Wellbeing - beyond the fruit bowl!03/05/2016
Staff absenteeism is a high cost to any business, with the average being 8 days per employee per year. Stress and other mental health conditions are now among the main causes of employee absence and consequently wellbeing is becoming increasingly important to employers across sectors. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that stress costs business in the UK £3.8 billion a year.
36% of all employees surveyed say that their emotional and physical wellbeing at work is the most important factor for them; versus 30% of employees who feel that career progression opportunities are the most important. A surprising statistic which should push wellbeing up the agenda in all organisations; employees who did feel that their companies cared about their wellbeing described themselves 75% as loyal, which is a great indication of engagement and demonstrates that wellbeing is a key way to show staff that they are valued.
There should be an overarching willingness amongst employers to create a healthy and vibrant environment where staff enjoy what they are doing and by feeling supported, are more productive and motivated in their working lives. If employees are in a good state of health and wellbeing, then this contributes to the successful performance of the business. This is not a new phenomenon indeed, many wealthy philanthropists have had an involvement with their employee’s environment – the most famous of which are Port Sunlight and Bourneville villages built by the Lever and Cadbury families for their factory workers.
The onus upon employers to create a place of wellbeing is even greater now that the boundaries between work and personal time have blurred with many employees being on frequent ‘call’ and responding to work enquiries via mobile and tablet communication channels. So what does wellbeing really mean? Whilst initiatives such as the provision of a fruit bowl and the occasional nutritional advice is to be commended, a more strategic and holistic philosophy is required to truly create a healthy and happy workforce. Fundamentally wellbeing is fundamental and should go to the core of the values and ethos of an organisation. Well-meaning initiatives that tinker around the edges are always liable to fail and investment in such programmes ultimately wasted.
Wellbeing represents a broad range of factors that include physical, mental and social health as well as emotional and financial elements – some companies factor in spiritual and intellectual too. Whatever factors you want to mix into the pot, in essence, wellbeing at work is not just about ensuring the physical safety of the environment. A successful wellbeing programme is a strategic collaboration between employer and employee ensuring they are attaining their true potential and at its absolute basic, creating personal happiness – feeling good and working healthily.
Getting the strategy is pivotal - too many companies get wrapped up in the discussion thinking its just about corporate gym memberships – when really the dialogue about wellbeing needs to relate to the values and beliefs held within the organisation. Without doubt, employees being engaged in conversations about how their work is organised, distributed and undertaken, will have more impact upon an individual’s wellbeing than the introduction of a fruit bowl! The six standards identified by Health & Safety Executive (HSE ) of work related stress - Demand; Control; Support; Role; Relationships; Change - should be the thread that runs through discussions; if staff feel in control of their job, they are supported, understand their role and changes are communicated with them will mean that they feel inclusive and informed within the business.
There needs to be regular discussions within an organisation regarding the effect wellbeing has upon the business and how it is embedded into the culture – otherwise any initiatives will run the risk of being dismissed as a gimmick. Wellbeing dialogue allows employees to contribute directly with ideas on improving their working environment and by doing so, makes them feel valued which has a positive impact upon their health.
Some of the most important aspects of organisational wellbeing are staff having meaningful work and the opportunity to apply their skills; as well as having effective working relationships in a safe and healthy environment. Wellbeing orientated organisations provide the mechanism for people to flourish in their roles and the opportunity to achieve their personal career objectives whilst having a good work-life balance.
Some of the most important aspects of employee wellbeing are relationships with colleagues and their immediate managers. Where there are strong relationships, levels of wellbeing are statistically enhanced. Feeling valued and understanding the ‘big picture’ and how they fit into that vision and tangibly understand their contribution, leads to a sense of empowerment and purpose which boosts confidence.
Physical wellbeing of employees is easier to monitor than mental wellbeing, and breaking down the taboos of identifying signs of stress should be top of any agenda – it can be done in a creative and non stigmatised way that raises awareness within individuals, colleagues and line managers.
In summary, don’t forget the fruit bowl, the gym, the nutritional advice and the occasional massage; just don’t make those the be all and end of a wellbeing programme. Open communication and dialogue about the business and personal support is just as essential.