Wellbeing in the workplace

Wellbeing is not a brand new concept, but will take on critical urgency in 2019 due to a convergence of technological, economic and socio-cultural factors. Here, Joanne Fearon, one of our HR Advisors at Club Insure Risk Management, explains what wellbeing is and offers advice on how to improve employees’ wellbeing in the workplace.


What is wellbeing?
The term “wellbeing” covers several aspects of the way people feel about their lives, including their jobs, and their relationships with the people around them. Of course, a person’s wellbeing is to do with their own character and home or social life along with the workplace, but research shows that employers can have an influence on an individual’s sense of wellbeing in the way they run a workplace.

With the dizzying pace of change and the mind-blowing exponential growth of data and technology available to us showing no signs of letting up, we are all facing new levels of overload. The impact of this overload is manifesting itself in unanticipated ways. Our emotional, social, and physical wellbeing at work is directly impacted by the stressors associated with overload, and organisations will struggle to help employees cope and, more importantly, thrive in such environments without a new approach.

Companies are not only having to look at wellness programmes, they are now encouraged to provide better places of work with the employee in the forefront of any plans and ideas. In addition, the work of inclusion and belonging will take on even greater importance for business success.

The UK’s productivity still lags behind that of other countries, but employers are failing to see the link between employee wellbeing and productivity. According to the Government 1 in 4 employees will suffer from some form of mental health, with the Office of National Statistics stating Mental Health related conditions is the third most common reason for employee absence from the workplace. Minor ailments such as coughs and colds being first, with muscular problems coming a close second.

How does employees’ wellbeing affect organisations?
The answer is poor productivity, an increase in sick days, absenteeism, lack of commitment and staff retention, with employees leaving for more favourable companies. This leads to an overall potential loss in profitability. Research done this year suggests there is significant evidence supporting the link between wellbeing at work and productivity.

There is no ‘one size fits all’, but where employers are able to raise wellbeing in their workforce, they are also likely to see improvements in the performance of their workplace. Research studies have suggested that there are 11 key factors for increasing wellbeing to boost performance in general. Focusing effort on a number of these areas should be able to increase wellbeing. Below are a number of factors which small to medium sized business can adopt.

  • Where employees have a degree of autonomy over how they do their job – this does not mean that people should ignore set processes but could mean that staff have a level of discretion about how they undertake their work. Involvement in organisational decision-making can also be beneficial. Good communication and consultation is an element of this, as is having a ‘voice’ at work.
  • Being clear about what is expected of staff, including feedback on performance, which could be addressed through a combination of effective induction, clear terms and conditions and a regular appraisal process
  • Supportive supervision, which may be addressed through ensuring that line-managers are adequately trained; and an environment in which co-workers offer support can also be positive.
  • Opportunities for employees to use and develop their skills, which could be through training on and off the job, and/or by increasing the variety of work they undertake.

Staff respond well to the perception of fairness in the workplace, both in terms of how the employee is treated but also how they see their co-workers being treated. Negative behaviour such as bullying can be damaging to wellbeing – be it from co-workers, customers or managers.

Fun ideas

  • Encourage creativity within communal areas – find an empty office or unused area around your office and turn it into a place where people can meet and collaborate on projects. Install some comfy furniture so people can get away from their desks and let the creativity flow.
  • Host onsite Yoga classes – Yoga doesn’t need to take a full hour, it can be done in 15-20 mins at lunch time – perfect for stretching and increasing energy for that afternoon slump! There are plenty of apps now that run online yoga classes too.
  • Healthy eating – an obvious one. If you have a company restaurant, make sure your service provider is on board. Not having chips on the menu every day is a great start!
  • Research also showed that when the demands of a job are particularly high this can reduce wellbeing. It was noted that job demands resulted not only from the amount of work a member of staff was undertaking, but also from the level of compatibility with pressures outside of work.
    A means to address this is, employers having good communication and an understanding approach with employees, with offers of temporary reasonable adjustments and a compassionate approach.

Its common sense, a healthy workforce equals happy employees, which in turn benefits the employer.

  • Companies having a health and wellbeing programme/policy will play a hugely beneficial role in promoting employee health, in return minimising avoidable ill health, absenteeism and facilitating faster recovery and return to work after injury or illness.
  • A reduction in staff turnover which on average costs a company £30,000 to replace an employee.
  • Employee engagement (commitment, loyalty, retention).
  • Improve productivity (including alertness, concentration and judgment).
  • Attract the best talent and reduce ancillary expenses (i.e. potential legal costs, claims, private healthcare costs, company insurance etc).

The list is endless.

Looking at wellbeing at its simplest level it is ultimately about personal happiness – feeling good and working safely and healthily. It’s not rocket science, but it is something that every company in the country can improve on, small or large. This is one investment that has no downside, because there is no downside to having healthier, happier employees!

How happy are your employees and is it time to change? If you’d like to know more about the issues raised in this article, please contact us – we can advise on workplace issues, help with wellbeing policies and recommend and deliver relevant training – make 2019 the year that changes it all!