The elements of a supportive work environment

Anything that negatively impacts employees is an opportunity to assist

Up until the 80s, traditional business thinking was firmly entrenched in a model where work was work, home was home and what went on outside of work was not the responsibility of the employer. It was a pretty fair and universal assumption.

Then some progressive employers came to the conclusion that if life outside work impacted employee performance, then that made it their business. It was the new mandate, whatever the organisation could do to assist employees to perform, whether that involves supporting them in- or outside of work, was on their agenda.


Making the investment

The value proposition equation is simple, does the productivity loss of an employee going through relationship stress at home, cost more than the intervention to resolve it? If the answer is yes, it behoves the organisation to support their employees in such circumstances. If the answer is no, it still may be worth doing for the long-term commitment the employee feels in such a positive and supporting work environment. And as others see this support, their commitment, and view of the culture of the organisation grows vicariously.

The academics conducting research for Life Innovations Study, Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America's Business? concluded that relationship-related stress costs employers about $300 billion annually__¹__. Divorce is the culmination of such stress. Other studies have shown that divorce impacts an employee's productivity and effectiveness in the workplace for three to five years, or longer. That accounts for roughly $1,500 per employee per annum across the entire US workforce. Over 5 years that is $7,500 per employee (not per case). With a divorce rate of 50%, the case cost is estimated at $15,000. Now, is it worth providing 4-5 company paid counselling sessions to avoid this catastrophe? Even if that’s $1,000, you’d only have to save 1 in 15 relationships to "break even". More than that and you’re way ahead!

Issues such as drugs and alcohol, mental health and problem gambling all take their toll in a similar fashion. A company that wipes their hands of these issues, playing the “not our responsibility” card, will end up with serious negative consequences as the impact of these issues plays out through key business metrics such as productivity, absence and illness/injury/claims.

How can your company help?

It’s only a short but logical leap to add exercise into the mix. Exercise is associated with improved physical and mental health, greater cognitive flexibility (think problem solving), reduced absence, greater productivity, improved mood and reduced injury risk; all things that we’d expect to influence the corporate balance sheet. As we’ve just found with relationships and drug and alcohol counselling, the numbers supporting physical activity interventions in the workplace stack up well in terms of return on investment. Whether that’s an in-house gym, the addition of shower facilities or a bike rack, subsidy on a gym membership to an external gym or organised lunchtime activities, the literature is clear, it’s worth spending a bit to keep your employees fit.

Fit employees outperform their unfit counterparts by about 5% in terms of productivity__²__. For a full-time employee, that’s 5% of 2,000 working hours, so you’re getting 100 extra hours of productive work (2.5 weeks), and that’s not even counting the impact on absence, injury and claims.

Taking the first steps

Whichever way you look at it, holding firm to the position: “it’s not our responsibility”, is an untenable, old-school dogma that is ultimately costly to a business and subversive of the role of management, which is after all to provide employees with the conditions that enable them to perform at their best – hard to do when their marriage is breaking up!

The SHAPE Survey looks at numerous non-work factors effecting employee physical and mental health, as well as issues that impact an employee’s ability to balance work and life (child/elder care, commuting, home duties etc.). This is to help organisations understand both the scope and impact of various issues impacting work-life balance.

__¹__D. Turvey, Matthew. 2006. Prepare-Enrich.Com.

__²__Weber, Lauren. 2017. "Healthier Workers Are More Productive, Study Finds". WSJ.

Factors Outside Work