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The Science of Organizational Productivity and Sustainability

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

By: Gladys K. Mwiti, PhD

Founder & CEO

Oasis Africa Center for Transformational Psychology & Trauma

For every employer – corporate, NGO or government, employee holistic wellness is not an option. Holistic wellness refers to employee care – medical health and psychosocial wellness. Psychosocial wellness is the most ignored part of employee care although it is the most important due to its pervasive impact when ignored. It is believed that up to 70% all physical illnesses have a link to psychological factors. This means that healthy psychology contributes to physical wellness and that there is a link between psychological well-being that includes positive affect, optimism, life meaning and purpose and life satisfaction and physical health[1]and so employers will do well to invest in their employee’s psychosocial wellness.WHO advices that health is not just the absence of disease but the presence of complete physical, emotional and social wellbeing[2]and that a working environment should have holistic health promotion in abundance.

Employee psychosocial wellness is a broad concept that includes mental, emotional and relational wellbeing, with various subheadings: stress management; work-life balance, coping with change; stress management; resilience building; readjustment during mergers and acquisitions; conflict management; marriage and enrichment; building healthy relationship; parenting skills; preparation for retrenchment; outplacement counseling; retirement planning; personal development; financial coaching for responsible budgeting, savings and investment; avoiding the addictions; dealing with loss, trauma and critical incidents, and so on. Failure to invest in these areas of employee wellness is costly as well as wasteful. When not adequately addressed, the vacuum created by employee stress is wasteful and consequential.[1]

Stress has a close association with physical health outcomes and has been linked with risk for various illnesses,[2]for example, depression,[3]heart disease,[4]ovarian cancer,[5]and breast cancer.[6]According to the CDC, these chronic diseases as well as stroke and obesity, account for 75 percent of total healthcare costs.[7]These are serious life-threatening conditions link stress to chronic illnesses and are very difficult and very expensive to treat.

However, some employers and human resource personnel either do not know or live in denial that work stress that is not addressed is not only life threatening but costs the employer employee redundancy, medical coverage, sickness benefits and wasted resources that have gone into employee hiring, training and maintenance. Investing in employee wellness cannot be over-emphasized. In addition to stress-related illnesses, grappling with the impact of Covid-19 has increased the prevalence of anxiety, depression and insomnia.[10]Unattended, these factors have the capacity to threaten wellness. increase conflict at the workplace and lower productivity that can derail any organization’s vision and mission.

Companies go through mergers, acquisitions and readjustments, making Employee Wellness a must during these times of disruption whether one is being retrenched, relocated or promoted. To the company, readjusting can bring growth and development as bigger and better groups are created to maximize the best attributes from both sides in order to create a better whole. The new amalgamation should generate value for the company and/or staff.However, the endings and new beginnings – all of them classified as changethat comes with mergers or acquisitions, have the capacity to cause staff disorientation, anxiety, fear, insecurity, conflict of interest and stress.

Sometimes, there is excitement and optimism. Where there are negative reactions to change, company productivity suffers as staff try to navigate the new reality. For this reason, some mergers succeed while others flop if the new amalgamation fails to engage all staff in harnessing value for the company. Some challenges that merging companies may fail to manage include competition for leading positions, conflict between divisions formed by the newly merged unit, disregarding needs and interests of staff, ignoring team building in the newly formed merger, prolonged and poorly-managed integration period and lack of communication regarding various aspects of the merger.

Over-all, mergers bring change that can be stressful to employees and as well as traumatic adjustment for some, especially if any staff member is already going through pre-existing challenges in their personal lives or at their workplace. For this reason, sensitive professional and well-coordinated supportneeds to be offered to the affected staff as well as psychosocial education on the impact of change so that employees can offer peer/mutual support to one another from a position of understanding.

The Employee Assistance Program is a necessity for all employers to ensure employee optimum performance. It needs a well-choreographed multifaceted multi-levelled intervention that reaches staff members at different levels from any national headquarters to regional and county company offices. Services should be tailored to meet the psychosocial needs of all staff – from management to casual staff members, providing stress management, change management and resilience building sessions at plenary, group and individual levels. Staff gifts should be synergized for the company’s or organization’s sustainability. For company readjustment programs, the EAP provider should have the capacity, capability and programs to allay staff anxieties and fears as well as work with remaining employees and management to maximize company values towards a greater beginning marked with shared core values and a “winning” tomorrow. Staff leaving the company will need an Outplacement Coaching Program – for a soft landing and a new beginning in their next place of employ – self or other. Some employers seem unaware that they can use the services of their medical insurance scheme if they fund EAP services. These employers have identified selected EAP providers whose psychosocial services the company covers. Finally, it is critical that the psychosocial provider employs licensed psychologists who have current membership to their professional body and the EAP provider has current Indemnity Insurance for the client’s protection.

[1]Hernandez, R., Bassett, S.M. & Boughton, S.W. (2017). Psychological Well-Being and Physical Health: Associations, Mechanisms, and Future Directions. Emotion Review. Sage Journals.

[2]WHO (1986). A Discussion Document on the Concept and Principles of Health Promotion. Health Promotion 1(1):73–78. [PubMed]

[3]WHO Stress at the Workplace.

[4]Slavich, G.M. (2016). Life Stress and Health: A Review of Conceptual Issues and Recent Findings. Teach Psychol. 43, 346–355.doi: 10.1177/0098628316662768

[5]Monroe, S.M., Slavich, G.M., Torres, L.D., Gotlib, I.H. (2007). Major life events and major chronic difficulties are differentially associated with history of major depressive episodes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116:116–124. .

[6]Kivimäki, M., Virtanen, M., Elovainio, M., Kouvonen, A., Väänänen, A., Vahtera, J. (2006). Work stress in the etiology of coronary heart disease—A meta-analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health, 32, 431–442.

[7]Lutgendorf, S.K., Slavich, G.M., DeGeest, K., Goodheart, M., Bender, D., Thaker, P.H., Sood, A.K. (2013). Non-cancer life stressors contribute to impaired quality of life in ovarian cancer patients. Gynecologic Oncology,131,667–673. Retrieved from[PMC free article][PubMed] [Google Scholar]

[8]Schoemaker, M.J., Jones, M.E., Wright, L.B. et al. (2016). Psychological stress, adverse life events and breast cancer incidence: a cohort investigation in 106,000 women in the United Kingdom. Breast Cancer Res 18, 72.

[9]CDC. Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases.

[10]Saxena, S. K. et al., (2020). Coping with Mental Health Challenges During COVID-19. Nature Public Health Emergency Collection.

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