Happy people at work

The growing importance of health and wellbeing at work

What is wellbeing in the workplace?

We spend a lot of our time in the workplace – up to 40+ hours a week. If you aren’t taking a proactive approach towards workplace health and wellbeing, then your people are more likely to be unhealthy, unhappy, and unmotivated and you need to address this.

By failing to establish a culture that encourages and promotes positive wellbeing you are failing your workforce. Not looking after the wellbeing of your employees can contribute to higher staff turnover, and also makes your organisation less attractive to the next generation, who often value happiness over salary and benefits.

Building your wellbeing strategy should be just as important as building your brand and developing your products and services. The CIPD recently identified that 29% of employers are set to increase their spend on health and wellbeing over the next 2 years, with 66% continuing to spend the same amount.

Improving your business and achieving organisational goals is important, but you need to think about your people – what are you doing to improve them, to enable you to reach these goals and go above? This is where an effective wellbeing strategy can truly make a difference.

What are the benefits of a wellbeing strategy?

There’s lots of different ways that an effective strategy can offer great benefits to your employees. These include:

  • Improved focus at work
  • Reduce stress
  • Increased job satisfaction and positive outlook
  • Physically healthier and improved general wellbeing
  • Better relationships with colleagues and managers

Benefits to your organisation include:

By improving the health and wellbeing of your people, you’re not only improving their quality of life but you’re helping to create a more motivated, engaged and high performing workforce – resulting in greater organisational success.

How can I improve wellbeing in the workplace?

A genuine wellbeing strategy will only work when the precedent is set from the top down – it has to be part of your culture. You can start with simple actions, such as making sure employees stick to healthy working hours and encouraging staff to eat their lunch away from their desk. You can then start to look at other different aspects of your organisation where you can continue to make a difference:

Raise the profile of mental health

Mental health issues are a major cause of long-term absence in the workplace, with 1 in 4 people in the UK likely to experience a mental health issue each year. However, there is still misunderstanding and stigma around mental health. Knowing how to manage mental health is important, and training line managers is crucial as they are often best placed to spot the signs in someone who might be struggling. You could also consider introducing mental health or wellbeing days for your employees.

Encourage staff to be more active

In the UK, we sit for an average of 8.9 hours each day. Office workers are spending the majority of these hours sat at a desk, and research indicates that this poses a real health risk, irrespective of how active people are outside of work.

However, there are things you can do to keep active at work and combat sedentary behaviour. By making sure that your employees are aware of the dangers of sitting long periods of time, and educating them on how they can keep moving throughout the day, you are helping to prevent illness and maintain a happy and healthy workforce.

Offer flexible working

Family life can often impact on productivity so it’s important to listen to your employees and take into account the ever changing demands of modern life when it comes to your flexible working policy. It’s key that your staff maintain a positive work-life balance in order for them to stay productive, motivated and engaged, and ultimately less susceptible to leavism.

Communicate your employee benefits effectively

Good communication is key to success. If your staff are unaware of what's available to them, then they're not going to use it and you won't see the return on investment. Utilise your intranet, send regular email communications and make the most of physical materials by displaying them around the office so that staff are aware of what’s available to them.

Consider how your office design affects wellbeing

By making simple changes to the work environment you can uplift your employees’ mood creating a more positive and happier atmosphere, which leads to better working relationships and higher levels of wellbeing. Research by the University of Exeter showed that by bringing plants into the office can increase employee wellbeing by up to 47%. You could also introduce artwork, or add a splash of colour to a dull corner of the office – it really does make a difference.

Office design doesn’t always need to be about function either, you may want to turn disused space into a games area with games such as table tennis or pool. This allows employees to rejuvenate and re-calibrate their thoughts, making sure they stay motivated. You could also use extra space or larger meeting rooms to introduce stress-busting lunchtime classes such as yoga.

Place more focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle

Providing free fruit and other healthy eating options for your staff is a great start, but you shouldn’t stop there. You need to educate your staff, enabling them to make healthier and sustainable lifestyle choices both inside and outside of the workplace. If you offer your staff discount gym memberships, let them know, and give them access to educational materials on healthy living.

You may also want to promote healthy behaviours at the office, such as simple mindfulness exercises to help combat stress and retain focus, or offer educational workshops on topics such as resilience, stress management or nutrition and exercise.

Incorporate intrinsic motivation into your strategy

Intrinsic motivation is when you carry out a task purely for the enjoyment of it. What you gain from the activity or task comes from within, as opposed to being motivated by external rewards such as money, prizes or accreditation. You can use an employee’s intrinsic motivations to create a productive and engaged workforce, and help individual employees to reach their personal and career development goals.

It’s important to recognise this within your strategy, as it’s clear that external rewards aren’t the only way to reward employees. Often, it can be the intrinsic motivations that engage your workforce the most.

There’s so much you can to do improve your approach wellbeing in the workplace, and the truth is that there’s no one size fits all solution.

Every organisation is different, but the above steps are a great place to start considering how you might start to improve the health and wellbeing of your people. The key to success is finding what works and what doesn’t for your organisation, and coming up with a tailored strategy.

We understand it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a free Health and Wellbeing Toolkit, which contains all the information you need to start creating your company's strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.

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Louise Lloyd 27 Feb 2019

Great article!