Manufacturers should invest in wellbeing to boost productivity

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Manufacturers could increase their productivity by as much as 10% if they invested greater resources in improving employee wellbeing, a study has claimed.

A report published by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and Westfield Health during Mental Health Awareness Week – Unlocking employee productivity – suggested that manufacturers remained focused on compliance, physical health, risk assessments and traditional health and safety practices, rather than addressing the mental health needs of their workforces.

While physical health and safety in manufacturing is important, only one in five manufacturers invested in measures to improve the mental health of their staff, which the report argued has an equal effect on employee performance.

More than six in 10 manufacturers looked at the physical risks to workers, but only 15% assessed the risk that work could have on mental health.

While almost 80% of the 141 organisations polled saw improving productivity as a reason for investing in manufacturing employee wellbeing, less than 8% said it was the most important reason for doing so. Less than a third of manufacturers had a healthy living programme in place for their employees.

Westfield Health’s director of wellbeing Richard Holmes said accidents and costly mistakes could happen if manufacturing workers are distracted from their tasks.

“When you believe in the physical and emotional wellbeing of your staff it can completely transform the face of your business, improve productivity and create a positive working environment,” he explained. “But it needs to start from the top down, business leaders need to create a culture where people’s health and wellbeing is prioritised.”

The study urged manufacturers to focus on three key factors to improve the wellbeing of their workforce: job design, employee involvement and employee engagement.

It said good job design should balance the need to get the work done effectively, while providing a fulfilling experience for the employee. Employees in jobs that allow control, autonomy and a degree of discretion over what they do “tend to be more engaged and productive”, the report claimed.

Employees should also be given a say in how work is carried out, it claimed, and manufacturers should consider how to help workers engage with the organisation’s values and purpose.

Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at the Institute for Employment Studies, which carried out the survey, said: “This research shows that there is a clear business case for investing in workforce wellbeing. This goes beyond saving money and extends to issues of product quality and customer service too.”

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