How to get workplace wellbeing right
Employee wellbeing is critical to an organization functioning at the top of its game, so investing in workplace wellbeing is essential.
Why You Should Care
Coming out of the pandemic, most employees are suffering from some form of mental wellbeing strain.
There are several unique wellbeing pillars that need addressing in order to see an improvement.
The steps taken to remedy these concerns can be to a company’s financial benefit.
In terms of mental health best practice, as employers, we could all be doing more. Hearing that, it sounds like a forced obligation. But the trick to getting workplace wellbeing right is to understand that it’s an investment. By assessing your current practices and making changes where needed, the benefits of workplace wellbeing quickly become evident. In fact, studies show a return of $6 for every $1 invested in wellbeing. And by adhering to the workplace wellbeing pillars, employers can create a healthier, safer, and more productive working environment.
How workplace wellbeing has changed over time
For years, workplace wellbeing was relegated to a primarily HR concern. More than that, if we’re honest, it was an afterthought. One which deserved attention but was not given priority over other pressing matters.
Wellbeing has now risen to an elevated status of urgency. Through extensive workplace wellbeing research, it has become clear that many key challenges previously associated with the broad strokes of “health” (such as stress and fatigue), were actually springing forth from issues of wellbeing.
On top of that, we find ourselves in a transitionary period. One with a heavy emphasis on exploring hybrid working. This presents both new complications, as well as opportunities. Because previously it might have been easier to offset negative encroaching thoughts when an employee was on site. But workplace wellbeing post covid has to work in a way which can also benefit those struggling in isolation at home.
The benefits to focusing on workplace wellbeing
A healthy focus on workplace wellbeing can have several notable benefits. This includes improved performance, increased productivity, better team bonding, and a higher sense of morale. On top of that, it can also directly contribute to attracting and retaining the best talent, improving your organization’s standing in terms of diversity and inclusivity, and can actually strengthen customer relationships.
The main pillars of workplace wellbeing
In the last century, an employee’s mental health and wellbeing were considered a personal matter. It wasn’t an employer’s place to pry into their staff’s home life or internal working. Not out of a coldness or uncaring nature, but because it was considered rude.
We now know this isn’t the case, as external pressures will always be present, but employers have a responsibility to ensure these are not being exacerbated by poor company culture, insufficient leadership, or broken communication.
If we think of personal mental stability as a table, there are four legs holding it up. And each leg represents one of the workplace wellbeing pillars. While the table itself can still stand with a missing or weak leg, it cannot maintain a reliable balance. Hence, ensuring each pillar is as strong and effective as possible, is the key to lasting durability.
So, what are these four pillars?
Physical wellbeing can be hard enough to maintain at the best of times. But coming out of a pandemic, we have to acknowledge the impacts of exercising less, eating more, and seeing our sleep patterns disrupted. Taking care of our bodies undeniably sits over every other concern because failing to do so leads to the very worst final outcome.
It should be noted, however, that physical wellbeing can be hijacked to promote negative views on ableism. And it’s imperative we do not inadvertently confuse positive physical wellbeing with discrimination.
Anxiety, depression, fatigue, burnout – all of these afflictions are more commonplace than ever, with two thirds of employees experiencing mental health issues. Acknowledging and addressing this trend is crucial to cultivating a healthy workforce.
But having a steady and calm mind is not an easy thing to achieve alone, which is why support is so important. Because when individuals are able to recognize their value, worth and potential, they can harness their talents, and make the best choices and decisions, whatever their role may entail.
It seems like the last twenty years have been riddled with global financial tremors and quakes. And these feelings can lead to a very real sense of despair. As much as we may love our jobs, one of the primary motivations to seek employment is to offset our financial needs.
That may sound insultingly obvious but by appreciating that impetus, employers can concentrate efforts to reduce fears of financial unpredictability and impacts. This doesn’t necessarily mean handing each employee vast sums of money, more an awareness of the worries and pressures employees face.
Purpose and belonging are fundamental to guaranteeing employee social wellbeing. Sure, we all crave time apart and privacy, but predominantly, humans strive for social connections and community.
And this pillar is the one which employers have the greatest control over. Work can be more than just turning up, punching a ticket, completing a series of tasks, and going home. To improve social wellbeing, it should also be an inclusive, supportive ecosystem.
What are the key ways to increase workplace wellbeing?
There are plenty of workplace wellbeing initiatives that can be employed to improve each of the wellbeing pillars. For physical wellbeing, employers should be providing adequate furniture, such as desks, chairs, monitors, etc. Providing healthy snacks and exercise breaks, also have a positive impact. And then there’s larger benefits, such as competitive healthcare packages and gym memberships.
Emotional wellbeing can be bolstered with mental first aid courses, mindfulness programs and simple improvements in communication; allowing employees to speak up or feel seen and heard. Similarly, social wellbeing can benefit from joint group activities (both on- and offline), as well as extracurricular meetups and events.
As for financial wellbeing, availing employees of independent advisors, and removing the overall stigma of talking about fiscal concerns, can lead to a marked improvement.
The fifth pillar: digital wellbeing
In addition to the four key pillars listed above, there is another new consideration. Subsequently, taking the time and effort to address these established pillars, may no longer be enough, without tackling digital wellbeing as well.
Technological advancements have made our working lives significantly easier. But they have also shackled us to being constantly “on.” Online, on call, on-screen.
Digital distractions, screen time, doom-scrolling and blurring the line between work and home life all feed into an erosion of mental wellbeing and stability. It is now an employer’s responsibility to promote and ensure a healthy dynamic and balance when considering digital expectations.
And the most effective way to do this is to encourage employees to step away from the computer. For remote workers, there can be a sense of fear or dread that their employer is monitoring their productivity. And, of course, they are. But not in the way employees may presume.
KPIs, performance outputs and 1-2-1s are all great ways of tracking progress. But if hybrid worker wellbeing is to be bolstered and improved, they must be prompted to take regular breaks, and avoid screens for a period of time.
With a combined focus and effort on the pillars of workforce wellbeing and investing in workplace wellbeing initiatives, you will see sharp improvement in employee satisfaction and overall productivity.
Be sure to check our agenda for a look at the talent speaking at UNLEASH America 2023.
Staff writer, UNLEASH
Matt’s HR roots run deep, as he spent 15 years working for the NHS, in roles across payroll, HR and finance.