B3 Monthly – April 2019

Welcome to the second instalment of B3 Monthly where you will find articles specifically aimed at the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of you and your staff.

The hot topic on everyone’s lips this past month is the Budget and the upcoming federal election. Read Stanford Brown’s take on the Budget and how it could affect you here.

Flu on the Rise!

Health experts are warning Australians of a killer flu season approaching this winter, with the number of Australians diagnosed with the flu this year more than triple the numbers seen in previous years!

This trend is likely to continue, meaning that your employees will be at heightened risk of falling victim to the flu.  If you aren’t prepared, load up on Kleenex & hand sanitiser and prepare yourself for the sound of sneezing and saying “bless you” ad nauseum. Also prepare yourself for a steady stream of sick leave forms, as unwell employees will likely need to take days off to recuperate.

Although the flu poses the greatest risk to elderly, everyone is susceptible. 1 in 10 flu fatalities had an otherwise clean bill of health. Professor Robert Booy of the Immunisation Coalition puts the threat of the flu into perspective “we expect the flu to kill at least 4,000 people which is the same number as deaths from suicide and the road toll combined”.

Unlike other forms of leave, nobody wins when employees are forced to take sick leave. You can take preventative steps by providing flu vaccinations as an employee benefit. With experts advising that early April is the best time to get vaccinated, the window to provide this benefit is closing.

Is Debt a Four-Letter Word?!

When you think about debt, is there a bad taste in your mouth? Debt doesn’t often come with good connotations, but it is often thought of as something to avoid at all costs. There is a distinct difference between ‘good debt’ and ‘bad debt’.

Stanford Brown’s Chief Investment Officer Ashley Owen’s novel: “1 Million for Life: How to Make It, Manage It, Maximise It” compares good debt vs bad debt. Owen says that bad debt is used to purchase assets that lose you money whereas good debt is used to purchase assets that make you money. An example of bad debt is taking out a 20% loan to fund everyday spending. Good debt, however, is an asset that generates income, appreciates over time and the interest is tax deductable such as a share portfolio or property.

According to an article by Forbes, “Investing without debt is like cooking without gasoline: of course, gasoline can be dangerous, but if we learn to use it properly, we can see better results.”  Whilst it can be beneficial to invest in ‘good debt’, it is more imperative to pay down bad debt first. In most cases, for every $1 dollar you pay on a depreciating asset, you should earn more than $1 dollar in income to cover the cost of holding that asset. So, before you start investing in good debt, pay down those bad debts first by:

  • Paying more than the minimum required on Credit Card Debts, Personal Loans and Car Loans
  • Managing your Home Loan appropriately

When managing finances, we always encourage you and your staff to speak with a financial adviser to help achieve your financial goals.

How to promote Good Stress while tackling Bad Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and an important one for any business leader to understand given that workload is a major contributor to the stress experienced by their employees. In fact, a 2006 ComPsych survey found that 46% of people believed work to be the largest cause of stress in their life. Interestingly however, not all stress is bad, indeed some types of stress can yield significant improvements on motivation and productivity in the workplace.

Eustress, commonly referred to as good stress, is the body’s natural response to a task or challenge. It can often manifest in emotions of excitement or motivation. Good stress earns its name because it stimulates a small burst of energy that spur motivation and productivity to meet deadlines and achieve goals. Science has even found stress to be able to improve  memory. Despite having these benefits in the short term, if the factors leading to good stress persist for weeks or even months, it may evolve into chronic stress.

The biggest challenge then is to identify when we get that ping of adrenaline as good stress, opposed to the stress that keeps us up at night, making sure that we aren’t keeping our bodies in a constant state of alertness.

Manage stress with your staff by keeping an open dialogue about workload, stress factors (such as tight deadlines) and mood. You can do this by introducing a ‘stress check’ segment into team meetings, provide onsite education and wellbeing sessions to help identify and manage stress; or encouraging your staff to utilise EAP services to speak with a professional.

HR Extras: How to respond to Employee Feedback

As HR professionals and people leaders, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our HR policies, enhance health and wellbeing benefits and promote positive culture. To achieve the best for staff, HR teams must be agile and open not only to new trends in wellness, but also the feedback from staff needed to improve the existing HR/benefits strategies in place.

To test the market and see how employees really feel in the workplace, Cigna, a worldwide health services organisation, conducted their 5th annual 360 Wellbeing Survey. Cigna surveyed a total of 13,200 employees across 23 markets, including Australia, and published their results, some of which we’ve highlighted below:

  1. Women are more stressed and need better options in tailored wellness programs

Two-thirds of working women feel that workplace wellness programmes need to better address their needs. Working women want flexible options specifically regarding working hours as well as leave options such as special paid leave (e.g. stress leave or days for overtime work)

Employers may consider updating HR policies to better support working mothers, such as providing breakout areas, introducing flexible hours (e.g. coming back to work from maternity leave part time) or offering onsite or offsite childcare/emergency care options.

  2. Employees are concerned about protecting their families

Of those surveyed 54% of insurance owners feel ready to look after the financial well-being of their family, versus 38% for non-insurance owners. From these stats we can assume that providing employer funded insurances (Death/TPD and Income Protection Insurance) can significantly decrease the financial stress of employees.

3. Employees understand the importance of Heart Health but don’t know how to be heart healthy

1 in 6 employees have not changed their habits despite understanding that an alteration in lifestyle is required to reduce BMI and manage blood pressure to remain heart healthy. 20% have also experienced symptoms of potential heart issues, but have not explored solutions or treatment.

Facilitating awareness is only the first step, employers can offer onsite health checks, encourage group exercise or run a health challenge in the business to help drive change.

The research has been done, the papers have been written, we’ve all read it before – Physical exercise is good for our mental health. A study conducted at Yale and Oxford shows that individuals who exercised had 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health per month compared to those who didn’t exercise.  Interestingly, the study found that the impact that physical exercise had on mental health was larger than other variables such as education and income. So, when it comes to improving mental health, exercise can be better for you than earning more money!

So why then, do we still see our employees not utilising the gym subsidies HR departments provide? Is there a better way to encourage physical wellbeing through exercise?

The above study went on to explore the impact that different types of exercise had on mental health and found that those who played team sports reported the highest levels of mental wellbeing. When people exercise in a team setting the social aspect helps to reduce depression and levels of stress.

When it comes to supporting employee physical wellbeing, our philosophy at Stanford Brown is that group exercise, whether Yoga, CrossFit, BootCamp or Dance class, is more beneficial than paying for your employees’ gym memberships. Group sessions help foster a sense of team spirit and comradery which in turn can further improve mental wellbeing.

If you are interested in ways you can promote group fitness and general physical wellness in your workplace, please get in contact with us.

You’ve probably heard of Dr Michael Mosley, a prominent voice on all things medicine and wellness. Dr Mosely has recently created ‘Reset’, a three-part Australian series featured on the SBS that looks into the simple and practical steps to take to prevent the most common chronic diseases. You can watch Better Bodies, Better Minds, Better Guts on demand here.

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