By Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer of Employment Hero
If Covid-19 taught us anything, it is that mental health is vitally important, not just in our personal lives but at work as well. With international wellbeing week taking place between 27th June – 1st July, this is a really important time for companies to show that they value the wellbeing of their workforce.
Our latest Wellness at work report revealed some key findings around wellbeing in the workplace. We surveyed over 2,000 workers across the UK and asked them about the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 on their financial situation, personal fulfilment at work and much more.
An important takeaway is that employers who do support their employee’s wellness make a big difference to their overall company performance.
Employee wellbeing should be at the top of every boardroom agenda, but what constitutes a good wellbeing strategy varies from company to company, and if you ask your employees, you might get a lot of different answers.
An employee wellbeing strategy doesn’t have to cost the earth, and it doesn’t have to be too complicated . There are lots of ways to support your employees.
If you are looking to implement a wellbeing strategy for your employees, here are some low-cost strategies for improving employee wellbeing in the workplace.
What does employee wellbeing mean?
Employee wellbeing is broad and complex and can cover anything from occupational health support to financial wellbeing and providing a flexible benefits scheme.
We often think of employee wellbeing as an employees’ physical or mental health in the context of a work environment. But our findings revealed that it is much more than that.
There are seven dimensions of wellbeing which interconnect to form a framework that underpins a healthy and happy life. This is important to understand if you want to think about how to promote wellbeing, especially in the workplace.
Why should employers invest in employee wellbeing?
Poor employee wellbeing can really damage an organisation. It reduces engagement, undermines productivity and creativity, and can spread quickly. A low team morale reduces staff retention, and ultimately your company’s reputation, it is also costly. One survey showed that sickness-related absences and presenteeism are costing the UK economy £77.5 billion a year.
On the flip side, positive employee wellbeing contributes to overall positive employee experience, which can see greater levels of engagement, reduced turnover rates and higher team morale.
Employee wellbeing is crucial to maintaining healthy and successful workplaces. According to our Wellness at Work Report, employees were 75% more likely to be loyal to an employer if they feel their company is committed to their wellness. Employers that support and promote their employee wellbeing really do reap the rewards.
We often think about wellbeing outside of the workplace, but if an employer can put support and programs in place to contribute to a feeling of balance and health in the employee’s wider life, then this will set them apart.
We understand that businesses want to show care for their employees, but it can be hard to justify investments. Luckily there are some very affordable strategies that will bring quick wins to boost employee wellbeing, employee engagement team morale, as well as a speedy ROI.
5 low-cost strategies to improve employee wellbeing at work
- Offer flexibility
Over the course of the pandemic, many companies had to quickly adjust for remote working. This is something that is here to stay: our Remote Work Report 2021 found that as many as 94% of employees want to continue working remotely at least one day a week for the long-term.
Whether it’s workplace location, working hours, or communication style – this is all about allowing employees to have a say in how they work.
To kick start this strategy, first talk to your employees and find out what they want. Small modifications can make a world of difference to employee wellbeing.
- Provide workplace wellness programs
There are many ways to offer a workplace wellness program, from large scale to small. They can focus on physical health, employee mental health, or anything that contributes to supporting employee wellbeing and delivering a healthy work life balance.
Ideally employers would create wellbeing programs based on employees’ feedback, but it’s not always possible to deliver everything that employees ask for. Still, you can use their comments, survey results, suggestions, and feedback to tailor a program.
Wellness programs can be small and mighty, and still deliver big results.You could have a policy of providing fresh fruit or healthy snacks to your employees. You could provide regular fitness challenges or arrange team sports and events.
Encourage regular breaks and scheduling time for quiet, focused work. Have clear policies and communications which reinforce the importance of taking breaks, and make sure your leadership are modelling these encouraged behaviours too.
- Support social health
Social health is also a significant pillar of wellbeing. Social health is about how people engage and interact, and positive relationships. But underneath it all, it’s about inclusion, belonging and trust.
Social health often gets overlooked or neglected in the workplace as teams focus on productivity, targets and goals. But if an employer makes an effort to nurture relationships and foster belonging within the workplace, their team’s sense of connection and trust will skyrocket.
Fundamentally, social health and belonging need to be safeguarded in anti-discrimination policies and equal opportunity hiring policies. But there are also simple and incredibly effective measures to take in the workplace which can celebrate different cultures and identities and really contribute to employee wellbeing.
In-person initiatives can include organising walking meetings instead of assembling around a board table. Introduce a more casual dress policy, or arrange team building and social events. For remote workers, fun, social Slack channels can be a great way to engage and interact.
Longer term initiatives could focus on communicating company values and building out corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives which fortify your company culture and engage employees when these tie back to individual goals and professional objectives.
Making recognition and praise part of your company’s culture is a great way to link this all together and improve social health in the workplace.
- Encourage personal development
Investing regularly in employees’ personal and professional growth is another strong move for improving employee wellbeing.
This not only yields excellent relationships with employees and improves performance, but it also creates a strong bond of trust by demonstrating your commitment as an employer to professional development. By encouraging your employees to think about their career progression and how you can help them meet their goals, you create an experience of workplace hyper-personalisation.
This kind of program needs a flexible development and coaching strategy. Use tools like Learning Management Systems, one-on-one meetings, mentorship programs, career pathways and external learning opportunities to create a unique plan for your employee.
- Create a safe space to discuss mental health
Our last tip is probably one of the most fundamental strategies you can implement today.
Create a safe space to talk about mental health. This is essential to improve not just employee wellbeing but also employee health.
Whether this is a top-down workplace culture you want to lead as an employer, or you provide an employee assistance programme (EAP) to support and assist employees, removing the stigma around mental health is an important component of employee wellbeing initiatives.
Remember, there’s a fine line between tokenism and supporting employees to talk about mental health. Although the culture is improving, the stigma still exists. But making it a normal part of the discussion in one-on-one meetings and performance reviews is a simple way to address this.
Asking the question and taking the time to listen to the answer is a great place to start. Normalise the discussion and communicate that as an employer you care about the wellbeing and mental health of your employees.