Employee wellbeing has become an increasingly talked about subject in the last decade. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed this even further up the agenda. Given this is a key area for employers to be aware of, we explore this subject in more detail below and crucially how to improve employee wellbeing in your workplace.
What is Employee Wellbeing?
Employee wellbeing is a catch all term. In its most simplistic form refers to the relative health and wellbeing of staff within an organisation. When we talk about wellbeing, this encompasses both physical and mental wellbeing, and it can refer to either positive or negative wellbeing issues.
Developing a workplace strategy to promote healthy living and wellbeing practices has gained significant popularity. Particularly in response to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. The ramifications of this period will be with us for years to come, and it is widely regarded by experts that we are on the brink of a mental wellbeing pandemic as we emerge into a post-COVID world. There are multiple reasons for this from burnout from home-schooling and complete remote working, dealing with bereavement, media overload and anxiety about returning to a new normal to name a few.
Managers and senior leaders might take the view that where employees are struggling with their wellbeing, speaking with a counsellor or medical practitioner is the best intervention – this will be the right approach for some staff, but prevention is always better than cure. The importance of employee wellbeing in this context cannot be underestimated. The employers that take action to promote positive employee wellbeing will reap the rewards as we transition to a new era of work.
How Management Can Affect Employee Wellbeing?
It is important to note that employers have a duty of care to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff, and it goes without saying that this includes both physical and mental wellbeing. Whilst it is true that everyone has a responsibility to look after their own wellbeing, management can either have an adverse or supportive impact on the wellbeing of their team.
It all comes down to the workplace culture you harness – a culture of presenteeism, unrealistic workloads or expectations, along with favouritism and confrontational management style will clearly not create an environment conducive to healthy and productive employees. It is likely that employees faced with poor management practices will not only be disengaged from their role and the organisation, but they could also suffer from stress, anxiety or depression and physical health issues.
A particular issue extensively reported in the media is the ‘always on’ culture we now live in. With working from home and smart phones with access to work emails 24/7, there is often little to no boundaries between work and home life. It can become addictive to check and respond emails when off duty. Whether that be in the evenings, weekends or even holidays, but it means people are never switching off properly. Ultimately, this can lead to burnout. France is the first country to take action in relation to this mandating that employers with more than 50 staff cannot email another employee after working hours. It remains to be seen whether limitations on sending emails becomes a legal requirement in the UK, but many companies are voluntarily implementing policies to address this.
There are countless benefits when managers and organisations work to promote employee wellbeing. Stress and overworking can lead to serious mental and physical health issues and taking action to ensure deadlines and workloads are realistic will avoid employees experiencing such issues and in turn will reduce potential absenteeism. Creating a culture where wellbeing is at the centre demonstrates to employees you care about them, and this in turn impacts on how they feel about the organisation improving staff engagement and reducing staff turnover.
How To Improve Employee Wellbeing
Whilst companies might be sold on the merits of driving better employee wellbeing, it can be difficult to even know where to start. There is no one size fits all to improving employee wellbeing, and it needs to fit with the culture of your organisation. We would recommend developing a strategy that you feel comfortable with, and that you can imagine staff engaging with.
It is also worth gradually building what you do rather than throwing it all out there as a ‘flash in the pan’ initiative – you can use trial and error to continue to build on what works, and discard what doesn’t quite land with staff. It is not uncommon for a HR or Management team to develop a great wellbeing plan, only for it to gather dust in a drawer. There are two key reasons this can happen – senior people don’t lead by example or staff don’t buy into this. Before implementing a healthy living strategy, it’s vital that senior leaders and staff are on board with the plan. Or it will fall at the first hurdle. Achieving this is no mean feat, but there are a few things you can do to avoid this:
Work with senior leaders to help them really understand the importance of promoting wellbeing. Not only as a means of fulfilling their legal duty of care, but also to building a supportive culture. Doing so will have numerous benefits for the organisation.
Involve staff in the process of implementing wellbeing strategies by asking them for feedback and suggestions. Or potentially creating a committee of staff keen to promote wellbeing – staff led initiatives are proven to be more successful than management led ones.
Finally, building a holistic approach to wellbeing is important. The wellbeing challenges faced will vary from employee to employee. Some might want to improve their physical fitness or diet, others might have experienced mental health issues and are looking for new ways to take proactive steps to improving this. Download our Employee Wellbeing Initiatives Document for a wide range of ideas you could look to implement in your organisation.
If you would like to further discuss how you can improve health and wellbeing in your workplace, FD People will be more than happy to help. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0141 221 2984.