There are a number of benefits that have come out of these unprecedented times and from a business perspective, it’s that putting your people first and prioritising employee wellbeing is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an absolute must. This is clearly music to our ears here at MAD-HR and we are delighted to see that businesses are beginning to invest in ways to support their employee’s wellbeing. They have realised the importance and positive impact employee wellbeing strategies can have on employee’s lives, reducing absenteeism costs and creating a healthy working environment and culture, which in turn has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and ultimately, the bottom line.

In this blog, we will explore effective strategies for promoting employee wellbeing at work, the common challenges that organisations face when implementing these strategies and how to measure the effectiveness of such initiatives.

Understanding Employee Wellbeing

Today, employee wellbeing goes beyond physical health. Wellbeing comes in a variety of forms including social, financial, career, mental and emotional health as well as physical.

Workplace wellness is about creating an employee wellbeing strategy to promote a healthy and supportive environment for employees. Such initiatives encourage people to thrive holistically, function optimally, be in a state of contentment, feel comfortable, healthy and happy, and reach their potential and flourish in their personal lives and at work.

The Impact of Employee Wellbeing

Employee performance is strongly linked to the person’s overall health and wellbeing. By investing and promoting in employee wellbeing, your employee feels more connected, happier, less stressed, motivated, resilient (see our blog ‘Resilience’ for more information on this topic) and productive. For the Company, it can also lead to high engagement, reduced absence, improved morale, lower staff turnover and an enhanced reputation as an employer of choice. However, for best results, employee wellbeing programmes must be embedded into the Organisation’s culture, leadership and people management; they should be integrated into the business, rather than stand alone.

In contrast, neglecting employee wellbeing or not having an employee wellbeing strategy in place can risk presenteeism, lower productivity and ultimately an unhappy workforce.

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Employee Wellbeing Strategies

Employee wellness initiatives may vary, depending on the Company, the type of work they do, the work environment and individual preferences. However, it’s important that this is not just seen as a tick-box exercise. Wellbeing is about more than just flexible working and offering free fruit, so it may be a good idea to understand from your staff what initiatives they would find most useful.

Here are some common wellbeing strategies that can improve employee wellbeing in the workplace:

Work-Life Balance – We’ve all experienced those times when a deadline has kept us working past 5pm, or an unexpected incident in our personal life has pulled us away from work. However, when this becomes regular, it can cause stress and burnout. Employers should create a culture where employees are encouraged to have a work-life balance, allowing them to meet their obligations at work and at home while having time to enjoy their hobbies and interests in their personal time. Encouraging employees to take time off, offering job shares, part-time working and working from home can benefit employees and the business. It’s particularly effective for those employees who have long commutes or young families.

Mental Health Support – Introducing resources and initiatives such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), stress management tools, mindfulness and meditation apps, relaxation areas, wellbeing workshops, workplace adjustments, access to a Mental Health First Aider or mental wellbeing coach and providing employee benefits such as health insurance including mental health care can be a valuable source of support. Importantly, creating a safe space for employees to communicate openly without judgement and discrimination is crucial.

Physical Health Promotion – To promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent the development of health issues, companies may encourage their staff to be more active by introducing fitness challenges, gym memberships, cycle to work schemes, walking meetings, using sit-stand desks, holding team sports events, encouraging staff to take short breaks to stretch and walk around the office and educating staff on the importance of physical wellbeing.

Social Connection – In the workplace, having strong social connections can help to improve employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction. Organising events such as team-building activities – either during work hours or outside of work – or volunteering events can provide opportunities for employees to interact socially. Encourage employees to get to know each other on a personal level by asking icebreaker questions or initiating conversations about non-work-related topics. Effective communication also plays a key role for remote or part time workers, to ensure the team is collaborative and cohesive.

Employee Wellbeing Challenges

We’ve established that having a health and wellbeing strategy can improve employee health, increase productivity, and enhance overall job satisfaction. However, implementing such strategies does not come without its challenges. There may be financial challenges such as budget constraints or limited funding. There may also be commitment challenges from the leadership team, or they may not be prioritising employee wellbeing as a strategic objective, or there may be resistance to change from employees. Implementing strategies such as gathering data on the potential cost savings and return on investment, educating decision-makers on the value of employee wellbeing and involving employees in the decision-making process, offering training and support, developing an effective communication plan and defining key metrics and KPIs that align with the program’s objectives and desired outcomes are all ways that will help in overcoming obstacles.

Measuring Wellbeing Success

A wellness programme evaluation is crucial to determine the impact that your wellbeing initiatives are making, but how do you do this? Can you demonstrate the impact of your wellbeing initiatives with improved retention rates? Can you show the increase in productivity?

Tracking sickness and absence data is essential. In the long term, rates may reduce as employees make their mental and physical wellbeing a priority. Track the average length of service and reasons that employees are leaving to understand employee satisfaction levels in your organisation. Send a survey to employees to get their feedback on the initiatives and what improvements they would like to see. If an Employee Assistance Programme is in place, the provider may be able to supply data on the employee uptake to see if the service is being used.

Building a Wellbeing Culture

Employers should send a clear message that staff wellbeing matters in their workplace. Employees need to see that there is a genuine commitment from the leaders to create a sustainable wellbeing culture, through simple actions such as role modelling and encouraging staff to take breaks and work healthy hours. This may also include training managers about their role in supporting wellbeing and how to have supportive conversations.

Wellbeing should be embedded into the organisation’s values and integrated into all people processes, including performance management, learning and development, reward and recognition, diversity and inclusion, CSR, etc.

Employers could introduce wellbeing champions to challenge stigma, promote positive mental wellbeing and normalise discussions around mental health. For managers, this includes having ‘wellbeing check-ins’ with their staff during one-to-ones.

Employers may also wish to organise activities to celebrate national health days to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.

Resources for Employers

Some resources that you may find useful when considering developing your employee wellbeing strategy can be found at Mind, the CIPD, Headspace and MHFA England.

Conclusion

Prioritising workplace health and wellbeing is one of the most important things employers can do for the success of the business. As part of an employer’s duty of care, they have a responsibility to protect the wellbeing, health and safety of their employees. Employee wellbeing strategies, when effectively implemented and measured, will contribute to a positive and vibrant culture, reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, and increase employee productivity, collaboration and retention.

If you need any advice or guidance on improving employee engagement and wellbeing within the workplace or require support to update your business strategy to include wellbeing, please feel free to contact one of our team at MAD-HR who will be happy to help.