For nearly two years employers have dealt with the huge challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented them. Prior to this employee wellbeing had been steadily rising up the corporate agenda, but as a result of the pandemic it’s now centre stage in many workplaces. However, despite this, there’s also a gap in implementing approaches, with many companies not yet embracing the health and wellbeing agenda to full effect.
To gain real benefit, employee wellbeing priorities must be integrated throughout a company, embedded in its culture, leadership and people management. Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to the following benefits.
1. Improved staff retention
Employees who feel cared for will increase their loyalty with a company. Increasingly, in a competitive candidate market, if a candidate has to choose between two companies, one that might pay better but not care about employee wellbeing and a company that does care about wellbeing but a slightly lower salary – they are now more likely to choose the latter.
Employers that actively look after their employees and show they care are much further ahead than their competitors. Naturally, people talk about their employer to others, so if a company doesn’t offer wellbeing support it will be known. If a competitor company offers wellbeing support, employees might tempted to move to them. Employers should not underestimate that employees will be more grateful for the support the company provides and it will increase their loyalty.
2. Candidate attraction
Companies that go the extra mile for their employees get noticed. A company’s culture is becoming more important when it comes to people looking for a job. If a company becomes known in their industry as a great employer, they are more likely to attract not only new talent, but better quality talent that wish to work for a company that supports its employees.
3. Promote physical wellbeing and health
A wellbeing strategy must start at the top and go right down to the bottom, as it can increase productivity within a company. Employees who are healthy both physically and mentally will be able to work to the best of their abilities. If there are no barriers to their work, they will be able to concentrate on the job tasks assigned to them.
Employees in good health have increased resilience, this leads to them taking less time off sick. Even if each employee only took one to two sick days, this can really make a difference. If there is a lower sickness absence rate, then work will be completed faster and other employees won’t be overstretched or reach burnout by having to cover for their sick work colleagues.
4. Increase employee engagement
If employees feel they can influence their working life, and they have a voice on wellbeing matters, they are more likely to feel engaged.
Employees who are able to influence issues that affect them and see the real impact are more likely to be committed to their job. This leads to a more engaged workforce, who become more engaged in the company as a whole. Increased employee engagement acts as a cycle, the more employees engage in the business the more influence they will have. The same applies to wellbeing, if they are more engaged with it the better they will feel within themselves and in their role. The more employees become in engaged, the faster it will take effect across the whole company.
Improving wellbeing at work
When implementing a wellbeing strategy, finding the right metrics to measure it is essential. However, you have to have the right wellbeing initiatives in place. The ways to promote a wellbeing initiative will depend on the company’s culture and the expectations of the employees.
Below, are some of the more popular wellbeing initiatives a company can consider implementing.
Providing collaborative and comfortable work environment
As we now see more employees return to the office consideration should be made to the working environment, to underpin productivity and employee satisfaction levels. Think about minimising distractions, providing natural light and motivating colour schemes. These are all ways to boost mood, reduce fatigue and focus the mind.
Support exercise and fitness
Pre-pandemic many companies started to provide cycle racks, showers and changing rooms to support cycle-to-work schemes. However, one size does not fit all. There are other ways to encourage health and fitness in the workplace, from discounted gym memberships to yoga classes or lunchtime walking groups or even walking meetings.
Promote healthy lifestyles
Encouraging employee wellbeing can also provide inspirations for group initiatives, such as the Three Peaks Challenge, and charity fitness events such as walking 100 miles for Mind. Such challenges give people a sense of both belonging, as well as promoting a healthier way of living. Pre-pandemic we also saw the rise of free daily fruit being available for employees in the office.
Employee reward and recognition schemes should be in place to build employee engagement and help retain talent. Think about schemes such as ‘employee of the month’ or simple thank-you recognition gifts or time-off for completing targets.
Meditation isn’t for everyone, but mindfulness is an accessible tool anyone can use. Some companies now give their employees both the space and the time, including daily mediation sessions, to help employees refocus their mind.
Take time away from the desk
This became more of a challenge during the peak of the pandemic when working from home, so whether office or home-based employees should be encouraged to take breaks away from their desk. Stepping away from their desk for even a small period of time can do employees the world of good, it can help if they’re stuck on a task, if they feel drained and it helps their mental wellbeing.
Encourage time off
All employees have an annual leave entitlement and employers need to make sure they feel comfortable asking for time off they are entitled to. Many employees feel like they can’t take annual leave and are resigned to working without break. Having a day or even a long weekend off can allow employees to reset and come back to work refreshed.
Encourage open communication
Again, we’ve seen the pandemic highlight the importance of mental wellbeing, allowing employees to feel as though they can openly talk about their mental health. In allowing this, it will help towards removing stigma from within a company and allow employees to be more open about any issues they may have and to seek help instead of suffering in silence.
Provide flexible working arrangements
We’ve also seen that allowing your employees to make decisions on their own working hours provides great benefit. Whether that is allowing them to change their hours to accommodate the school run or work from home more frequently. This can alleviate any stress from finding a work and home balance and boost their productivity.
Finding the right employee wellbeing strategy comes down to your business. Every organisation is unique. It’s about finding the right pathway into developing employee wellbeing initiatives.