Wellbeing in the workplace is very much a focus area for businesses at the moment, but is it necessary and are the benefits worth the increased focus and resources?
Why is everyone still discussing wellbeing in the workplace?
There is a lot to say in response to that question. Undoubtedly there has been a marked increased in awareness of employee wellbeing recently. Part of what is driving this change is a new awareness of the importance of wellbeing in general and a shift in the level of understanding of wellness in a post pandemic world.
So, where are we now when it comes to employee wellbeing? What does it mean to employers and the workforce and is it still worth developing in a more challenging economic environment?
The benefits of an employee wellbeing focus
Workplaces are significant part of the lives of all of us. Whether it is a traditional 9 to 5 environment or a hybrid/remote pattern, the fact is that we spend most of our day ‘at work’. We interact with our co-workers, managers and others for hours at a time. In fact, for many of us, we are physically in the same vicinity as our colleagues for more time in a working day than our close family. The workplace matters to us. It is part of who we are and how we define our lives. Naturally, we all want to be happy and safe in this environment. Just from the perspective of a more efficient workforce then, wellbeing is a driver for job satisfaction which is known to significantly increase productivity.
Wellbeing is more than just a current trend. It has far reaching operational and financial benefits for a business. The most obvious of these is reduced absence amongst the team. Unhealthy teams are far more expensive to run due to increased sickness. However, there is a considerable weight of evidence pointing to wider benefits. According to the latest CIPD Health and Wellbeing survey for example, a more inclusive culture, better work life balance and higher levels of engagement and moral, are all a direct result of better employee wellbeing awareness.
There is also an emerging benefit in relation to employing new staff and the influx of a new generation in the workplace. With shortages of skilled workers in most industries, a strong wellbeing programme can be very influential in the decision to apply for, and then accept, a new role. Post-pandemic workforces are generally far more aware of their own health and dealing with the hot topics such as reducing presenteeism (where workers will attend work when they are ill and then spread infections) and mental wellness programmes could be a very attractive element of your employer offer.
Employee wellbeing in practice
Firstly, for a really effective approach to wellbeing, it needs to be holistic in the organisation. What that means in practical terms is that managers become a key factor in the implementation of a wellbeing process. Training, appropriate policies and other support mechanisms will need to be installed and updated as needed. Just as importantly the workforce should be invested in their own health and aware of the welfare of their colleagues.
As an employer, there is also a legal requirement to ensure the safety of employees but, in my experience, where there is no legislative pressure, there is usually a desire to treat the team as well as circumstances allow.
At the top level your wellness approach will probably start with a small number of general areas to consider. These will likely be around:
- Physical – The legal safety requirements of the workplace and extended safety practices. Promoting good health. Awareness or environmental factors that promote unhealthy workplaces. Perhaps benefits such as gym membership and time off to attend health related appointments etc.
- Mental wellness – Managing stress in the workplace. Increasing awareness and understanding of mental wellbeing. Giving time for support mechanisms. Tackling conflict and similar needs.
- Work environment – These measures could be as simple as the right level of physical comfort for workers, through to ensuring home workers have appropriate equipment and training to work safely.
Other areas to consider are the financial wellbeing of your employees, your management teams ability to instil and promote wellness awareness and other wellbeing related matters. It is a matter of what your workforce needs and what will be of most benefit rather than a one size solution.
Wellbeing is about more that a few occupational health documents, it is about ensuring that you are giving a lifestyle option that means your workforce will be healthy and happy in their roles. Paying lip service to a wellbeing programme will not be enough but a committed and refined approach could well be a significant boost to the efficiency and ongoing success of your business.
One final thought. We don’t yet know the ongoing effect of the unsettled times we all faced in the last few years. Post covid awareness of the nature of healthy environments mean the modern workforce often look for a safer workplace. Mental wellbeing was a problem for many workers during the lockdown periods and long term, could still well be a continuing concern. Long-covid needs to be considered and, anecdotally at least, it looks like there has been increased levels of minor viral illnesses during the winter of 2023 due to reduced contact.
The need for wellbeing support is changing and developing all the time and employers would be well advised to develop their response accordingly. You often see emails with that phrase ‘hope this finds you well’ at the start, but an employer who actually means it could find themselves reaping real benefits.
To find out more about how we can help you create a positive working environment where employees can truly thrive just contact us on 01604 261380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.