Wellbeing in the Workplace Initiatives
In today’s professional world, workplace wellbeing initiatives have never been so important.
They aren’t just attracted to impressive salary packages. They are looking to work for employers who can offer career progression. They want to advocate for employers who take care of their employees (perhaps through the provision of a paid-time off policy). And they want to feel proud that their employer is leading the way when it comes to workplace wellbeing policies.
These new generations are acutely aware of the pitfalls of professional burnout. They have seen the impact of the boom-and-bust generation (typified by the yuppies in the 1980s), and they know that they will work best if they benefit from a positive work-life balance.
In recent years, studies have increasingly shown that happy workplaces and wellbeing policies go hand-in-hand. Those offices where the staff is supported and looked after are more likely to thrive.
This is because the workers themselves can work to their full potential. They have greater employer loyalty, which results in a more stable workforce. And they are far more likely to talk publicly about how good their employer is which results in the ability to attract a higher caliber of workers.
Businesses are often put off by the idea of workplace wellbeing policies. Many (wrongly) assume that implementing wellbeing initiatives will require a significant investment. Others may feel that whilst it’s a 'nice-to-have', it’s a luxury only afforded to larger corporations.
Smaller firms may be keen to implement policies to support employee wellbeing but simply lack the time to set up and maintain initiatives.
But ultimately, these are excuses, rather than reasons.
The reality is that there are many reasons why businesses should adopt corporate wellbeing policies for their staff.
It may be difficult to calculate a direct return on investment, but HR teams now have access to greater data than ever before which can showcase increases in productivity or employee satisfaction.
What’s more, marketing teams can also track big data and analytics to judge the wider reputation of the business.
Those companies with reputations for being good employers will benefit from better PR and may find it easier to attract new talent.
With all that in mind, here are some of the top reasons why workplace wellbeing policies are worthwhile:
We spend a significant part of our lives at work, so it’s important to be happy in our working environment.
Workplace wellbeing policies are about creating a better work environment that allows employees to flourish.
These could involve offering opportunities to improve physical health, or they could mean creating a nurturing environment designed to reduce stress and support mental health concerns.
When considered a strategic part of an HR function, a well-thought-through wellbeing policy can directly lead to a positive workplace environment.
Many employers mistake employee wellbeing initiatives for team-bonding activities.
The two are quite different.
Whilst a team bonding activity may build cohesiveness and trust amongst a team (or even facilitate inter-department relationships), ongoing workplace wellbeing initiatives are designed to help staff feel looked after and supported every single day.
This focus on wellbeing will ensure teams are more confident, feel happy to express their feelings and ideas, and generally work better and get along better together.
Many businesses that utilize workplace wellbeing policies have reported tangible improvements in their staff.
From better productivity and increased motivation to reduced sick days and greater advocacy, it is clear that an investment in workplace wellbeing can directly lead to improved efficiencies.
Firms who take care of their staff often report reduced staff turnover, saving them significant money in recruitment costs.
They also find that recruitment is easier – if a business has garnered a reputation for being a good employer, they tend to attract new people quickly and easily. This means that they can continue to enjoy greater business success, knowing that they have the right teams in place who will work hard.
Today’s generation of workers is often at the risk of professional burnout.
The ability to monitor emails whilst ‘on-the-go’ and the pressure to respond to work requests whilst out of hours has meant that many employees do not get an opportunity to unwind and de-stress from the pressures of the day.
Fast-paced and stressful professions such as health and social care or teaching are widely known to suffer the effects of ‘burnout’. This is where they take on so much stress that they are simply unable to work anymore and end up leaving their professions entirely.
In recent years, much more has been written about the impact of mental health in the workplace. And as a result, employers are often far more willing to listen to staff concerns and implement initiatives that reduce stress and retain talented staff members.
There is an increased understanding of the correlation between good physical and mental health, and effective working habits. This means that employers can directly see how taking care of a staff member can result in better productivity.
Before you start to implement any workplace wellbeing policies, it’s important to think strategically about what you plan to do and how.
At the crux of any workplace initiative is a solid understanding of what wellbeing is and what aspects any policies should cover.
In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) is responsible for setting professional standards for HR and employee development.
With more than 150,000 members around the world, it is highly regarded for its expertise in helping businesses create effective workplace wellbeing policies.
“There’s no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to designing a health and wellbeing strategy; its content should be based on the unique needs and characteristics of the organization and its workforce.”
According to the CIPD, any initiatives should be implemented carefully and should consider a wide range of ‘domains’ including:
This includes physical health (such as access to comprehensive health insurance, support to manage disabilities, comprehensive staff sickness cover and regular health checks or medicals) as well as ensuring that staff are physically safe in their office environment.
It also encompasses mental health initiatives, such as stress management and conflict resolution.
This is about ensuring that you are creating an effective corporate culture.
It is about facilitating strong communication between all workers, and clear training and career progression opportunities.
It’s also about knowing how to manage staff effectively and understanding the importance of setting boundaries between home and work so that staff know they have a right to switch off outside of their contracted hours.
Instilling a good work environment also factors in financial recognition for achievements, making sure that no one is discriminated against and that there is an open-door policy with senior management teams.
They listen to their employees and ensure cultural engagement for all workers and play an active role in their local communities.
Communication is at the heart of every great business.
All employees need to be aware that they can have genuine, honest discussions with colleagues and line managers, regardless of the managerial style.
Taking this domain into account, businesses can facilitate healthy workplace relationships between all employees based upon trust and respect.
Employers need to take responsibility for helping their staff become well-rounded individuals.
This isn’t just about providing access to technical training and career progression. It’s also about creating an innovative and collaborative atmosphere where everyone is recognized for their contribution.
Some employers also look to go that extra step and facilitate access to training in other areas of life such as emotional resilience, stress management and even financial wellbeing.
When employees are fit and well, businesses benefit from reduced sickness levels and better productivity.
Therefore, it works to their advantage to provide access to initiatives that encourage good lifestyle habits.
This may be through lunchtime walking clubs, cycling to work schemes and access to healthy foods, or even launching corporate recipe clubs and creating affiliate relationships with local healthy markets and restaurants.
Employers must do what they can to facilitate good financial management for staff.
The flexibility of workplace wellbeing initiatives means that individual staff members can take it upon themselves to take responsibility for their team, even if your HR department is unable to provide any budget.
If you’re looking to improve your workplace for yourself and/or your co-workers, here is a list of 10 wellbeing activities that you could launch quickly and easily.
Some of these you can easily manage on your own, whilst others may need some managerial support – either from your direct line manager or from your corporate HR team.
We hope that these will inspire you to create a better workplace for all.
We all know that we should be aiming to achieve at least 10,000 steps per day to stay fit and well.
Why not suggest a lunchtime walking group whereby you and a few colleagues take some time away from the desk during your lunch hour to get some fresh air and explore your local area?
Similarly, you could also reduce email usage and walk to other co-workers’ desks to ask a request rather than rely on sending a quick email.
Employees like to feel part of a team. Why not arrange an event where you can build new relationships away from the office?
It doesn’t have to be complicated – simply an informal meal out or a few drinks at a local bar may help to build a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
Employees often learn from one another. Even if you haven’t got an official mentoring program available in your company, why not buddy up with a colleague so you can learn how to collaborate effectively and share ideas?
You may be surprised how much knowledge you can share with junior colleagues and how much you can learn from senior bosses.
This is a great way to improve your skills and take control of your personal development.
A quick and easy way to build relationships with colleagues is to find shared interests.
If you’re keen to encourage healthy habits, you could start a recipe club (asking staff to upload their favorite recipes on an intranet system) or you could launch a workplace library. This would be an ideal place to swap unwanted books, DVDs or even jigsaw puzzles.
If you’re serious about getting fit and healthy, you could start a fitness program or club with your colleagues.
It’s not about building muscles in the gym; focus on finding a support system to keep you on track.
Some businesses may allow external companies (such as WW) to come in and host support meetings.
At a more simple level, you could launch some internal challenges (can someone walk/run a specific number of miles before a predetermined date? This could even be to raise money for a local charity) or even share suggestions of good exercise routines or videos for inspiration.
Here are some workplace wellbeing initiatives that you could suggest to your line manager:
You could suggest to your line manager that you implement regular staff wellbeing days where each team member can have the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about how they are feeling.
It can be an opportunity to share what they need to help them work effectively.
Similar to the social events, you may wish to speak to your line manager about requesting a budget for a dedicated team building day that involves a theme or task unrelated to work.
This will help to build new relationships and turn an informal activity into something far more tangible.
Great employers know that ideas can come from all areas of the business. Therefore, to work innovatively and collaboratively, why not suggest the creation of some creative zones within the office?
The addition of whiteboards and other brainstorming materials may help teams to think outside of the norm.
You could also suggest a dedicated ‘hot-desk’ area which could allow individuals to work in new areas of the office if/when they need some new inspiration or a quieter area.
Employers are now far more open to requests for flexible working. They understand that staff members who have the option to work at times that suit them are often far more hard-working and productive.
Technology has now made it far easier for businesses to implement remote working capabilities, and many companies use specific HR software to track output which can provide demonstrable evidence that workers may get as much, if not more, work is done at home without any distractions.
If your business has a dedicated canteen or multiple vending machines, it’s easy to see how a 4 p.m. sugar boost could pile on the pounds.
Why not speak to your HR team about investing in better food choices, such as providing a free bowl of fruit daily for the staff kitchen, so that you can snack on healthier alternatives rather than sugar-laden treats?
There is a lot that businesses can do to promote healthier, happier and more productive workforces.
Evidence suggests that businesses who take the time to implement workplace wellbeing policies are often far more successful than those who don’t.
However, it’s important to remember that any new wellbeing policies need to be carefully and strategically thought through.
New policies need to be considerate of the domains set out by the CIPD and show that employers are thinking about what staff members need to work as effectively as possible.
It’s also important to remember that healthy and happy workforces are not created overnight. Wellbeing policies need to take time to take effect – small changes may only have a minor impact on the business at first, but over a sustained time, they can start to make a big difference.
Implementing and maintaining staff wellbeing policies shouldn’t be overly complicated. Whilst some aspects of policy may require a culture shift and a specific budget, there are also many opportunities that individuals can use independently.
The list of 10 wellbeing initiatives that you can start in your office will hopefully inspire you to make changes of your own or allow you to talk to your line manager about how to improve your workplace.