Firstly, let’s ask why employers should even bother investing resources in improving workplace wellbeing, particularly at a time when so many face challenging financial pressures. Here are a few facts you might find interesting.
If you care about staff wellbeing
53% of all work days lost to ill health were due to stress and anxiety (2018/2019)
79% of British adults in employment commonly experience work-related stress (2020)
91% of organisations with more than 250 employees report stress related absence (2021)
If you care about business wellbeing
There is a direct, positive correlation between employee wellbeing and company performance, using the key measures (2019/2021)
Customer acquisition, retention, satisfaction and loyalty
All of which means that staff wellbeing is no longer just an HR issue, it’s a boardroom issue, because it affects the overall health of the business. These are not theories, these are facts verified in countless research studies, just two of which are:
A 2019 London School of Economics analysis of 339 independent research studies, including the wellbeing of just under 1.9 million employees and the performance of a little over 82,000 business units across 49 industries
A 2021 AON professional services/IPSOS survey of 1,648 companies in 41 countries
Secondly, let’s explore the main sources of potential work related stress that can result in a reduction in performance and an increase in absence:
Safety in general, now Covid in particular
Workload, long hours
Lack of training and support
Lack of communication
All of these factors were in place before Covid struck and one would (perhaps naively?) expect most organisations to have all of these on their radar. As I write this, we are past the worst of Covid (as far as we know), mostly out of lockdown type restrictions, but in the behaviours and concerns of most people, we are very much in the middle of Covid, living and working quite differently than at any time in our lives.
So at this strangest of strange times, when things are still uncertain, when companies are experimenting with part time office/home working, weekly rotas and all sorts of hybrid models, what, apart from the list above can be done to support the wellbeing of staff, which will in turn support the wellbeing of the organisation?
Number one is this clear research study finding: company performance will improve when a robust staff wellbeing strategy is in place, NOT a few sporadic activities or a tick box exercise. Plus, when there is visible commitment from the senior leadership team.
When it comes to the subject of human resources, staff wellbeing is about viewing people not simply as resources, but also as humans. And at this unique phase in our history, many humans are concerned about returning to the office and using public transport. Many of us are still not doing all the things we used to do to help keep our bodies and minds healthy: holidays, sports and leisure pursuits that involve groups of other humans. Add to that the uncertainty about what happens next, will the winter bring the health carnage already being predicted in the media, will we have problems with energy, petrol, Christmas trees, turkeys? Will the media succeed in whipping up the fear that can be so damaging to our mental wellbeing?
Once the basics are in place, where people feel safe, secure and valued – a big challenge – it’s time to look at the main ingredients that combine to make a healthy physical and mental/emotional balance and to see what employers can put in place to support people in each of these areas. This is not an exhaustive list, but a programme of on-site and on-line activities can be structured to incorporate some or all of the following:
Nutrition – talks and written information explaining the benefits with hints and tips; if food is served on site, provide all the facts and options for people to make informed, healthy choices
Stress – workshops, written information, one to one counselling, sports, meditation, yoga in offices and classes/memberships
Sleep – talks providing facts and practical solutions, meditation at work, mindfulness and breathwork classes
Physical health – all of the above
Mental/emotional health – see stress above
Financial health – talks, written information, one to one advice sessions.
A well curated programme will provide something for everyone and some practical, valuable tools they can use to help cope with the stresses of life at work and beyond.
Many people will ask: “is all this the employer’s responsibility?” To which there will never be consensus nor a simple answer. Full-time staff spend more of their waking hours at work than at home/leisure. Some companies will see staff wellbeing as an act of altruism, others as their duty, others as a return on investment, to ensure that the person paid to do a job, can actually do the job well.
Whatever your viewpoint, there are strong reasons, both human and commercial, to develop and implement a sustained staff wellbeing strategy, supported by visible commitment from the senior leadership team.
If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, to find out about workplace yoga and meditation benefits and wellbeing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org 0787 966 6921.
"Employee wellbeing, productivity and firm performance," CEP Discussion Papers dp1605, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE March 2019