Why wellbeing at work matters

June 12, 2018
wellbeing at work

Have you ever felt issues in your personal life were stopping you from concentrating properly at work? Or you’re thinking about work at home, suffering with sleepless nights and finding it hard to switch off?

Yep. Me too on both counts. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Employee experience

Work used to be much more of a transactional relationship: you turn up, do your job and get paid for it. These days, employers expect more from us. Changes in the way we work mean there is a less of a demarcation between work and home lives. Technology enables us to pick up emails on the go and without even realising it, we’re working longer hours and not giving ourselves time to rest. So, it stands to reason that in return, we would like an environment where we can thrive.

Good employers are picking up that stressed employees don’t make the best employees. They are less likely to be productive and bring their whole selves to work. Whereas those who feel valued and cared for are far more likely to put in discretionary effort and be a positive energy in the workplace.

A focus on wellbeing at work creates a good employee experience, which in turn creates a better employer brand. It helps attract better candidates who want to stay; rather than endless churn that tends to happen in poorly managed organisations.

Why wellbeing at work needs to be more than just a programme

One of the ways, employers are trying to create a more positive working environment is through implementing wellbeing programmes in the workplace. However, to be truly beneficial, they need to focus on life outside of work as well as inside. We all have hard times, which may not be to do with work itself, but still impact on our performance. A good wellbeing programme understands that personal and professional lives overlap.

Wellbeing programmes can consist of mindfulness, financial management classes, yoga, nutrition workshops, talks from interesting speakers, the list is endless. I think most people, me included, appreciate when people they’re being invested in. However, before committing to big spends, there are some basic essentials to consider. 

Regular management training at all levels

The more experience you have at management, then the better you tend to be is probably true if you’re a reasonably self-aware, self-reflective person who has a desire to do things better. These are characteristics I’ve seen from people working at all levels of organisations and I’ve really admired them for it. However, it’s not universal.

One element of business culture that I’ve never quite understood is that technology, systems and processes upgrade all the time – and organisations put in training and support to move people through the changes. Yet management and what people need from managers also evolves – but somehow people are expected to just keep up especially when they’ve been managing for a while. If you want to improve wellbeing, then put regular management training in place for everyone who manages people.

Flexible working

Research shows flexible working improves employee motivation and their productivity. So why don’t more organisations offer it when it seems such a no brainer for improving wellbeing at work? I tend to think people view flexible working as complicated and contractual – however, the reality can be as simple as enabling working from home (if the job allows) and a bit of leeway on start and finish times. If you really want to commit to flexible working, then put it in job adverts, write it into policies and make it mandatory for managers to say why the job can’t be done flexible, rather than the other way round. 

Practice what you preach

Honestly, it doesn’t matter how good your wellbeing programme is if you don’t put the basics in place. No amount of stress management can minimise the impact of a difficult work environment. If you believe in the wellbeing of your employees, then practice it more than you preach.

Things to consider before setting up a wellbeing programme

  1. Look at a budget for a wellbeing programme and set clear accountabilities for the administration of it.
  2. Ensure you have senior stakeholder sponsorship.
  3. Set specific goals. Do you want to improve engagement, reduce absence, take care of employees?
  4. Include employees in your plans to take into their thoughts and ideas.
  5. Consider how you will evaluate. Use insight to change and evolve as you embed activity.
  6. Remember that wellbeing at work is just one part of employee experience. However, through taking action, you’re creating a culture where people can thrive.

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