Why wellness has become a top CFO priority
Australians like to think we’re the most laid-back country on earth but, as a nation, we’re increasingly stressed out.
Recent research from Reventure found 73 per cent of Australians feel anxious at work, with 85 per cent believing their employer is obliged to address it. Given the broader cost and performance implications, responsibility no longer sits exclusively in the HR department.
Deloitte found 70 per cent of chief financial officers (CFOs) view workplace wellbeing as a strategic priority. This is largely because there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest employee wellbeing is closely linked to business growth.
In a digital world, where customers can buy whatever they want from wherever they want, products and services are no longer a core differentiator. Your people play a huge role in how customers and potential customers your business. Your staff are a valuable business investment and must be managed like any other asset.
Safe Work Australia found workplace stress costs Australian businesses $10 billion every year, by reducing productivity, retention, talent attraction and innovation. For this reason, the CFO is increasingly joining HR in finding measures to address employee wellbeing and improve the business bottom line.
What does wellbeing look like?
While wellbeing is often spoken about, it can be difficult to clearly articulate what it means in a business environment where pressure and stress abound. Many leaders will say they have a wellbeing program if they get a daily fruit basket delivered or offer free yoga classes. But wellbeing has more to do with workplace culture than perks.
Reventure found the top three elements that workers believe contribute to workplace wellbeing are a pleasant working environment (44 per cent) flexible working hours (36 per cent) and realistic expectations (36 per cent).
Looking at these elements, it’s clear the causes of most workplace stresses are within your organisation’s power to change. Providing people with the right tools is an important part of creating this environment.
As a CFO, there are also concrete benefits of employee wellbeing that flow directly onto the balance sheet. For this reason, creating a healthy workplace culture is an essential part of building a resilient, successful organisation.
Dolly Parton once sung about working nine to five but digital and mobile trends have long since made this an outdated notion. Today’s workers are cramming hours in wherever and whenever it suits their lifestyle. This increasingly connected and always-on working environment makes it very easy for employees to feel burnt out.
This has led to an increase in presenteeism – where people are physically present at work for long hours but not necessarily productive. The impact of overworked and unhealthy employees is that they’re more likely to underperform, spread illness and impact productivity. In fact, Carnegie MG estimates presenteeism costs Australian business about $33 billion a year.
Avoiding the costs of sick leave and unplanned absence is the most obvious benefit of improving employee wellbeing. Happy and engaged staff members are also more likely to be working to the best of their ability. A study from the Royal Australasian Colleague of Physicians called the relationship between productivity and wellbeing a “virtuous circle”. Recruitment firm Robert Walters found that 93 per cent of employers agree a workplace wellness program has a positive impact on productivity. So wellbeing is just as likely to improve the balance sheet as it is your workplace culture.
There’s a huge amount of competition for top talent in every industry. These potential hires are holding the cards and making demands before they’ll consider joining your business. Looking after their wellbeing is near the top of the list, with 87 per cent of professionals saying a wellness policy is important when considering new opportunities.
It also works in reverse. People understand how valuable their experience is and will look to leave their current workplaces if personal health needs aren’t being met.
Hiring new employees is a significant expense – on top of any salary package you’ll need to factor in the cost of recruiting, onboarding and training. There’s also a knowledge cost if your businesses has high staff turnover as acquired expertise continually walks through the exit door.
So supporting your existing staff is much more cost-effective than replacing them when they leave.
In the digital age, innovation separates the leaders from the followers. Wellbeing also has a huge role to play in helping your businesses compete in this space.
Innovation is a team sport played by smart people – it’s not a process. And employees with better job satisfaction are more willing to go the extra mile in thinking of new approaches to the status quo. A quality work environment supports employees who take risks and come up with new ideas.
Whether you’re primarily motivated by increasing productivity, attracting talent or driving innovation, employee wellbeing is an important piece of the puzzle. It adds quantifiable value and has quickly become an expectation of top talent.
CFOs who address this need will reap the benefits of building spaces where people want to work, strengthening the bottom line and fuelling continued business growth.
Dominic Parsons is the CEO of CALUMO.
C-suite spotight: Melanie Perkins, CEO, Canva
Who is Melanie Perkins?
She’s the co-founder and CEO of Australian unicorn online design platform Canva, who ultimately became one of tech’s youngest female CEOs, at just 30, and recently became a billionaire aged 35, making her one of Australia’s richest and youngest.
Why is she in the spotlight right now?
Because less than a year after securing a US$6bn valuation during the pandemic, which provided a big boost to business, Canva has recently more than doubled its valuation, securing a $15bn valuation, which makes Perkins a billionaire, according to Forbes. The valuation comes in the wake of a new funding round in the first week of April 2021 led by T. Rowe Price and Dragoneer and raising $71m. At the same time, Canva announced its business has passed $500m in annualised revenue, up 130% from the year before.
What is Canva and why is it so successful?
Launched in 2013 by co-founders Melanie Perkins (CEO), Cliff Obrecht (COO) and Cameron Adams (Chief Product Officer), Sydney-headquartered Canva is a free-to-use online graphic design product that allows users to create everything from social media graphics to presentations and other visual content, as well as offering paid subscriptions like Canva Pro and Canva for Enterprise, with 3 million of its now 55 million users taking paid subscriptions.
Accruing 750,000 users in its first year, following a number of rounds of investment including from Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital in 2019 and this month’s massive funding round, Canva now boasts 55 million users across 190 countries, with offices in Sydney, Beijing, Manila, and most recently Austin, Texas, and is valued at $3.2 billion.
And while the company was originally most popular with SMEs, helping them draft and design print and digital assets, it’s since grown to become a real-time collaboration suite that’s being used by big firms including McKinsey, Salesforce and American Airlines. In fact, Canva claims that 85% of Fortune 500 companies use the platform’s services. They continue to add new features and during the pandemic, added presenter video recording tools.
How did Perkins get there?
The idea of Canva came to Perkins when she was at the university of Perth, where to earn money on the side she taught students design programmes. Many of her students found platforms like Adobe complicated and frustrating, and the ideas came to her to simplify and democratise design, to make it more approachable and accessible, more collaborative, and ultimately to empower all in design. So, she and university peer Cliff Obrecht, who became Canva co-founder and Perkins’ husband, created an online school yearbook design business, Fusion Yearbooks, to test it out. Operating from her mum’s living room, the yearbook design business was a massive success, expanding to New Zealand and France, and remains the largest yearbook publisher in Australia.
However, Perkins did not give up on her dream to create a one-stop-shop design site and at one point spent three months living with her brother in San Francisco where she pitched to more than 100 venture capitalists, all of whom rejected Canva. It was following a chance encounter at a conference in Perth with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Tai, Perkins was winning over major investors including Hollywood celebrities Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson and building out Canva’s design platform with a fast-growing team of tech engineers and a high-profile tech advisor, Lars Rasmussen who co-founded Google Maps.
It was in 2012 when things really kicked off however when Perkins and Obrecht found a tech co-founder in Cameron Adams. The same year, they closed their first funding round, which was oversubscribed and raised $1.5m, with Canva going live in 2013. In 2019, an $85m funding round led by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital gave the company a valuation of $3.2bn, before the most recent funding around in April 2021 leading to a valuation of $15bn.
In her own words…
"I think it's pretty important to know that every single person is going through their own trials and tribulations. Knowing that it's tricky for everyone, that any adventure will be filled with rejections and littered with obstacles – somehow makes the adventure a little less lonely. And it's most important for people who feel like they are on the outside to know this."