We all know the mantra: look after your people and they will look after you. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Engagement (the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels towards their job) and wellbeing (the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy) are highly dependent on one another; after all, you can’t expect people to be engaged if they are feeling neglected and burnt out. However, employee wellbeing and engagement have an additive effect, with higher levels of wellbeing enhancing employee performance more than engagement alone. Employee performance has always been vital to business outcomes and great leaders recognise that they need to pay attention to how their employees’ wellbeing needs are being met.

A word of warning: don’t fall into the trap of thinking wellbeing is just about offering free fruit and flexible working. There’s now a broader application of holistic health and wellbeing approaches and in order for them to be successful, they need to be integrated with business as usual rather than stand alone.

Introduce an employee wellbeing strategy

Wellbeing comes in a variety of forms including social, financial, mental and physical, and many employers are now choosing to introduce wellbeing programmes, which help to ensure a focus on all aspects of wellbeing. Some smart cookies design their programmes around national or internationally recognised days, weeks or months so as to ‘piggyback’ off media campaigns – think Mental Health Awareness Week.

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However, there is not a single approach to designing a health and wellbeing strategy; its content should be based on the needs of the organisation and its workforce. If you are inspired to introduce a formal wellbeing strategy, or even re-invigorate an existing one, there are a few important things to consider to ensure you are maximising the impact on engagement:

  • Firstly, – not to be underestimated – ask people what they want! Include them in the conversation. After all, there is nothing worse for engagement than the feeling that things are being done to you rather than with you.
  • You will also need to ensure you are linking your employee wellbeing initiatives to your company’s purpose and mission, and ensure that people can see a clear link and rationale for what you are doing to avoid this being seen as ‘another initiative from management’.
  • Ensure your wellbeing budget is proportionate – spend too little and it may be seen as half-hearted, although spend too much and you risk people seeing it as an indulgence and commenting that they would rather see the hard cash in their pay packet.
  • Consider how you will measure the impact of your strategy and the return on your investment. Are you, for example, looking to improve attendance, drive your engagement survey results or improve your employee retention rates? All these measures have a direct impact on business performance.

If budgets are tight, there are many things you can do to improve your workplace wellbeing which don’t need to cost the earth.

Ideas for improving employee engagement

When employees are engaged and their overall health is good, they can be more productive and absent less. Going beyond your basic health and safety duties, with a targeted health and wellbeing strategy, employers can take a rounded view of all aspects of wellbeing.

Mental Health in the workplace

We have recently seen a shift towards greater transparency, acknowledgement and support with mental health, and with this comes greater responsibility on employers to do more. If you haven’t already done so, consider the introduction of mental health first aiders and training for all staff on looking after their mental health. Check out Mind for lots of free resources you can use to raise awareness.

Social Engagement

Think about the opportunities you offer outside of the formal work environment. Remember, some people will feel energised from being around lots of other people and a high level of ‘hustle and bustle’, while others will find this a real drain on their energy and are likely to prefer opportunities to get to know each in smaller groups. Think about a range of activities to ensure there is something for everyone. When arranging socials, it is important to be considerate of individual circumstances such as family commitments.

Alleviating Financial Stress

Don’t panic, we don’t mean ‘give everyone a stonking great big pay rise, job done’! What is needed is fair pay and arming people with the tools and resources to help them manage their finances. Try offering workshops on things like budget planning, pension planning and savings and investments planning. There are plenty of free resources online and look out for advisors who will run workshops free of charge (start with your current pensions provider!). You could also consider investing in an employee assistance programme which gives a variety of confidential wellbeing support to employees, including financial guidance.

Physical Wellbeing

Exercise releases endorphins which trigger positive feelings in the body, improving not just physical fitness but also mental wellbeing. You could consider adding a gym membership to your benefits package to support employee wellbeing. However, some people find exercising easier than others, some are disciplined and make the time, while others (myself included) have all the best intentions to start… tomorrow! Consider the introduction of walking meetings or lunchtime walking clubs or even introducing yoga classes or something similar, for the more committed! Many modern workplaces have installed standing desks that allow employees to move more frequently during the day.

However, employees also have a responsibility for looking after their own health and wellbeing, and will only benefit from wellbeing initiatives if they participate in the schemes on offer and take care of themselves as well. It’s also important that the organisation continues to evolve its offering in response to changing workforce and organisation needs.

If you would like some help with your employee wellbeing and engagement strategy and what steps you can start taking, do get in touch with our team. We would love to speak to you.

[Featured image c/o Canva]