When last July, Carlos Slim (pictured above), one of the world’s richest tycoons, called for the introduction of a three-day working week with everyone working approximately 11 hours day as a means to improving employees quality of life and generate greater productivity, business leaders took notice. His eye catching suggestion, matched with raise in the retirement age to 70 plus with more time off, was a further sign that the domain of well being at work, work life balance, and so forth was truly emerging from the relatively narrow world of human resources and unto the centre stage of CEOs and those charged with the overall strategy.

Mr Slim’s recommendations were interesting from two angles. First, replacing the traditional five or six days with a three-day week was an innovative suggestion on how best to allocate our time around work and the fulfilment of greater happiness. But just as interesting, was the linkage he made between improving conditions around wellbeing with the overall improvement in productivity. For many traditionalists, a long working week naturally equated with greater output.

But here was a top leader saying hang on, that might not be the case. On the contrary, if we restructure our working week towards working in more intensive bursts followed by longer time off, we may not only have more free time but output and performance could actually increase as well. This linkage between wellbeing at work and business performance is at the heart of our work in the new Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces. Good Health = Good Business is our mantra.

Shortly we will be hosting the 3rd Global Healthy Workplace Awards Summit at Florianopolis in the beautiful Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Previous Summits were held in London and Shanghai. The Summit will bring together experts from around the world including some 50 CEOs for two days where the latest innovations and concepts in workplace health will be examined.

The centre piece of the event will be the presentations from the six finalists who are GlaxoSmithKline (UK), Chevron (USA) (multi-national category), Unilever (Brazil), Vanderbilt University (USA) (large employers), and SMEs, who often take a highly original approach will be led by Lan Spar Bank (Denmark) and Naya Jeevan (Pakistan). The six have been chosen from entries in almost thirty countries, making it a truly global representation of world class employment.

The purpose of the Awards & Summit programme is to encourage the sharing of better practice and stimulate new thinking. Attracting a diverse range of interested parties from commercial to NGOs is important and Florianopolis, as Shanghai before, will hear the perspective of investors. A series of new initiatives will be announced in Florianopolis to further improve the quality of workplace health. These cover a new global accreditation programme to ensure standards are high and maintained.

A new digital guide for SMEs, perhaps the sector of greatest need and expansion is being planned and we will shortly be publishing an E-course for professionals in partnership with the University of Arizona Eller Business School. Developments amongst academics also forms part of our work, essential for the improvement in research and to demonstrate the productivity benefits to the latest thinking in business schools.

Workplace health and wellbeing is a varied specialism reaching into most elements that make up business performance. But what is the greatest concern for employers in the modern world? According to our latest global survey with Buck consulting, it is stress, but you probably guessed that anyway.

Article by Tommy Hutchinson & Wolf Kirsten, co-founders of Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces. To find out more and to register for the Florianopolis Summit – click here