EXCLUSIVE: Rolls-Royce’s Roomes says focus on performance to make business case for wellbeing

business case for wellbeing

Employee Benefits Live 2018: To make the business case for wellbeing to the board of an organisation, HR leaders should focus on performance.

In a session titled ‘Bringing health and wellbeing into the boardroom, the business case’, as part of the diversity and inclusion stream on 3 October, David Roomes, group director, health, safety and sustainability, and chief medical officer at Rolls-Royce, discussed why an organisation should care about the wellbeing of employees, and how to get buy-in from the board.

Roomes advocated a story-telling approach rather than a scientific one: “If you’re talking to your board or executive committee and making the case for wellbeing, using the vast amount of statistics and research out there isn’t necessarily going to be effective. Yes, they’re important and on a certain level they make a case for wellbeing, but you need make your case relevant to your board so you can mobilise the resources and investment in order to address the issues.”

Roomes especially believes in focusing on the performance of employees. He explained: “Leadership, people and culture and engagement are three of the defining elements of high performance, according to a BCG study. And that’s where you can start to make the case for things for wellbeing and diversity.

“[Organisations] need people who enjoy optimal wellbeing. When we talk about wellbeing, we talk about a holistic picture made up of five elements: physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual. It’s only when we maximise people’s wellbeing in all of these five elements that they can be truly high-performing.”

Employers must be made aware of their duty to ensure they are providing good work for their people, said Roomes. “Work is good for us. It gives us purpose, it gives us meaning, it gives us structure, it puts food on our table and a roof over our head. But the caveat is that good work is good for us. Bad work is bad for us.”

One of the ways to provide good work is to come to terms with the mental wellbeing challenge. First, however, Roomes believes some myths need to be debunked.

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“The truth is that stress is good for us,” he said. “You need some stress in your life to motivate yourself and drive performance. It encourages us to stretch ourselves. When people have no stress, they’re idle and their performance isn’t good. But as pressure increases and you take people through their comfort zone and into the stretch area, that’s where people perform at their best.

“But when stress becomes sustained over a long period of time or it becomes excessive, people enter the strain zone and that’s when you see a drop in performance and poor decision making. Ultimately, if you’re in the crisis zone, that’s when you become ill and that’s obviously the worst case scenario.”