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Enhancing wellbeing in the workplace

Wellbeing is good for business. And that’s just one of the many reasons the wellbeing of employees in the workplace should be high on every company’s agenda.

An Asian woman with long gray hair is smiling and holding a glass of water while sitting at an outdoor table.An Asian woman with long gray hair is smiling and holding a glass of water while sitting at an outdoor table.

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Insights from Ellen Raim, Founder of People MatterWe focus more on solving than preventing People problems.

When employees are happy and healthy at work, they’re more productive, make fewer mistakes and take fewer sick days. Essentially, wellbeing is good for business.

That’s just one of the many reasons the wellbeing of employees in the workplace should be high on every company’s agenda.

What is employee wellbeing?

Broadly speaking, employee wellbeing refers to the overall mental, physical, emotional and economic health of an organization’s employees.

Wellbeing incorporates a huge range of elements that should be considered by employers, including:

  • Health and safety: Making sure the working environment is a safe place for employees.
  • Work-related stress: Ensuring employees have a good work/life balance and get access to the necessary support if they feel overwhelmed in their job.
  • Mental health: Giving employees resources to help them manage their mental health and having mental health first aiders if they need/want to talk.
  • Policies, including sick leave, parental leave and return to work policies

A culture of inclusion is also an important part of creating wellbeing at work. When people feel that they belong and are treated equally with their peers, they are less likely to feel stress, anxiety, anger or other negative feelings.

Why is it important to look after the wellbeing of employees?

Wellbeing should be a core element in every company’s HR strategy, because wellbeing is a key enabler of employee engagement. Wellbeing can help employees feel valued and supported at work, and wellbeing motivates people to reach their goals.

Stress is a major factor in employee wellbeing. According to a recent study by The American Institute of Stress, 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress, and about one million Americans miss work each day because of stress. That means looking after the wellbeing of employees can help improve absence rates within your organization.

There are a number of triggers for work-related stress, so it’s important to think about the work/life balance of your employees.

  • Do your employees work long hours with no breaks?
  • Do they have realistic or unrealistic deadlines to meet?
  • Is their workload manageable or unmanageable?
  • What are the communication policies at your company? Are they working?
  • Do you have appropriate managerial support?

Check out this IRL example of how wellbeing can enable engagement

How can employers ensure employees feel looked after at work?

There are a number of ways to help ensure the wellbeing of your employees.

1. Lead by example.

Managers are important role models in helping to promote healthy behavior at work, so health and wellbeing should be visibly led from the top down.  Make sure senior management is seen working sensible hours, taking lunch breaks and using their annual leave entitlements.

2. Create flexible working arrangements.

When, where and how employees work can have a huge impact on their wellbeing. Some people like to be in an office and surrounded by people to avoid feeling isolated, while others are more productive and feel more comfortable when they work from home.

Likewise, employees have responsibilities outside of work and can feel anxious if they aren’t sure how to balance both. For example, if someone needs to look after their sick child or attend a hospital appointment, and they’re not sure if they have time to do it, they can feel torn between their work and personal commitments, which can lead to stress.

Having a flexible working policy that includes hybrid (or remote) working opportunities, time off when needed and guidance on core hours can help employees feel valued and supported.

3. Encourage healthy habits.

A healthy lifestyle is key to boosting wellbeing and employee morale. As an employer, you can promote healthy habits by encouraging employees to take regular breaks and get away from their desks at lunch time.

Regular exercise is known to release endorphins and boost happiness. So encourage an active lifestyle by promoting walking/cycling to work, offering discounts on gym memberships and incentivizing teams to get active.

You could also introduce walking meetings – where attendees get outside and take a stroll while having their meetings.

For companies with people working on site:

  • Promote healthy eating by introducing fruit bowls in breakout areas and offering healthy snacks, rather than vending machines full of chips and candy.
  • Make sure there are plenty of water coolers, so employees have easy access to water to keep them hydrated.
  • Ensure there’s lots of natural light in offices, to reduce eyestrain and headaches. And plants in the office are known to lower anxiety and stress, while also stimulating creativity.

4. Maintain open communication.

Having a variety of communication channels for employees to use is vital in ensuring staff feel supported and valued. You want to make sure you give your people the opportunity to speak up, which can boost employee wellbeing.

Regular meetings with their managers to talk about workload can reduce stress and help take the burden off employees.

Likewise, a buddy system and/or a team of mental health first aiders are great ways to offer support to employees who may want to discuss a matter in confidence.

Recognizing employees for good work (and providing constructive feedback when things need to improve) also goes a long way to boosting morale, so recognition schemes are a great way to help the wellbeing of employees.

But more important than anything else: communicate frequently, making sure information is constantly flowing top-down and bottom-up with a compassionate, yet direct, communication style encouraged.

5. Educate people about the importance of prioritizing their wellbeing.

In a world of diverse demands and limited time, Electives helps you achieve it all by crafting customized learning programs that align with your specific needs and wants. Electives makes top-tier learning on topics like wellbeing accessible with minimal effort — perfectly suited for lean teams and limited budgets.

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