Are individuals responsible for their own health? To a large extent, yes. However, corporate culture also has a significant impact on employee health, as the widely read 2016 issue of a German report on absences from work (Fehlzeiten-Report) shows. Employees who work for companies with a positive culture are healthier.
Since 1999, the Scientific Institute of Health Insurance (WIdO) of the AOK – the company that insures around one-third of Germany’s population – has published its annual report on employee absences from work in conjunction with the University of Bielefeld and Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin. The report, which has attracted a high level of attention, explains the reasons for employee absences from German companies and the related patterns. This is because “psychological wellbeing and physical health are the prerequisites for performance and motivation,” as the AOK’s Scientific Institute of Health Insurance writes.
Significant scope for improvement
The results of the latest study, which was published in mid-September, are striking: One in every four employees who rate the corporate culture of the company where they work as poor are also dissatisfied with their own state of health. In the case of those employees who view the corporate culture as positive, only around one in ten is dissatisfied with his or her health. The consequences of this finding are reflected by the levels of physical and mental illness among these employees: 66% of employees who judge their company’s corporate culture to be poor suffer from physical illnesses – compared to just 32% among employees who rate the corporate culture as positive. And 65% of employees with a negative corporate culture suffer from psychological problems, compared to ‘only’ 32% in the case of a positive culture.
So what exactly is corporate culture? The AOK’s Scientific Institute of Health Insurance writes the following on this subject: “Culture consists of common factors that bind employees together – particularly shared values, beliefs and rules.” If employees have a sense of wellbeing and feel valued, they work together more effectively and this, in turn, promotes mutual trust. The result is that employees display higher levels of motivation and dedication. According to a study by the AOK’s Scientific Institute of Health Insurance, the factors considered most important by employees are the loyalty of their employer (78%) and recognition in the form of praise (69%). In addition, employees want to be able to influence important decisions (60%) – i.e. to make a difference.
Direct link to absences
In reality, however, a different picture emerges: Only 55% of employees have the impression that they have the support of their employer and only around half are praised for their good work. Furthermore, only around 42% have an influence on key decisions. In other words, there is a clear discrepancy between expectations and reality – with the result that employees are dissatisfied and become unwell. That is because there is a direct link between the quality of the corporate culture and the number of days on which employees are absent from work: 31% of employees in a company with a culture rated as poor were off work for more than two weeks in 2015. In the group of employees who rate their corporate culture as positive, the figure was just 17%.
The fact that mental illness accounts for by far the longest periods of absence among all illnesses (an average of almost 26 days for each episode of illness) gives me particular food for thought. The constant increase in pressure in the workplace makes many people unwell. It is clear that companies expect their employees to work hard. However, if people are placed under too much pressure and are given too little recognition, employees become stressed and that causes productivity to decline. The result is that 50% of employees switch jobs due to a poor relationship with their boss. That costs the company a lot of money. Corporate culture and leadership are what make the difference – including for the financial success of the company.
More information on this topic (please note: some information is only available in German):
© Claudia Kraaz