Posted by Justine Clarabut on 5 July, 2019
The what, why & how of health and wellbeing in the workplace
Workplace wellbeing should be front and centre of every employer’s mind. We hope to shine a light on what health and wellbeing in the workplace actually means in practice, why it’s so important, and how employers can make it a priority.
Issues pertaining to employee wellbeing are nothing new.
For centuries, the rights and concerns of the workforce have been a point of debate and controversy. Thankfully, from wage increases to abolishing child labour, to improving workplace safety and restricting hours in the working day, much progress has been made! However, problems undoubtedly remain.
For instance, in the UK:
- Half a million people suffer from work-related stress to the point of burnout, and
- 1 in 7 people suffer with mental ill-health in the workplace.
Clearly, the conversation about workplace health is still relevant. More needs to be done. As a provider of numerous wellbeing solutions to employers around the country, we wanted to offer our two cents on the topic!
Keep reading to understand how organisations can cultivate positive health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Let’s start with a general look into wellbeing itself. After all, knowing what keeps us healthy and happy in day to day life is a crucial way of understanding how to do the same in the workplace.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing NHS study provides a great basic framework for positive wellbeing practices. The findings suggest that wellbeing can be narrowed down to 5 key factors:
Connecting with other people is a fundamental human need. Remember, we’re social animals! Too much time alone isn’t good for anyone. Feelings of isolation and alienation are debilitating to the extreme.
People achieve a sense of belonging and self-worth through social activity. Consequently, to connect and feel close to others is of utmost importance. Doing so promotes feelings of inclusion and acceptance of who we are.
Social interaction, engagement and communication are immensely positive experiences that form the bedrock for wellbeing.
2. Be active
It’s hard to overstate the value of regular physical activity too. However it’s looked at, exercising ticks all the right wellbeing boxes.
Mental health receives a boost in all manner of ways. In part, that’s thanks to a flood of positive-mood-inducing neurotransmitters into the brain. Equally, a sense of pride and achievement comes with getting out there and working hard.
Of course, this supports actual physical health too. People lose weight and feel stronger and fitter as they go. The release of endorphins enhances the enjoyment of the process. Even the lightest physical activity can make all the difference.
3. Take notice
How often are we truly present in the here and now?
All too often people get swept away in a deluge of thoughts, feelings, and concerns. We ruminate over the past and worry about the future. Rarely, if ever, are we genuinely ‘in the moment’ enough to enjoy it. Wellbeing suffers as a direct consequence.
Time and time again, studies show the many benefits of staying present. Stopping, taking stock, and being mindful, even for the briefest time-period, can have disproportionately positive effects.
Ongoing learning is another known component of cultivating positive wellbeing. Learning something is akin to progress. People work to actively better themselves and get a comforting boost to their self-esteem as a result.
It isn’t just the learning itself though. The process is just as important. Inherent in learning is the act of taking control, which is a big deal when life sometimes feels overtly chaotic. Not just that, but learning is often combined with socialising (going to the library, attending a book club, asking a colleague for input, and so on).
This fifth component of wellbeing is often overlooked!
When times are tough, it’s all too easy to become inward facing. We’re all guilty of it on occasion! It makes sense: our wellbeing is suffering, so we put ourselves first. It’s protective.
However, the irony is that turning outwards and helping others can be just the transformative experience we require to feel better. Simply, helping others feels great. Giving time, effort and resources to others is a fantastic antidote to personal wellbeing problems.
The ‘what’: A workplace wellbeing definition
Hopefully, that 5-pronged approach to wellbeing is a useful way to think about it in practical terms. But what about the workplace? What do those 5 components of wellbeing look like in a working environment? Well, let’s start with a definition of workplace wellbeing.
Simply, this is a general term that encompasses all aspects of staying well at work. It pertains to:
- The physical environment and how safe it is to work in.
- The valence of employee opinion in relation to their work.
- The effectiveness of leadership and management.
- The health interventions that are in place for employees.
- The mental health of the workforce.
- The policies, systems and procedures in place to support them.
- The culture of the organization.
…and so on. Overall, workplace wellbeing is about ensuring the physical, mental, emotional, cultural, and systemic health of the working environment and everyone in it.
The ‘why’: benefits of promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace
And on to the ‘why’… Quite simply, why should anyone care about promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace? Well, first and foremost it’s a legal, (and moral), responsibility of all employers. However, there are all manner of well-reported incentives that ‘sweeten the deal’ too.
Here are 3 key benefits:
1. Develop Positive Company Culture and Brand
Brand identity plays an important role in business success. After all, your brand represents your reputation in the industry. It’s a uniform, a badge, and an infrastructure that dictates much of the business itself. An emphasis on workplace wellbeing contributes to a positive brand reputation. This has many helpful ramifications. For instance, the best talent is attracted to any organisation with a great reputation.
Thus, fostering a positive company culture not only creates a more enjoyable working environment, but perpetuates the growth and reputation of the business.
2. Improved Productivity and Sales
It’s now well-documented that productivity spikes when employees are happy and healthy. Like a horse at the races, it isn’t the crack of the whip that drives the pace, but the love, care and preparation that went into it. Likewise, cultivating workplace wellbeing helps any organisation get ahead.
Furthermore, as productivity increases, so do sales. For many employers, this will be reason enough to invest in the welfare of their employees! People naturally sell more when they feel motivated, positive, enthusiastic, and full of energy. Equally, if someone enjoys working for an organisation, they’re more likely to work harder to see it succeed.
3. Avoid common workplace problems
All employers contend with periodic workplace problems. However, a positive company culture, brought about through a progressive emphasis on workplace wellbeing, helps mitigate the worst of them.
For example, prevention is better than the cure. Working hard to sustain staff wellbeing is known to minimise absenteeism throughout the year. Sick days, for instance, are dramatically reduced. Significant sums of money are saved as a result.
Similarly, staff turnover is reduced and it’s far easier to recruit when necessary.. As we’ve already established, staff engagement, motivation and satisfaction are all augmented in the process.
Put simply, investing in employee wellbeing generates great financial returns all round. Yet, the true benefit goes beyond ROI. It’s the culture, ethos and general virtue of providing a positive place to work that truly counts.
The ‘how’: workplace wellbeing initiatives at Wellbeing People
Finally, we want to offer a few ideas on how to promote wellbeing in the workplace.
Creating a positive culture is about taking active steps at all levels of the business (take a look at this article from NHS Employers for a comprehensive look at how to do it). Nonetheless, of all the steps to take, workplace wellbeing initiatives, or interventions, can be of particular effect.
Wellbeing People specialise in providing a number of wellbeing initiatives to organisations around the country. Here are a selection:
Our Interactive Health Kiosks give employees the ability to perform a personal ‘Health MOT’ at a time and location that suits them. It’s a way of taking stock and receiving data-driven insight into their current wellbeing state of affairs. In just 5 minutes, employees can gain vital information about their health enabling them to do something about it.
Carrying out health screening in the workplace helps to identify potential health risks. Health screening includes blood glucose, cholesterol and lung health. An organisation that cares and demonstrates dedication to keeping their workforce healthy and happy is more likely to retain employees.
Our Wellbeing Workshops inspire employees to take control of their wellbeing. After all, employers can do as much as possible to promote wellbeing in the workplace, but it is the employees that need to buy into the idea for workplace wellbeing to really make a difference. These workshops cover a variety of topics to encourage, educate and inspire attendees to take action.
EAPs provide a vital lifeline in support of employee mental health. They’re low-cost, confidential, phone-based counselling services available 24/7/365. Staff members can call up for professional help managing the mental and emotional challenges of work and daily life.
Offering wellbeing opportunities like the ones we’ve just discussed are a sure-fire way to cultivate workplace wellbeing in your own organisation.
There you have it: the what, why and how of workplace wellbeing!
Health and wellbeing in the workplace has been an ongoing matter through history but rarely has the wellbeing conversation raged as keenly as it does today. It’s now vital that employers take active steps to promote the health and wellness of their employees.
Hopefully, the information here has highlighted how organisations can go about improving wellbeing in the workplace and why everyone stands to gain when taking appropriate measures.
Are you interested in improving the wellbeing of your workforce?