What is workplace wellbeing – a fad focus or for life?

The press is full of stories about how well-known companies are planning to change their flexible working policies post pandemic, with few expecting to go back to how things used to be, proving that Covid-19 has left an indelible impression on the world of work. 

Whilst the increased flexibility is welcome (the human brain does like to have an element of choice after all!) it also opens up a whole host of other challenges for businesses the world over, not least in relation to how to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their people when they are rarely in the same place. Although leaders and managers have understood the need to support people during this last incredibly challenging year, with many raising workplace wellbeing to the top of their priority lists, there is a big difference between ‘working at home in a crisis’ and working flexibly ongoing.  

Wellbeing initiatives have leapt up the priority list in the last year. Historically, along with many other ‘people agendas’, wellbeing initiatives have often been deemed important but rarely urgent. As such they merit a lower place in the corporate pecking order than commercial ones, even knowing these will only be achieved by the people in the organisation. Perhaps that’s a fact of life in an economy driven by financial targets and quest for continuous growth or maybe the pandemic has demonstrated the need to continue the focus provided by the crisis?  

Time will tell but if I were a betting woman, I would guess that once the ‘crisis’ has passed the high alert level about wellbeing will fade and other agendas that are perceived to be more important will take priority. Because whilst I’ve heard many people talking about the importance of wellbeing I have also heard people disclosing just how much pressure they’ve felt to maintain performance and deliver unchanged sales targets whilst grappling with so many pandemic-related challenges alongside their jobs. 

Of course the commercial agenda is important – without it businesses wouldn’t survive or be able to sustain jobs. The challenge when important agendas lose leadership focus, however, is that the investment made in them whilst they were important can be lost too.  People follow the prevailing culture and look to it to understand what is important and how to be successful. They follow their leaders and managers’ example and invest their effort in the things that get them seen, heard and valued. So, if you want to be an organisation that supports wellbeing sustainably for the long-term, read on.  

Whilst much more progress is being made when it comes to creating mentally healthy organisations, a recent survey carried out by the Financial Times found that workplace wellbeing interventions are still fairly low and, on average, only 1 in 7 initiatives offered by employers are actually used by their staff members.

Having a wellbeing programme in place is a good starting part. But, what use is that wellbeing programme if nobody is making use of it? In order for your workplace wellbeing programme to be successful, people need to be following it.

At CHAMPS, promoting and supporting employee wellbeing is at the very heart of our purpose- because we know that an effective workplace wellbeing initiative can deliver benefits to people and organisations alike. Investing in employee’s mental health really does have the capacity to not only improve work lives, but to also drive productivity of organisations, both small and large.

Leading businesses know that looking after their people’s mental health at work isn’t just another box to tick or workshop to attend; instead it is an essential part of their strategy for growth and sustainability. 

But what exactly is workplace wellbeing, and how can it be approached and implemented effectively?

Workplace Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing looks at the employee experience through a holistic lens by posing the question of “what do people need to be able to perform their best?”. That means an effective workplace wellbeing programme isn’t just focused on one single aspect of wellbeing. It needs to consider employees’ duties, expectations, stress levels and working environments, and how these factors can affect mood, cognition, overall health and happiness. 

From physical safety to emotional safety, there are many facets to workplace wellbeing; all of which play an important role in ensuring your employee’s workplace satisfaction, which in turn can lead to productivity. 

Employee wellbeing differs from but is connected to employee engagement. While employee wellbeing focuses on reducing work-related stress and nurturing wellness across physical health, emotional and psychological wellbeing, community, and financial wellbeing, employee engagement is centred on the ability of employees to feel present and connected to their organisation and its purpose. In human terms however, if an individual has low wellbeing or feels that isn’t supported, they are very unlikely to feel valued or be highly engaged and giving you their discretionary effort!

An effective workplace wellbeing strategy has the capacity to increase engagement and retention within organisations, as well as create a positive, dynamic environment that allows businesses and individuals to thrive.

What are the benefits of workplace wellbeing?

Introducing wellbeing at work doesn’t have to be difficult- and it doesn’t have to be boring either! 

Your wellbeing programme needs to be more than just a free snack bar in the office or a team Zoom quiz on Fridays or the provision of an Employee Assistance Programme. It needs to provide genuine value for your employees and be congruent across all aspects of the workplace.

To really reap the rewards of workplace wellbeing, try and think about what it is you want to achieve within your organisation, what sort of benefits you and your team will gain. As a starting point, remember that:

  • Employees that feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work (thereby driving employee engagement and productivity)
  • Staff members are 59% less likely to look for another job with a different organisation in the next 12 months if their company is invested in their wellbeing
  • Teams are 27% more likely to rate their organisation’s performance as “excellent” if employee wellbeing is effectively prioritised

From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense to want to make sure your employees are happy in the workplace. After all, they’re the beating heart of your organisation, and have the capacity to impact the bottom line and increase profitability.

The 2020 Deloitte Mental health and employers report estimates that poor mental health among employees costs UK employers between £42 billion – £45 billion per year. This consists of absence cost of £6.8bn, presenteeism costs of £26.6bn – £29.3bn, and turnover costs of £8.6bn.

These findings offer a clear indication of the potential bottom-line benefits of investing in employee wellbeing. Employers who adopt wellbeing initiatives are likely to see substantial positive returns within a few years thanks to increased employee performance and engagement, and reduced absenteeism. This also results in a reduction in staff turnover, allowing you and your team to focus on what you do best.

How can managers and leaders support workplace wellbeing?

As a manager or leader within your organisation, you need to be able to find the balance between managing and supporting both the performance and wellbeing of your team. 

Focusing solely on the performance of employees can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health of staff members. This, in turn, can result in a higher risk of mistakes, an increased risk of burnout, and higher staff turnover. All of which has the potential to impact your reputation as an employer and can make it harder to attract top talent.

That being said, if we then only focus upon the wellbeing of employees, it can cause performance to decline, because it can take away the stretched & challenge (to our own personal tolerance levels) we need in order to give our very best. 

By engaging in techniques such as early intervention, active listening, open communication and workplace wellbeing training, managers and leaders have the capacity to better support employee wellbeing while also maximising their potential.

Early Intervention

Recognising wellbeing or performance issues early on is a crucial resolution tactic that prevents challenges from spiralling out of control. Leaders and managers are ultimately responsible for enabling performance and wellbeing, and identifying potential bottlenecks for the team. The best leaders are those that are skilled at providing individualised solutions for these issues, and showing care and understanding to each staff member.

To give an example; if employees are feeling under pressure, this might be because they have too many priorities and targets, so there may be a need to reduce or prioritise workloads to help them get back on track. By listening to an employee’s concerns, staff feel that their voice is heard, and managers are able and willing to help.

Active Listening

When we talk of active listening, we also mean careful listening and observation of non-verbal cues such as maintaining eye contact, nodding, and smiling. We show the speaker that we are fully concentrating on what is being said, rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.

Adopting these kinds of techniques immediately increases the authenticity of the conversations we have with employees, and gives reassurance to employees that they genuinely matter. It’s a small, easy way to improve workplace wellbeing and build stronger relationships with your team.

Open Communication

It may sound obvious, but open communication really does make it easier to collectively improve your staff’s mental health. Creating a space of open, non-judgemental communication between managers and team members can encourage employees to speak out about any challenges they’re facing, and what kind of solutions can be put in place to support them.

All employees should be able to openly discuss mental health and wellbeing. The fact is, modern workplaces are complex, and nobody is without their own stresses or challenges at work or in life. We all have mental health, which means we all have a responsibility to do something about it too.

By giving employees space to raise concerns and have ‘courageous conversations’ in a confidential environment, it helps reduce stigmas, fears and guilt attached to mental health and wellbeing, and creates a sense of trust between team members and leaders.

Workplace wellbeing training

Workplace wellbeing training is important for people at all levels of the business- they help bring your team together and communicate more effectively about mental health. A recent report by Deloitte found that 62% of employees feel their organisation’s wellbeing strategy positively impacts on their workforce experience. 

However, to really make an impact, your workplace wellbeing programme needs to be integrated into your core business values and processes.

It’s important at this stage to emphasise that employee wellbeing programmes don’t have to be stuffy or boring- they can be fun, interactive, and help team members cope more easily with the challenges and pressures of modern workplaces. 

Our Managing with Mental Wealth in Mind workshops are designed for managers and leaders to support team mental wellbeing, and help identify and address specific stressors that might be negatively affecting your team’s wellbeing.

Organisations may also want to create a network of advocates across their business, whose collective role is to help build a working environment & culture that openly & honestly talks about mental health and encourages everyone to do the same. This is something that our CHAMPs experts can help support through Mental Wealth CHAMPion Training.

Implementing a workplace wellbeing programme

Let’s face it- there are an awful lot of workplace wellbeing programmes out there, so it’s important to choose one that works equally well for your business and your employees. Would they benefit from a one-day training session, or something focused on those experiencing poor or declining wellbeing? Whatever you decide, it’s time to move beyond fruit baskets and increased holidays – think about what your employees want, and ask them directly! Get to grips with the real needs of your team, what they would like to see improved, and how you can provide realistic solutions.

Get executive buy-in

Gaining (and maintaining) executive buy-in serves as a crucial lifeline to any workplace wellbeing initiative. By winning their trust, programmes can continue to flourish, and benefit employees across your organisation.

Stakeholders will likely want to know how the programme will benefit the organisation; it’s therefore crucial to show your potential financial returns, and reductions in staff turnover and absenteeism. Think about your bottom line, and how employee wellbeing can create a positive impact on this.

Get managers on board

When it comes to getting managers on board, make sure you’re selling the benefits!

For any wellbeing programme to succeed, investment needs to come from the top down. This means staff at all levels need to be onboard and proactive. Wellness leaders within the business really do have the potential to shape a culture of workplace wellbeing that works effectively for all; they can inspire, lead by example, and empower their workforce. Allow your managers to showcase their skills in compassion and vulnerability- they’re two of the most powerful attributes to have in your wellbeing toolkit.

Encourage employee participation

Maintaining and increasing the uptake of workplace wellbeing programmes benefits everyone- employees know that their mental health in being prioritised, and organisations see sustainable growth. So make sure you’re providing team members with enough incentives to participate in your programme, and give them an opportunity to voice their views on your current offerings. What is it that they would like to get out of their workplace wellbeing programme? What kind of support do they need most? 

Ensure employee needs are taken into consideration when developing workplace wellbeing initiatives; give them the time, space and flexibility to complete and attend wellbeing sessions without their work being affected, and don’t force them to take part in initiatives if they don’t want to. It’s important for team members to set their own boundaries and have choice in what they participate in.

Measure the impact

Once you’ve implemented your chosen program, it’s time to measure the impact it’s had on your employees. This needs to be an ongoing process, so you can continually tailor and improve your wellbeing initiatives to match the needs and requirements of your team. Seeking feedback from your staff at all levels gives you a critical insight into employee wellbeing levels, and will let you know if the programme was effective or if more support, training or intervention is required.

Make wellbeing a core component of your business

If you’re keen to make wellbeing a core component of your organisation, it’s important to remember that despite the flashy presentations and gimmicky training initiatives, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. We’re all unique individuals, and we all have unique needs. The simple fact is that workplace wellbeing isn’t improved with just one programme or workshop; it needs to be a real, ongoing commitment. This shows your employees that you’re serious about wanting to support their mental health and create sustained change.

Whether your workplace is small or large, workplace wellbeing is something that can be realistically managed and improved to provide benefits for all. Life is becoming more demanding than ever before, so it’s crucial for businesses to offer more support to their employees, and help reduce the risk of burnouts and stresses that inevitably impact productivity.

There’s a wealth of programmes out there that can provide meaningful coaching, workshops and training to help staff and organisations thrive. At CHAMPS, we’re able to support both businesses and individuals to turn mental wellbeing into their biggest asset at work- one conversation at a time.

If you’d like to reach out for some support, or find out more about how we can help, take a look at our various workplace wellbeing offerings or contact us here to discuss a solution tailored to your business needs.

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