This week we learnt from a Canada Life survey that a quarter of UK employees  feel too guilty to use all of their holiday allowance each year.

What’s more, in order to game the system which tracks sickness absence, a similar number say they record days taken off ill as holiday.

Coming in the wake of the Edenred Barometer research which found that over half of UK employees are thinking of quitting their jobs with a significant 37% seeing their work as no more than routine, the picture of the post-credit crunch workplace is not an enticing one.

Job insecurity and fear of unemployment dominate employees’ minds, as does a lack of confidence that things will get better where they currently work. This is a situation which is neither desirable nor, I think, sustainable.

So what are we to do about this sorry state of affairs?

As a starter, there is no doubt that the ideas which stand behind Engage for Success provide some of the answers.  

A better, more honest dialogue between leadership, managers and employees should help improve the issues of confidence in the organisation which are causing people to be present without necessarily performing.

However, I do think that this will only work if employers are prepared to make bolder and clearer commitments to employees about their future with the organisation and take steps to take away the uncertainty which dogs so many organisations.

I also believe that focusing on employee engagement alone isn’t enough.

Yes, involvement and engaging /authentic leadership are important.  But if the health of our workplaces is really going to improve then I think we really need to address the full range of issues which undermine employee wellbeing. And here it is important that we rank financial wellbeing as a priority.

While it may be unfashionable to suggest this at a time of austerity – particularly in the face of thinkers like of Daniel Pink who say that money doesn’t motivate us to perform better  –  it seems clear to me that the employer-employee dynamic  is bound to suffer if people feel they are getting worse, not better off in the course of their employment when they are doing the same job.

So the role of money, pay and reward can’t be ignored.

This creates a big opportunity. Not to throw cash at the problem but to look at how we can create and use packages of ‘total reward’ – from pay and bonuses to incentives, benefits and other areas which support employee wellbeing in its widest sense – to address the wellbeing deficit which is clearly dogging our organisations.

Employee engagement may provide some of the answers to underperformance and demotivation but it doesn’t provide them all. Now is the time for employers to look again at the environment their employees face – in and out of the workplace – and work out how they can practically support their wellbeing as a priority.

Andy Philpott is sales and marketing director at Edenred – you can access more insights on our knowledge hub – 

Follow us on twitter – @edenreduk or @andy_philpott

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