People spend a great proportion of their life working, and employers have the potential to make a significant impact on their employees’ well-being. But why is employee well-being important? And how can you improve employee well-being in the workplace?
When employees are in a state of well-being, they can develop their potential, increase productivity, form positive relationships with colleagues, and are more likely to be able to cope with stress.
As these challenging times are having a powerful effect on employee well-being, it is more important than ever for employers to recognize their role in improving the health and well-being of those working for them. The goal is to minimize stress, improve engagement and eliminate physical and mental ill-health where possible.
There are, of course, personal circumstances such as an employee’s home environment and family responsibilities, as well as the individual’s personal attributes and characteristics that are outside the employer’s control.
However, there are many factors that affect an employees’ well-being which can be influenced by an employer. For example:
- Support systems
- Workload flexibility
- Working hours
- Clarity of responsibilities
- Task variety
- Workplace environment
- Communication systems
- Colleague relationships
- HR Policies
All of these factors can affect an employee’s job fulfillment, how happy they feel at work, and how likely they are to excel in their position.
WHAT IS EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING?
Employee well-being is the way an employee’s role and duties, responsibilities, expectations, stress levels, and working environment affects their physical and mental health. Employee well-being primarily consists of four pillars:
Every employee’s well-being will be affected by all four of the pillars, but not in the same way.
Each employee has their own set of circumstances, and how they balance the four pillars will vary. To improve employee well-being in the workplace employers must support employees in finding a positive and healthy balance.
WHY IS EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING IMPORTANT?
Promoting and supporting employee well-being can deliver mutual benefit to both people and organizations. Potential benefits of employee well-being for organizations:
- Employee engagement
- Higher performance levels
- Greater productivity
- Reduced sickness/absence
- Healthier work culture
- Improved individual health and safety
- Enhanced company reputation
- Financial savings
- Increased resilience
In the case of employees, we only have to look at the stress levels of U.S. workers to understand how important addressing well-being in the workplace is, especially since the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent data from Ginger reveals that before the onset of COVID-19, almost 60%of workers shared that stress had brought them to tears at work, a 23% increase from 2019. Surveyed following the onset of COVID-19, workers’ stress levels are significantly higher:
- 88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the past 4-6 weeks.
- 69% of workers claimed this was the most stressful time of their entire professional career, including major events like the September 11 terror attacks, the 2008 Great Recession, and others. Every demographic, including adults over the age of 55, rated COVID-19 as the most stressful time.
- 91% of employees working from home reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress.
- 43% of employees have become physically ill as a result of work-related stress.
Employees believe their company could do more to support their mental health and see a direct connection to business outcomes. While 53% of workers said their company has increased its focus on employee mental health as a result of COVID-19, the research shows that there is room for improvement:
- 63% of workers reported that their company could do more to support their emotional and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within this group, 22% of workers said their company’s response was “barely adequate,” “a disaster” or “non-existent”.
- Only 35% of people strongly agreed that their employer is taking more of an interest in the emotional and mental health of employees now than in the past.
- 93% of employees agreed that companies that survive COVID-19 will be those that support employee mental health.
It is important for employers to develop a broader understanding and application of holistic and wellbeing approaches in the workplace to minimize employee stress and improve their physical and mental health where possible.
TIPS TO IMPROVE EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING:
80% of US employees spend 12-20 hours per month dealing with financial concerns at work.
According to the national survey of working Americans, nearly six in 10 (59%) admitted that they regularly deal with personal financial matters during the workday, and 36% reported missing at least a partial day of work because of a personal financial situation — or the stress that comes with it. There is a wide scope of financial education and support available which can be tailored to suit the business resources and concerns of an employer.
Education: Employees should be encouraged to educate themselves with the wide range of resources available online.
Online courses are accessible, many for free, on platforms like Coursera. Financial education courses are broken down into manageable steps. These courses include book-keeping, managing money, and budgeting and can fit in around a busy work or home life to suit the individual employee.
Financial well-being platforms such as Nudge are designed to help people maximize financial opportunities, overcome financial problems and make managing money stress-free.
The website Money & Mental Health Advice offers numerous articles, blogs, tips, and tools, looking at financial education through the lens of mental well-being. Encouraging employees to develop a healthy relationship with money.
Benefits: Many organizations offer generous pension contributions, but many employees are unaware of the benefits. Educate employees on pension and retirement costs by making the most of financial education and support services.
Employees may also be unaware of the benefits that come with life insurance policies or the other forms of protection a company provides. If they are educated on the positives, this reassurance can be helpful for both financial and mental well-being. For example, with income protection, an employee can guarantee peace of mind to focus on their recovery, should anything happen to them.
Support Services: Educate and support employees with group workshops. Providing a range of internally or externally led workshops on different aspects of financial well-being, allows employees to choose their own preferred way of learning.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a scheme that an employer can implement to help employees relieve their problems, personal or work-related. Different EAPs can offer different services, including trained financial advisors, bespoke finance courses and workshops as well as free access to assessments and counseling.
Nearly half of American workers have been suffering from mental health issues since the Covid-19 pandemic began, at a serious cost to their well-being.
There has been a significant jump in full-time U.S. workers dealing with mental health issues in the last 12 months. About 46% of the more than 1,400 workers surveyed reported that they were struggling with mental health issues, compared to 39% a year earlier. And more than half of workers — 55% — said a mental health issue has affected them more since the pandemic began.
It's crucial to acknowledge that mental health is not synonymous with mental illness – mental health includes general mental wellness, such as stress or emotional struggles. Mental illness refers specifically to conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc.
Both mental health and mental illness need to be taken into consideration when looking at creating a well-rounded well-being scheme.
Mental health first aid is invaluable for any employee and helps them develop valuable transferable skills. Mental Health First Aid provides licensed mental health first aid training programs that equip individuals with the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to support a co-worker experiencing a mental health problem.
Online therapy services provide a convenient outlet where appointments can be scheduled around existing commitments. This can be a cheaper and more accessible option than traditional therapy.
Wellbeing Days are a relatively new idea, and they encourage employees to take time off to focus on their mental well-being. In introducing this practice, employers encourage an open attitude of de-stigmatization, while at the same time, decreasing absences due to sickness.
Flexible working is widely regarded as an aid to productivity, motivation, and creating a healthy work/life balance. Not every job can allow for flexible working hours, but small adjustments can always be made in the workplace environment, for example, encouraging breaks, improving offices and introducing outdoor spaces.
Meditation and mindfulness workshops teach employees techniques they can use to combat stress. Classes are a good option for improving well-being in the workplace, but there are also many apps available for individual employee use.
It can be easy to overlook fitness and physical health when thinking about well-being in the workplace, but our bodies and minds are linked, meaning physical and mental well-being also go hand in hand. Healthy body, healthy mind, after all.
All employees, no matter their level of fitness or their lifestyle, can benefit from various facets of physical well-being.
Gym membership – Regular exercise has many health benefits for employees. It can improve sleep and lower stress, help people maintain a healthy weight, and help them lower their risk of heart disease. Twitter and Facebook offer their employees onsite gyms and wellness zones to encourage proper breaks from the office. Offering a gym membership as a perk can convince people to exercise when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Yoga – Discounted meditation classes and onsite yoga workshops have become more and more commonplace at the offices of business giants such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, Nike, and Twitter. Giving employees discounted access or invites to yoga taster sessions can improve focus, mood, and overall health.
When it comes to improving employee well-being in the workplace many organizations have implemented new physical health initiatives and communication programs to protect their employees’ health. These have been made all the more important as many people have been struggling to maintain their healthy life habits when they were affected by lockdown and the shift towards remote working happened.
Social well-being in the workplace refers partly to how a group or team’s collective wellbeing has an impact on the individual employee's well-being, and vice versa. It also refers to the general feeling of safety and authentic inclusivity that employees have in the workplace.
Cultivating a work culture and space where employees feel safe bringing their real selves to work will ultimately lead to happier, healthier, more productive teams.
Employees want to feel appreciated. The most effective way of making an employee feel valued and like they truly belong in their working community is by showing recognition. Recognition plays a huge part in keeping employees connected, especially for remote workers.
Making an organization truly diverse takes time and sometimes total cultural and infrastructural change. A recent McKinsey report revealed that companies that focus the most on racial and ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to have financial returns that are above average for their industry. It’s strong evidence that building a diverse workforce can directly boost business success.
Developing social well-being is a long process, requiring a lot of education and internal analysis, but it can be one of the most important ways to improve employee well-being in the workplace.
It might not always be possible to create an extensive well-being strategy, but small changes can have a huge impact and make a significant difference to the overall business.
Employees are the biggest and most valuable resource a business has. Mental and physical health should be a top priority for all employers looking to improve employee well-being in the workplace.
When employees are taken care of, they will feel engaged and inspired to perform at their best. And that, in turn, gives the company a healthier bottom line.