Injuries, infections and mental health conditions are common causes of absenteeism and reduced productivity within the hospitality industry, and can threaten the viability of an employer’s business if not effectively managed.
“When employers do not consider the health and wellness needs of their workforce, this may expose their business to considerable risks at every level of its operations,” says Dr Jacques Snyman, clinical development expert for Agility Corporate.
He was commenting on a recent case study of a hotel business, where a marked reduction in guest satisfaction and a dip in the company’s online ratings were noted along with a sudden decline in profitability.
The employer attributed the negative change in the hotel’s reputation and fortunes to simple ‘bad luck’. A team from Agility Corporate specialising in the hospitality industry was called in to analyse the situation and get to the root of the problems affecting the business.
“What our team uncovered was not so much ‘bad luck’ as unmanaged risk, and the inevitable breakdown in productivity and efficiency of the hotel’s operations resulted in disgruntled guests, quite understandably, feeling that they were not getting value for their money and not returning to the hotel.”
Taking a closer look
Consultant to the travel and hospitality industry, Robyn Christie, adds that each time a staff member is absent or not performing at their best, this places an additional strain on the rest of their team.
“Hospitality businesses are very labour intensive and rely heavily on their staff. Frequently, absenteeism and reduced productivity means that the employer must take on temporary staff, which costs the company a vast amount in training, supervision and mentoring,” she notes.
Over the preceding two years, the hotel staff had suffered a number of accidents and episodes of ill health that had impacted their ability to work, either through absenteeism or ‘presenteeism’, which is defined as an employee being physically present at work but not achieving their optimal productivity.
Fifteen cases of trauma, including concussion and fractures, were recorded and on average each of these resulted in the employee taking 21 days off work for their recovery. Once they returned to work, it was found that they were struggling to work at their usual capacity and took longer to complete routine tasks.
“Often hotel staff are engaged in physical work, but have not received proper training on how to perform the necessary tasks safely and in some cases, this unfortunately leads to accidents in the workplace,” Christie says.
A further 32 employees were absent for between 14 and 21 days during the two-year period due to illness caused by infections of various types, while mental health issues including depression and anxiety led to five employees being absent for an average of 18 days each and having considerable difficulty in managing their usual workload when they were present.
“The employer was unaware of another great risk to their business that fortunately did not come to pass. Had one of their employees suffered a debilitating injury on duty leading to disability, without the appropriate group risk cover in place, the employer could have been liable for a hefty out-of-pocket settlement that could conceivably have sunk their business,” Christie comments.
“The impact of accidents and ill health on productivity was compounded by the fact that most of the staff did not have any healthcare cover, leading to delays in their full recovery,” Dr Snyman adds.
“Furthermore, if the employer had sought group risk insurance without implementing measures to mitigate other identifiable risks, their premiums would likely have been considerably higher than necessary, thereby steadily eroding the company’s bottom line.”
Practical solution addresses risks from all angles
The Agility Corporate team immediately implemented a number of practical interventions to address the risks identified through its analysis.
“Targeted safety education campaigns tailored to the specific duties of the hotel employees were carried out, teaching the staff methods for safely conducting their duties to reduce the risk of injuries, and this was complemented with our dedicated absenteeism management programme,” Christie explains.
The employer enrolled staff on an Agility Health-administered medical scheme, with options to suit the needs of the entire permanent workforce. At its most basic level, this allowed staff healthcare cover to deliver access to general practitioner consultations, a managed care programme for employees with chronic health conditions, basic dentistry and optometry, and preventative care, among other benefits.
A flexible option to provide staff with access to additional healthcare, such as physiotherapy, psychologist counselling and over-the-counter medicine, was made available through the Zurreal Healthcard. This innovative healthcare savings solution allows the employer to load funds onto a card that functions as a debit card, but can only be used for health-related expenses.
Free telephonic psychological and financial counselling provided through Agility’s rewards and wellbeing partner, Zurreal, helped staff to address some of the root causes of stress and anxiety, contributing to their overall wellbeing.
“The tailored, integrated solution to manage the identified risks facing the hotel business meant that soon staff morale was improved and productivity was hugely enhanced. In addition, group risk insurance could be offered at a five percent discount, so that employees now have the benefit of life, funeral and disability cover,” Christie says.
“In this case study, it was demonstrated that the employer saw considerable savings and a return to profitability as guests returned and shared their positive experiences through word-of-mouth, as well as favourable online reviews. This was not simply a case of ‘good luck’, this was a complete turnaround in proactive risk management and enhanced wellness,” Christy concluded.
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