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Employee wellbeing directly refers to the impact someone’s job has on their overall health and happiness.
On average, we spend 42.5 hours at work each week, so do employers have a duty of care to better support employee wellbeing? In truth, positive employee wellbeing can not only help ensure you have a more supported workforce, but also lead to many benefits for the company, including increased productivity, improved absenteeism and staff retention.
Most employers recognise the importance of wellbeing in the workplace but don’t know where to start when creating a positive culture for their employees.
We advise to start by defining what you want to achieve and the current barriers that stand in the way, such as cost perception or lack of time. But remember, there’s a difference between employee wellbeing initiatives and general ‘perks’. Whilst nice to have, table tennis, state-of-the-art offices and discounts on local restaurants will not negate from an unhealthy environment, effective employee wellbeing emphasises a good work/life balance, encourages employees to be healthy and active and provides a supportive environment for employees to discuss their concerns.
There are some quick wins when it comes to improving employee wellbeing, such as introducing natural lighting and plants in workspaces, using more effective communication channels and providing comfortable break facilities. However, there are more strategic approaches to employee wellbeing you may want to consider, such as flexible working policies and active lifestyle programmes.
Flexible working gives employees freedom over where and when they work and promotes a good work/life balance. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have successfully adopted working from home and hybrid working policies. The employee benefits of remote working include more time with family and saved time on commutes whilst limiting stress, dissatisfaction and burnout.
Flexible working can be formal (part of the contract of employment) or informal – agreed between the employee and their manager and taking place on an occasional basis. If you’re thinking of introducing flexible working to your organisation, the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) provides advice on implementing flexible working practices.
Physical activity and healthy eating is essential for good health and contributes to positive wellbeing. Activity levels at work can be increased through simple changes, such as encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the lift or walking to colleagues desks instead of using internal communication channels. By providing a water filter and healthy food options for meetings, employers can also encourage employees to make healthier choices.
To further support a healthy and active lifestyle, you may want to consider organising a company sports team or competitions such as a fit bit challenge, access to lunchtime activities such as yoga or walking or even standing desks.
At Search, we introduced “Wellness Wednesdays” where teams partake in yoga and other practices to ensure regular scheduled sessions which concentrate on wellbeing.
Everyone has a responsibility for fostering wellbeing in the workplace, particularly for HR professionals, senior managers, line managers and occupational health (OH) who are responsible for nurturing relationships with teams. Showing your people that they are valued and you are listening is the first step to creating a supportive environment.
According to research carried out by the CIPD, stress continues to be one of the main causes of short and long-term absence with 79% of survey respondents reporting stress-related absence in their organisation. Here are some of the ways organisations can take a preventative approach to manage stress:
· Using staff surveys or focus groups to identify issues
· Stress audits
· Providing access to counselling
· Mental health first aid training
· Implementing work/life balance policies
· Stress management and resilience training (such as coping techniques and mindfulness)
Speaking to our clients and candidates, it seems the shift is moving away from viewing wellbeing support as a nice-to-have employee benefit to an essential. An increasing number of organisations are putting it to the forefront of their overarching business strategy due to the knock-on effect on other areas, including marketing, profit and loss, and sales and talent retention. To improve workplace wellbeing the above steps are a great place to start, but ultimately every organisation is different, so it’s about finding what works for you.