In a study by mind.org, 60% of workers reported feeling more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation if their employer supported their mental wellbeing. Other studies reveal that promoting wellbeing in the workplace can improve employee engagement and organisational performance.
For these reasons and more, organisations are turning to wellness initiatives to reduce stressors at work. So, from an HR perspective, what can we all be doing to raise the bar for health and wellbeing at work? In this article, we’ll look at how to promote wellbeing at work and strategies to promote well-being.
What is wellbeing at work?
Workplace wellbeing comes down to more than just initiatives. As a term, it takes under its wing the full picture of our working lives. If you look at the International Labour Organisation, it defines that as meaning the quality and safety of the work environment. The climate at work and the work organisation. Everything that comes under the “work” banner for employees.
The figures paint a vivid picture of companies who have invested in wellbeing in the workplace. With three in five employees experiencing mental health issues because of work, improving wellbeing has positive implications for individuals, and organisations can also reap productivity and job satisfaction benefits, which have a tangible impact on the bottom line by increasing output and reducing recruitment costs.
What are the 6 pillars of employee wellbeing?
The six pillars of employee wellbeing are designed to help organisations and managers understand where issues may lay within the workforce. The six pillars include, Job Security, Financial security, Health, Support, Protection and Work life balance.
We are going to take a closer look at these pillars and then gain a better understanding of how wellbeing affects performance in the workplace.
1. Job security
We all understand just how important it is to feel that we have a job where there is a level of security around it. Security from the perspective of having a job for the long term future. Whether it is looking after your family or just looking after yourself, knowing that there is a role which meets your needs as well as a paycheck at the end of the month is essential. It allows you to plan for your future, make commitments and from a wider perspective, it helps with the local economy in buying goods and services from local traders.
It is a very important aspect of wellbeing and often overlooked. It can impact, performance, absences and engagement.
A good way to boost job security is to engage regularly with your employees and be transparent about their role, the business and creating open career plans so they can see a future for themselves.
2. Financial security
Financial security is something we can all identify with. At some point in our professional lives, many - aside from the fortunate few - will have worried about how we were going to pay our bills or having to use credit to pay for some basics, like a grocery shop. Financial security is therefore widely understood but equally, widely avoided as a topic of discussion because there is embarrassment and a taboo around the subject.
However there are things we can do in organisations to help our employees around the topic of financial security. This includes;
- Creating space for employees to share financial worries. Is there something that can be done by the organisation to help? Are their third party organisations that can take a look and advise etc.
- Providing education on financial security. How to maximise every paycheck without leaving your employee feeling overwhelmed and worrying about being able to pay the bills would be helpful.
Not doing anything can cause wider anxiety. Some of the negatives include a reduced employee engagement or productivity due to distractions caused by financial distress.
This is the one that most people associate with wellbeing, but health covers many different things and importantly, it’s the one which we have most control over. We have to begin looking at health in a more holistic way.
Physical health is part of the equation. Organisations can do more to facilitate physical health by providing discounts at local gyms and even doing work place yoga/pilates or ensuring that there is a good environment that provides the motivation for people to eat and exercise regularly.
Physical health, when looked after correctly, can help reduce absence rates, increase productivity and reduce insurance premiums if offered.
Of course, there is also mental health that has become much widely accepted as being something that requires more attention. Lowering stress levels - which can cause illness - and ensuring that an employee's mental wellbeing forms part of a wider discussion. (see next point)
As this is a bespoke offering for businesses, health needs to be investigated with clarity and a suitable strategy.
Support covers many different things, from mental support or workload support during a difficult personal time. The role of managers and HR teams in organisations is to understand where there could be a wider issue at play and ensure that people are getting the support they need at the right time.
The role of support then has to be both a function and a strategy. Importantly, one of the best things an organisation can do is to give employees the tools they need to do their jobs and ensure that things can be picked up when there are absences, and provide for support and a seamless transition at the same time.
Things such as training, access to resources, access to mental health resources and even an open door policy can best benefit your employees.
Protection is less defined as a pillar of well being because it can have many different meanings. One of the best ways to understand protection is to compare it to insurance. We get home insurance, car insurance and even life insurance. Protection is a form of well being for an employee where they are covered in case something were to happen to them at work.
But it can also be around how well protected they feel around their circumstances changing i.e. new family commitments or having to work remotely for a period of time.
Every employee will have different needs in this regard and so equally need to be catered for to ensure that they are protected.
6. Work-life balance
It has become the buzzword of the last two decades, work-life balance, but what does it really mean? For some, working 50 hours a week they get to have the balance they require whilst for others, working 30 hours a week doesn’t provide any balance whatsoever. Being able to quantify it against a wide workforce isn’t always possible so this needs to be something that once again, needs to be identified individually.
So what can work-life balance look like? It could involve flexible working hours, giving people the ability to drop their kids off to school or get out earlier if they start earlier. It could be moving to hybrid working to allow for more time at home with family or pets whilst still being able to be productive.
Workload and time management is equally important. Being able to fit everything required within a day is good, but understanding time management and what is essential is better.
It could also be that things such as a cycle to work scheme, childcare support and other improvements in their personal lives to help facilitate better professional development is what is needed.
A lack of work life balance can cause employees to become resentful, less productive and unwilling to go above and beyond when needed.
How does wellbeing affect performance at work?
It is merely evident that employee wellbeing can affect performance at work when we come to think about it even at its most basic level. When someone is healthier and happier in their role, their performance is generally better.
A recent government study found that there is significant evidence that workplace wellbeing and job performance are directly correlated. Benefits include:
- Greater levels of energy, leading to higher output and fewer sick days
- Increased creativity and problem-solving
- Increased motivation and attitude to work
- Greater productivity and energy
- Increased creativity
- Problem solving
- Motivation and attitude improvements
Another aspect of wellbeing is that it can also have positive financial impacts. For example, take a look at Pret a Mange. Last year the sandwich chain reported a 16 percent sales increase in their annual figures, and the Chief Executive, Clive Schlee, puts this down to the happiness of his workforce.
“The staff are given a bonus – paid to everyone in their branch – if a weekly secret shopper spots positive and happy staff behind the counter,” reports the Telegraph.
There are other organisations who have taken wellbeing on board as part of their internal strategy including Google, Apple and Patagonia where things like duvet days are encouraged to help provide wider balance to lives and make employees feel valued for more than their performances in the workplace.
How to measure wellbeing at work
While we can talk about why wellbeing at work matters to both company and employee, there’s the inevitable question around measuring it. Without clear metrics, any investment in improving workplace wellbeing is hard to justify.
There are several ways to combat this issue, including performance data, as well as other metrics to gauge the mood of teams across the business. Employee questionnaires are just one example here. But there are other ways of getting “hard data” as this article from CIO runs through. Such as tracking how many people participate in wellness activities through wearable tech or tapping into sentiment analysis to get a better understanding of engagement levels.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to define what “happy” is before you start to try and measure it. Without that vital piece of the puzzle, you’ll be going into any exploratory work blind.
5 benefits of wellbeing in the workplace
1. Improve staff retention
We already know that 60% of people would recommend an organisation that pays attention to their wellbeing. Quite simply, if you invest in workplace wellbeing you are more likely to retain talent.
Employees who feel heard and cared for will increase their loyalty with a company. If it comes down to choosing between two companies, one that might pay better but not care about employee wellbeing and a company that does care about wellbeing but a slightly lower salary. They are likely to choose the latter every single time.
Staff wellbeing is more than just a buzzword and companies that actively look after their employees and show they care are much further ahead than their competitors. People talk about their employers a lot, if you do not offer ways to develop or wellbeing support it will be known. Each time a company within the industry does offer that support, your employees might be lured away. When the roles are reversed however, your employees will be even more grateful for the support your company provides and increase their loyalty with you.
2. Maximise candidate selection
Companies that go the extra mile for their employees will instantly be noticed. Company culture is becoming even more important when it comes to people looking for jobs. If you are known in the industry as a good employer, you are more likely to attract not only fresh talent but higher quality talent that wish to work for a company that will support their endeavours.
3. Boost physical wellbeing and health
A wellness strategy can increase productivity within your company. Employees who are healthy both physically and mentally will be able to work to the best of their abilities without drawbacks. There will be no impairments to their work and they will be able to concentrate on the tasks they have been assigned. For many competitors this will not be the case and their productivity will suffer.
Employees who are in good health will have increased resilience, meaning they will be taking less sick days. Even if each employee only took one to two sick days, across hundreds or thousands of employees, this really adds up. With employees taking less sick days, work will be done faster and others won't be overstretched having to cover for their sick colleagues.
At the end of the day, a company is made up of people, it is always in a business's interest to take care of its employees. A wellbeing strategy is in everyone's best interest, starting with the top and going right down to the bottom. Health is incredibly important and something that should be focused on from a human perspective.
4. Maximise employee engagement
If employees feel they can influence their working life, and their voice is heard over workplace wellness matters, they are more likely to feel engaged.
Being able to influence matters that affect them and seeing the real impact is likely to fall into their work. Soon they will be more engaged in the business as a whole, taking note of its successes and looking into what can be done to improve it.
Increased engagement acts as a cycle, the more they engage in the business the more influence they will have. Just as the more they engage on a well being standpoint the better they will feel within themselves and the role. This will seep into everything they do and the colleagues they interact with. As more and more employees fall into the cycle, the faster it will take effect across the whole business.
5. Feeds into training and development initiatives
Research shows that development opportunities build trust and integrity. But through researching employee satisfaction, you can get a better understanding of what areas employees would like to work on, and how this could positively impact the business.
The simple act of listening to what employees want goes a long way in their development. This isn’t to say everything they suggest needs to be actioned, but by simply listening you will begin to see an increase in their engagement and see more initiatives being proposed.
Training and development is a key area to focus on to improve a businesses output. This can help achieve long-term goals and get employees on board with objectives. The best way to learn what training and development to move forward with is by speaking to the people that need it. Wellbeing will enable employees to have the confidence to talk about this subject and help propel the business forward.
How to improve wellbeing at work
Finding the right metrics to measure wellness strategies is essential. But it will all come to nothing if you don’t have the right wellbeing initiatives in the first place. The ways to boost workplace wellness range from the wacky to the practical and finding your groove will depend on your organisation’s culture and the expectations of your staff.
But that’s not to say there aren’t a few universal wellbeing at work ideas you can consider implementing. Here are just five of our favourites.
Provide comfortable work and collaborative spaces
Paying attention to the aesthetics of your workspaces will make all the difference to both productivity and happiness levels. Minimising distractions, providing ample natural light, and inspiring colour schemes are all ways to boost mood, reduce fatigue and focus the mind. Just take the lead from collaboration space specialists like Mindspace to see how this can look.
Support exercise and fitness
With 45% of people complaining about stressful commutes, many companies are providing cycle racks, showers and changing rooms to slot into bike-to-work schemes. But one size does not fit all, and there are other ways to encourage health and fitness in the workplace, from discounted gym memberships to yoga classes or “walking meetings” outdoors like Virgin.
Promote healthy diets and lifestyles
Company-Wide initiatives to encourage healthier lifestyles can also lend an inspirational edge to your organisation. Organised hikes, yearly events like the Three Peaks Challenge, and charity fitness events. All of these can give people a sense of both belonging and positivity, as well as promoting a healthier way of living. This, along with snacks daily like fruit and nuts, all improve the feel of a workplace. Just check out SnackNation’s take on all things diet and fitness.
Recognise and reward staff for good work
Reward schemes have long been used to build employee engagement and help retain talent. Companies like Northern Gas & Power are old hands at exactly this, using rewards and events to underpin everything they do. They promote from within, and staff can finish work for the year when they’ve hit their annual target.
Meditation isn’t for everyone, but mindfulness is an accessible tool anyone can use, and you don’t have to be a fan of traditional meditation. Salesforce is just one business that gives employees space, quite literally, to take some time to refocus. Their mindfulness zones through the office aren’t the only perk. They also provide daily meditation sessions and walking meditations to help staff refocus their mind.
Encourage employees to take time away from their desk
Whether this be on their lunch break or a small break during the day, spending all day at a desk can feel like being trapped even if they don’t realise it. Stepping away from their desk for even a small period of time can do them the world of good, it can help if they're stuck on a task, if they feel drained and just help their mental well being.
Encourage time off
All staff are allotted a certain amount of holiday, make sure they feel comfortable asking for time off they are entitled to. For many they feel like they can’t take time out of the office and so are resigned to working without break. Having a day or even a week off can allow them to reset and come back into the office refreshed and ready to get back to work.
Encourage open communication
Staff should feel as though they can openly talk about their mental health. This will help to remove any stigma from within the company and allow employees to be more open about any issues they may have and to seek help instead of suffering in silence.
Provide open plan and closed working environments
Your colleagues and employees all work well in different environments. By offering both an open plan office and closed office space, you will give each of your employees the opportunity to work in an environment that best suits their needs and allows them to make their own decisions about how they work.
Provide flexible working arrangements
Allowing your workforce to make decisions on their own working hours will provide great benefit. It can allow them to change their hours to accommodate the school run or even work from home more frequently during school holidays. This can alleviate any stress from finding a work and home balance and boost their productivity.
Working with Thomas
Finding the right wellbeing strategies comes down to your business. Everyone is different, just as every organisation is unique. As specialists in employee engagement assessments and workplace personality, Thomas can help you find the right pathway into developing wellbeing initiatives.
This takes the grey area away from the how to improve wellbeing at work challenge. Additional assessments into psychometric, aptitude and emotional intelligence can help narrow down the ways to boost wellness in the workplace. Through hard data and insightful assessments, you can create an inspiring workplace for all.