How to Put Employee Wellbeing Front and Centre

The concept of employee wellbeing has evolved from an afterthought to one of the most pressing issues facing New Zealand’s organisations. With the country still experiencing localised restrictions, COVID-19 remains on the agenda – and employees are well and truly feeling the brunt of it. 

But interestingly, organisations in New Zealand are increasingly acknowledging the link between wellbeing and productivity[1]. Employers also now have a deeper understanding of their role in improving employee wellbeing and fostering safe, healthy workplaces. So how can HR ensure wellbeing remains front and centre in the coming year?

Workforce data is your friend

When it comes to measuring employee wellbeing, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and not know where to start. But there are a number of organisation-wide metrics that can help to paint a picture of what’s going on at the ground level. For example, if employees are taking a higher-than-average number of sick days it may indicate a team that is struggling with excessive workloads or a staffing shortage. Similarly, if employees are not taking enough annual leave, the lack of time away from the office may be contributing to burnout.

In New Zealand, we’re starting to see more organisations going above the statutory minimum leave allowance with initiatives like wellbeing days. In fact, the number of businesses introducing unlimited leave has more than doubled between 2018 and 2020 to 9.5%[2].

Read: How to Implement Successful Employee Wellness Programs

The power of feedback

While workforce data provides a useful outline of organisational wellbeing, the insight gleaned from feedback surveys provides the colour. Surveying has been a key tool throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic to shed light on how employees are coping and help organisations provide targeted resources.

ELMO Survey enables organisations to conduct and manage staff surveys throughout all points of the employee lifecycle to gain actionable insights into employees’ attitudes and opinions towards their work, work environment and any wellness initiatives on offer. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all to wellbeing because no two humans are the same. But by asking the right questions, HR leaders will be equipped with the quantitative and qualitative data to better support their employees’ needs.

Employee wellbeing return on investment (ROI)

A healthy workforce is a more productive one, and organisations are beginning to acknowledge that prevention is better than cure. ELMO’s most recent Employee Sentiment Index showed just over a third of employees in New Zealand are feeling burnt out and in the last quarter, more workers faked a sick day than at any other period this year. This trend could be hurting a business’s bottom line.

Absence from the workplace, not including annual leave, typically costs an organisation between $600 – $1000 per employee[1], with a median total of $722. Building the business case using this type of data is a powerful way to influence decision makers, demonstrating the significant cost benefit of investing in targeted workplace wellbeing initiatives.

Putting people first

Looking after your people isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a smart business move. As Richard Branson put it: “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” 

That motto has never been more evident than in the past 18 months when employees have soldiered on through lockdowns, uncertainty, and separation from their loved ones. But one silver lining of the pandemic has been the conversation around mental health in the workplace. The topic is no longer in the shadows and the impact on employee engagement, retention, and innovation is crystal clear. 

HR and the wider business leaders should continue to foster open and honest conversations around wellbeing, particularly through role modeling their own behaviours. By normalising the topic and being brave with their own vulnerabilities, business leaders play a vital role in promoting a psychologically safe culture. They can also demonstrate the immense value of taking breaks, particularly in a time of remote working, and counter the “always on” culture that’s become the norm.

As New Zealand’s workers near a well-deserved break, the challenge for HR will be keeping wellbeing high up the priority list.

ELMO Software (ASX:ELO) is a cloud-based solution that helps thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to effectively manage their people, process and pay. ELMO solutions span the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. They can be used together or stand-alone, and are configurable according to an organisation’s unique processes and workflows. Automate and streamline your operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bolster productivity. For further information, contact us.


[1] Southern Cross Health Insurance, Workplace Wellness Report, 2021

[2] Southern Cross Health Insurance, Workplace Wellness Report, 2021

[3] Southern Cross Health Insurance, Workplace Wellness Report, 2021


Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.
Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.