Workplace wellbeing is currently a buzzword in HR, and many workplaces consider workplace wellbeing to be a crucial part of their employee engagement. So why is wellbeing important?

Employee disengagement and mental ill-health will have a negative impact on most organisations, whereas CIPD research has consistently shown that employees who are engaged, happy and feel like they are valued and recognised will be more productive and contribute to the overall success of the organisation, and that people stay with companies who value them and care for them.

Wellbeing is defined as being able to realise your potential, while coping with the stresses and challenges of daily life, and encompasses physical, emotional, mental, social and financial health. The New Economics Foundation set out five key actions to improve mental wellbeing, which are:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Keep learning
  • Give

But how can you do this, and what does it mean in practice?

Look beyond one-off wellbeing initiatives

Mindfulness training, Pilates classes and fresh fruit are all nice to haves, and will no doubt be enjoyed by employees, but will make relatively little difference to overall employee engagement if organisations don’t first examine their management practices and provide adequate training to managers in order to enable them to effectively support their employees. If your employees are operating in a culture that is toxic, have no support from their managers, and don’t feel listened to, initiatives such as those listed above will have little or no impact on their overall wellbeing, and their desire to remain with the organisation.

You need to consider whether your managers have sufficient training to support your employees, can spot signs of physical and mental ill-health, and are equipped to have sensitive, timely and supportive conversations with your employees.

To come back to the New Economics Foundations guidelines, employees who feel a sense of connectedness to their workplace and colleagues will report higher levels of wellbeing, as well as those whose feel like their training and development needs are important to their organisations.

Look at the key factors which can affect your employee’s wellbeing

A recent survey by Close Brothers has revealed that 94% of UK employees suffer from financial worries, which can have a significant impact on their overall wellbeing, and 89% of large UK businesses have revealed that they are affected by this. Look at what you can do concretely to support your employees – this can be through offering free financial advice, Employee Assistance Programs, workplace loans or discount vouchers. Providing advice and support can deliver enhanced performance at work and will offer employees financial as well as mental peace of mind.

Have a clear absence management strategy

Whilst having a motivated and productive workforce is essential to all businesses, companies need to balance an effective approach to absence management with the understanding that people can be genuinely ill. 

Supporting unwell employees is an important part of any absence management strategy. There are numerous theories around what causes people to attend work whilst ill, ranging from employees’ fearing being managed-out of a company or not being paid for being absent, to a culture of ‘presenteeism’ where any absence is viewed negatively.

Attending work whilst ill can be unhealthy for employees as it prolongs their period of ill health. There could also be long term mental health risks for staff members who are physically burnt-out or unwell but feel obliged to work. 

Also, on a very practical level being at work doesn’t necessarily mean that sick staff are being productive.

Have a clear wellbeing strategy

Introducing a wellness strategy looks at keeping people healthy and increasing motivation and productivity. 

A wellbeing strategy pulls together all the interventions a company can apply to support the mental and physical health of employees. It can include partnering with organisations such as an Employee Assistance Programme or a private GP practise to provide on-site medical support. 

You could also consider encouraging low cost initiatives such as walking clubs or weight loss challenges across the company. Workforces are different in every company, so the key is to understand your people and the specific challenges or stresses they’re exposed to at work to put together a strategy that works for your organisation. One way to do this can be conducting a survey with your workforce, to determine what they would value the most and tailoring your wellbeing strategy accordingly.

Top tips for a healthy culture:

  • Introduce a wellbeing strategy designed to support the mental and physical health of your employees.
  • Ensure a combination of low-cost practises such as encouraging staff to take a lunch break, with a reward such as PMI or access to a private GP.
  • Introduce flexible working; employees may not feel well enough for the trip into the office and sitting in it all day, but they feel able to keep on top of emails at home.
  • Ensure managers are trained in absence management and always hold a “return to work” interview to ensure that the employee is well enough to return and to capture any underlying issues
  • Proactively identify employees who are clearly too ill to be at work and send them home.

To sum it up

Wellbeing is not just a one-off initiative – having the occasional “wellbeing day” is great, but you should be looking to embed employee wellbeing into everything that your organisation does.

If you need any support or guidance in employee wellbeing, please get in touch: 

T: 0151 728 7717


Twitter: @LiverpoolHR