It came sharply into focus during the pandemic, and it’s stayed top of the agenda ever since. Why is employee wellbeing so important, and what does it look like in practice? Here’s a simple explanation of what you can do for your staff, and what they can do in return for your business. Hollywood movies have been telling us for decades that we shouldn’t be living to work but working to live. However, it’s only in the last decade or so that a real cultural shift has taken place so that things can really change. It’s finally becoming accepted practice to view people as individuals, with unique families and commitments outside the workplace, and that they need to prioritise their physical and mental health. There are so many ways you can support your staff to take care of themselves during the many hours they are with you – some will cost you time and money, and others are cultural shifts that you may need to work at. Taken altogether, they form your company’s own employee wellbeing package. But is it worth the time, money and effort? The Difference it Makes The workplace matters to us. It is part of who we are and how we define our lives, and it’s vital to feel safe, happy and valued in that environment – which means increased job satisfaction. Happy and committed teams give you significantly better productivity. Employees who are physically and mentally well are also more likely to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to challenges. Listening to and adopting those ideas will boost their commitment, ownership and responsibility, and could mean they’re more likely to go above and beyond their job requirements. Then there’s reducing absenteeism, and those associated costs – to your pocket and to that productivity. There were 30 million working days lost to work-related ill health in the UK in 2021-22, mainly due to stress and anxiety – so that’s without the transmissible viruses that can lay a team low time and again in the winter months. A depleted workforce is going to seriously impact your performance and growth targets. And when it’s time to recruit, many employers are finding that there’s stiff competition for the right skillsets out there. With shortages of skilled workers in most industries, it can be an applicants’ market – and a strong wellbeing programme can be very influential in the decision to apply for, and then accept, a new role. But what does it look like? So the benefits sound great, but what does employee wellbeing look like in practice? Starting with three main areas for consideration is a good approach for looking at what you currently offer, and what you could expand towards: Physical wellness: what are you the legal safety requirements of the workplace you run and the extended safety practices you need to have in place? What practical offers can you make to promote good health – gym membership, or time off to attend health-related appointments? Do your staff know that if they are ill, they should stay at home to prevent the spread of illness to others? “Presenteeism” can be as damaging to your productivity as absenteeism. Mental wellness: be fully aware of what you can do to help everyone manage stress in the workplace and demonstrate clearly that you are a culture of that supports understanding of mental wellbeing. Tackle conflict and similar needs as a priority and show zero tolerance for unacceptable or discriminatory behaviour. Work environment: These measures could be as simple as the right level of physical comfort for workers, to ensuring home workers have appropriate equipment and training to work safely. But you could also think about the facilities you provide. Is there somewhere to make hot drinks, store lunches and keep a pint of milk? Is there somewhere pleasant to sit and eat, away from a desk? Have your toilets got all the facilities they need? These small things make such a big difference to daily working life. These are just the basics, though. There are lots more ideas and practices out there that are becoming more and more commonplace for building a supportive, attractive employee wellbeing programme:
- Health and fitness in the workplace: yoga classes, lunchtime walking groups, walking meetings, head massages, visiting health and wellbeing experts, free daily fruit in the office, meditation and mindfulness sessions – they won’t all be for everyone, but offer everyone the chance to take them up.
- Group initiatives: the Three Peaks Challenge, charity fitness events such as walking 100 miles in a month for Mind. These organised challenges give people a sense of belonging and teamwork, as well as promoting these healthy activities. They can also be a way of getting families involved too.
- Employee recognition schemes: ‘employee of the month’, simple thank-you recognition gifts, or time off for completing targets – all can boost your staff’s sense of being valued, and help you to retain the talent you have.
- Flexible working: allowing your employees to make decisions on their own working hours is hugely beneficial to their mental health, to their productivity at work, and to their company loyalty. Allowing them to accommodate the school run, work from home more frequently, or support an elderly relative can remove all the stress of finding another solution.
- Bring your Pet to Work day: this is becoming more and more popular since the pandemic! See our recent blog post for how to manage this in your workplace.
- Value time off: whether it’s a regular short break from your desk, or consistently taking your full entitlement of annual leave, time away allows everyone to come back refreshed – so make sure these become common practice.
The crucial element in any wellbeing programme, though, is having the same level of commitment to it across your organisation. That means everyone has a consistent responsibility for staff wellbeing: from managers to individuals themselves. A truly effective wellbeing programme is supported and put into action by everyone. So many emails open with ‘hope this finds you well’. An employer who actually means it could find themselves reaping real benefits. Need a little help? If you’ve never considered your employee wellbeing programme in the round before, you may welcome an experienced helping hand. At Haus of HR, we’ve built and implemented many bespoke wellbeing plans for companies of all sizes – just give us a call to arrange a conversation on 01604 261380.