The Importance of Health and Wellbeing at Work
When organisations put a focus on employee wellbeing, there is a positive effect both on the individuals who work there and the overall organisation. The benefits of promoting wellbeing have been proven again and again. From a reduction in stress levels to fostering a positive work environment, it creates a base from which everyone can thrive and benefit. Indeed, it can be an enabler of improved engagement and performance.
Studies have shown that it’s not just this positive effect that is important. There is actually a detrimental effect in not placing a focus on health and wellbeing. Absenteeism, staff turnover, low morale – these are all linked to a lack of focus in this area by the employer.
It’s no surprise then that many of the world’s leading organisations invest many resources into creating a workplace with wellness at its core. SMEs may not have the budgets of big corporates, but there is no reason why some of the best practices cannot be emulated, no matter what size your organisation. It’s not all about spending money, indeed at the core of a wellbeing programme is the culture and attitudes of the leadership team.
There’s work to be done
The CIPD run an annual survey about wellbeing, and their most recent one (conducted in conjunction with Simply Health) highlights some alarming findings:-
“Presenteeism” (coming into work when you are ill) has tripled in last eight years
“Leavism” (using time off to catch up on work) has occurred in 69% of organisations surveyed
Only 25% of organisations are actively discouraging these behaviours
According to the CIPD, organisations should focus on the quality of leadership, people management and culture to have the most effect in encouraging healthier workplaces.
Getting down to the nitty gritty
It’s all very well to talk about a ‘wellness’ programme or culture, but how does a company actually implement such a programme? It’s not always easy – the term ‘wellbeing’ encompasses so many areas, some tangible, some not so tangible. Physical and mental health, social interactions, feeling appreciated, being trusted, and organisational culture are all elements of it. It’s a heady mix of the physical, psychological and social elements of our working life.
Research by A Great Place to Work, a consultancy specialising in workplace culture, identifies four key drivers behind a feeling of wellbeing, all of which can be addressed by any organisation, and that support the CIPD findings:-
Values-aligned and ethical behaviour by leaders – This is about organisations having strong values. For example, the leadership should be seen to be honest and ethical, to be fair in the way they treat employees, to match actions to words and to deliver on promises. These cultural aspects always come from the top.
Teamwork – Employees need to be able to collaborate and co-operate. It’s great for generating new ideas, solving problems, improving teamwork and creating positive bonds between people.
Work environment and processes – This area is about having the right tools in place to do the job. Properly equipped, people are less frustrated and more productive. Without the right systems or equipment, they feel the business is not prepared to invest in helping them or don’t understand their challenges.
Recognition – Everyone wants to feel valued. It’s not just about being thanked, but feeling that the management are interested in their team as people.
If you are ready to take your employees’ wellbeing seriously, there are some key steps in developing a strategy for your organisation:
- Set your objectives
- Ask staff what their needs are
- Create an action plan to meet the needs
- Implement the plan
- Measure your results and review if necessary
It may take time and effort but the rewards, in healthier, increasingly productive and more motivated employees, are well worth it.