Employee Health and Safety Should Be CSR Priorities

Putting Employee Health at the Center of Corporate Social Responsibility

By Anna Johansson

Businesses put a lot of effort into finding, hiring and deploying the right employees. In fact, some estimates suggest it costs roughly 16 percent of an annual salary to replace someone in a high-turnover, low-paying position — and 20 percent in a mid-range position. That’s a lot of money and shows just how important human capital is from a financial standpoint.

So, why is it that so many companies unintentionally ignore employee health when it comes to crafting corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives? Most organizations spend too much time focusing on sustainable supply chains and efforts within the local community – which are both inherently good – and totally forget that CSR is about serving all stakeholders – including employees.

How leading organizations can prioritize employee health

For organizations that want to develop well-rounded CSR strategies, employee health and well-being must be at the center. Because, if you don’t take care of your employees, everything else eventually falls apart.

1. Overworking and workaholism

“While the Washington Post reported in 2014 that the United States is more productive when compared to France, Germany, Russia, Greece, South Korea, and Mexico, the amount of hours we invest in work does not necessarily have the highest productivity yield hour by hour,” American Addiction Centers explains.

What experts have discovered is that, in an effort to prove themselves through increased output, many American workers are actually developing workaholism. This dependence on working longer hours can lead to anxiety disorders, ADHD, OCD and depression.

From a CSR perspective, keeping employees healthy could look like discouraging 12- and 14-hour days or requiring individuals to use their vacation time. You should be doing whatever necessary to keep employees mentally healthy and engaged.

2. Workplace safety and health

Keeping employees safe in the workplace is an important part of being a responsible organization. While it’s easy to assume this is strictly a human-resources issue, the fact of the matter is that keeping employees safe at work goes a long way toward communicating your organization’s prioritization of safe conditions to the marketplace.

Casio, the Japanese consumer electronics company, is a great example.

“Casio goes beyond employee health management. It also seeks, by taking active measures to promote better health, to improve employee motivation and raise productivity,” the company explains. Practically, Casio does this through comprehensive annual health checkups, initiatives to counter lifestyle-related diseases, and even a program aimed at preventing long working hours.

3. Nutrition and exercise

It’s amazing how many organizations give time and money to organizations that promote healthy living, yet they do very little to positively influence their own stakeholders – particularly employees.

While you don’t have to build a flashy on-site gym or start catering your employees’ meals like tech startups in Silicon Valley, it’s imperative that you address the issue of nutrition and exercise in some form or fashion.

It’s easy to feel as if the only way to have an impact on society is through funding major programs and supporting public issues you believe in, when in fact, the biggest effect you can have starts with your employees.

By helping your employees develop smarter eating habits and encouraging exercise and fitness through discounted gym memberships and rewards for passing health exams, companies can encourage healthier living. As a result of this healthy living, families and local communities become stronger and more vibrant.

4. Connecting employee health to larger societal health

Despite the fact that the United States spends more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation, people are living shorter lives and preventable sicknesses and diseases are at all-time highs. From a business perspective, this represents a wonderful opportunity to make employee health the catalyst for a larger societal issue.

“Reframe health and wellness as a broader stakeholder and value chain issue, and ensure that the company’s CSR agenda reflects that shift,” suggests BSR, a global nonprofit business network dedicated to consulting on sustainability.

“New priorities and business opportunities may arise as a company develops a more holistic understanding of how health and wellness is linked to other important social and environmental challenges, as well as business challenges.”

Making health and wellness a CSR priority

There’s a massive crossover between CSR and human resources, and employee health needs to be a focal point for more organizations moving forward.

“I have spent considerable time in my career in the presence of the CEOs of major companies,” CSR expert Elliot Clark says. “When you ask them about what concerns them, talent is always near the top of their lists. Concern for talent needs to extend well past the recruitment and retention of competence to the availability to perform physically, emotionally and mentally.”

While you may assume that your organization is fine because it offers a cost-effective health plan to employees, this isn’t enough. You need to prove to all of your stakeholders that health and wellness is an active priority by promoting it from every angle.

Image credit: Pexels

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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