Well, well, well: New report finds NZ lags behind most European countries on the wellbeing scale

Once a buzzword only noteworthy to the most committed of OSH representatives, ‘wellbeing’ has, against all odds, become the business productivity term du jour. That doesn’t mean corporate NZ is any good at actually doing it though.

Though Kiwis may pride themselves on their ‘suck it up' and 'get over it’ mentalities, with a rapidly aging population ­– not to mention first-world levels of depression pervading the workforce – business managers are now looking at strategies for employee ‘wellbeing’ in a new light.

Good intentions aside however, the recently released 2015 Sovereign Wellbeing Index reveals that New Zealand continues to languish behind most European countries – coming in 21st out of 29 to be exact.

So we cornered Sovereign’s Chris Lamers to find out just why New Zealand has such dismal wellness stats and what corporate NZ can do to get its act together.  

Idealog: Hi Chris. What are the key findings of the report?

Chris Lamers: Basically, those who eat well, get enough sleep to be rested and exercise for 30 minutes a day have a greater sense of wellbeing and are more likely to thrive ­­– It is very difficult for people in poor and/or declining health to be awesome. When compared to 29 European countries, New Zealand comes last with just 36% of New Zealanders feeling appreciated by those they are close to, compared to Denmark at the top of the list with 83%.

Also, people aged 55+ are more likely to be awesome than those aged under 35 years. This is because they tend to be more financially secure, have established relationships, a greater sense of purpose and increased resilience.

I: According to the report, New Zealand has a pretty poor showing for wellbeing. What gives? Is it a cultural thing?

CL: I think, as a nation, Kiwis can be a bit reserved. It’s really important to start a conversation about our lack of community, especially as we are an increasingly multi-cultural society. Experts suggest that improving the design of our cities and encouraging more active transport is key, but we also need to understand the importance of investing in relationships with those around us.

Image: Chris Lamers, marketing and innovation at Sovereign 

I: Are some occupations more ‘at-risk’ than others? What does the report say about workplace factors?

CL: The data does not compare occupations however it does reveal that no matter what you do, if you are working to your strengths you have a greater sense of wellbeing and are more satisfied in your job.

I: What’s the connection between wellness and income? Does mo’ money equal mo’ problems?

CL: Income is important but not as important as income security. It is not necessarily what you earn, but how well you can live on your income that is important. For example, you could have two families earning exactly the same, but the one living within their means is more likely to have a greater sense of wellbeing than the one which isn’t.

I: Seriously, why should corporate NZ care about this? What’s to gain to gain for employers? What’s at stake?

CL: This research provides a real opportunity for employers to make a difference to the wellbeing of employees.

High wellbeing individuals tend to be more productive, more creative, have higher incomes and achieve more. They have better health, use the health system less, and recover from illness faster. They are also more resilient in the face of challenges, volunteer to a greater extent, and are more generous with helping others in need.

If businesses contribute to the wellbeing of their employees, we believe it will not only have an impact on the individual and organisation but also the country as a whole. Corporate New Zealand is in a really strong position to show leadership in this area.

I: So what can business do to actually address the wellness issue?

CL: Simply this – Start a conversation about ways to identify, use and develop employees’ strengths and provide opportunities for people to build social connections within the workplace, be it through groups, volunteering or encouraging a more active environment.

I: What do you hope will be achieved here? What’s the end goal?

CL: Through this research, we hope to start conversations about what we can all do as individuals, communities and leaders to address some of the issues facing society.

Chris leads marketing and innovation at Sovereign. 

For the full report and to take the quiz, visit mywellbeing.co.nz