Why organisations need to do more for the health and wellbeing of the workforce

by | May 4, 2020 | Health & Wellbeing | 0 comments

Many workplaces are far from conducive to wellbeing, with stress, poor communication, conflict and bullying rife in some not to mention toxic workplace cultures. Few employers feel they have enough time or resources to deal with employee mental health and workplace wellbeing – even though it’s recognised as a real driver for performance. This article will explore wellbeing in the workplace, what is being done about it by organisations and employers, how wellbeing impacts businesses and how HR can facilitate wellbeing in their organisation.

Any organisation which has its own HR department should not only promote wellbeing but be seen as key stakeholders promoting wellbeing throughout an organisation because its success is intrinsically linked to helping staff enjoy their work. As well as enabling employees’ mental health through good support systems, HR can also offer wellness benefits which will help staff feel valued. Key workplace wellbeing drivers for organisations People are the greatest asset of any organisation, and investing in wellbeing will not only increase efficiency but can be shown to reduce sickness absence, mental health problems and employee turnover whilst encouraging a work-life balance. There is also a clear business case for wellbeing: one study found that businesses with strong wellbeing strategies achieve nine per cent higher productivity than those without. The link between wellbeing and performance is clearly demonstrated by employees who ‘engage’ – or work at their full potential – and employers who encourage wellbeing enjoy above average levels of investment from fresh recruits. – Engaged workers earn higher wages, are more productive, have fewer absent days, have less stress related illness lower staff turnover and help their organisation have a good reputation within the community. – Engaged workers are more loyal, productive, innovative and creative; and engagement is a better indicator of wellbeing than wellbeing per se. What HR can do for wellbeing at work Employers may not see wellbeing as a priority simply because they don’t know where to start or how to measure it. It’s vital that HR professionals champion wellness issues throughout an organisation. Many organisations already employ wellbeing champions, specialists who raise awareness through workshops and seminars on diet, exercise, mental health, alcohol consumption and smoking. However if wellbeing champions want to succeed then they should be ready to advocate for positive change in policy or practice which promotes wellbeing at work. One industry in which wellbeing is highly valued is finance. In The City of London, wellbeing initiatives have been implemented in the workplace since 1991 when City Mutual Group began employing wellbeing specialists who deliver workshops on exercise and nutrition. – Workplace wellbeing initiatives should be focused on how people can benefit from mental wellbeing as well as physical wellbeing, because evidence shows that good mental health is a driver for performance and wellbeing at work and encourages good work . There are many positive links between wellbeing, improved productivity and the prevention of absenteeism and workplace stress. The link between employees’ mental state and their attendance patterns is clear: employers with high levels of staff wellbeing had 10 per cent fewer sick days than those where low staff wellbeing was the norm . While this may seem obvious, a 2008 study showed that many wellbeing initiatives were primarily focused on physical wellbeing. This was because wellbeing is often considered in terms of what it does for health, but there’s much more to wellbeing: it’s benefits are also social, spiritual, occupational and psychological. Equally employers should tackle wellbeing issues holistically by promoting good mental wellbeing alongside physical wellbeing. Mental wellbeing can be promoted through ensuring employees have effective emotional support at work and access to critical psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Employers need to address stress-related illness from the top down: leadership has a vital role to play in endorsing healthy lifestyles and encouraging good habits among staff. Workplace wellbeing guarantees staff that their wellbeing is an important aspect of the organisation’s wellbeing strategy . Employers must be prepared to invest in wellbeing initiatives if they are going to reap the rewards. Just as organisations need to invest in adequate health care for employees, so they need to think about wellbeing and prevention rather than waiting until illness is so acute that it needs hospitalisation. Employees want wellbeing too Real wellbeing programmes can only become a reality when employers develop good relationships with staff representatives. The mental wellbeing of every employee is an employer’s responsibility and enhancing wellbeing benefits everyone – not just those who suffer poor mental health but also employers: businesses with strong wellbeing strategies achieve nine per cent higher productivity than those without . – Making workplaces more healthy makes financial sense. A recent review of over 500 studies across 20 countries found that there is strong evidence for the value of wellbeing interventions. Implementing wellbeing strategies can reduce healthcare costs by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism (where employees come to work despite feeling unwell). We aren’t just talking perk focussed initiatives here advocating healthy snacks, healthy eating or gym memberships or some other outdated response following the pandemic. It needs to be meaningful and tie into your workplace culture and workplace health. One study showed that organisations with wellbeing programs had a 31 per cent lower average cost of occupational injury, while another found that wellbeing initiatives were related to higher employee engagement, lower staff turnover and lower levels of sick leave . This shows how HR can be an important force in reducing healthcare costs by implementing practical wellbeing initiatives such as smoking cessation programmes. What makes wellbeing programmes work? – Employers should focus on what they want their wellbeing strategy to achieve rather than simply concentrating on what other organisations have done in the past. For example: do wellbeing programmes actually encourage wellbeing, or are they just a way of reducing sickness absence? Most wellbeing initiatives focus on physical wellbeing but mental wellbeing needs to be taken into account too. Organisations should consider how wellbeing programme can be used as an opportunity for refreshing leadership and line-management teams and positively impacting employee’s mental health through supportive management styles . Employers must ensure wellbeing is an area of genuine interest and importance for senior management before launching any initiative. For many employers wellbeing is not yet a sustainable part of their strategic business plan; instead it is something that will make employees feel better so they can continue working hard. Management do not always support wellbeing initiatives because often the benefits don’t appear to have a short term monetary return – this illusion has been dispelled in recent years by research which shows that wellbeing programmes are actually very cost effective. In order to get wellbeing right from the start, employers should consider consulting with a wellbeing consultant who can provide a professional appraisal of wellbeing and mental health at work. A wellbeing advisor will be able to assess if future wellness initiatives are likely to succeed and what steps need to be taken in order to transform a long-term vision into reality. A good wellbeing strategy should include wellbeing strategies for employees as well as an organisation’s leadership team . It is important that senior management identify the key drivers behind any proposed wellbeing programme and tailor their plan accordingly. For example: assessing stress levels across different departments or highlighting high risk occupations . The strategic planning phase is also where employers can decide on how they wish staff wellbeing programmes to be rolled out – for example, does the business have a central HR department or is wellbeing delegated to individual departments? Once the strategic plan is in place, wellbeing programmes should still focus on detail; what will success look like when employees are asked if wellbeing initiatives are working? It is important that wellbeing advisors make time to discuss details with management and senior leadership. What are the goals of enhanced mental wellbeing at work? How can these goals be achieved? When a manager has successfully implemented an wellbeing programme it shows they care about their staff and that they value every employee as part of their team . To ensure successful implementation any organisation’s wellbeing strategy must fit with wider corporate objectives. The most important factor here is communication: employers must ensure all managers are aware of wellbeing initiatives and have the necessary skills to implement them as part of an organisation’s wellbeing strategy. As wellbeing schemes are tweaked, employers should try and evaluate them regularly . When wellbeing programmes go wrong it is hard to tell whether they were unsuccessful because there was a flaw in the original wellbeing strategy or simply because implementation wasn’t handled properly. Regular evaluation helps managers identify any potential problems with wellbeing strategies so that poor performance can be addressed before things get worse . Employers need to constantly challenge what their wellbeing programme stands for and how it is implemented – if senior management don’t want wellbeing at work, why should everyone else? Today’s employees demand better workplace mental health services; businesses must deliver these improvements if they are to succeed both now and in the future. Through wellbeing advisors businesses get access to expertise, skills and advice when wellbeing is a priority. An organisation’s wellbeing strategy need not be complex or costly – many wellbeing initiatives can be implemented by managers themselves! What wellbeing services have you implemented into your workplace? Walk me through it – how did you do it, why did you do it, what was the result
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