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Wellness and employee wellbeing at work

Ceylin Güven
January 24, 2023

Employee wellbeing should be the #1 priority of every organization. This is sure to have positive outcomes for everyone’s personal lives, while also improving productivity and engagement in your company overall. If you’re wondering how to improve staff wellbeing at work, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll be detailing what employee wellbeing truly entails, give tips on how you can promote it, as well as provide examples of successful employee wellness programs from other companies. Let’s get straight to it!

What is employee wellbeing?

As the name suggests, this phrase entails the overall wellbeing of employees. It’s a complex concept; as both personal and workplace-related circumstances can have significant effects on it.When we think of ‘wellbeing’, physicality might be the first aspect that comes to mind. However, wellbeing for employees encompasses many different dimensions–anything from physical, to emotional, to even financial. Here are examples of some of these wellness dimensions.

Elements of employee wellbeing

  • Physical wellbeing: Things like exercising regularly, having a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and receiving proper care for your chronic health issues can all positively affect one’s physical wellbeing.
  • Emotional wellbeing: It’s important to properly address, create a safe space about, and help fight employee mental health problems–especially ones that can be related to work stress.
  • Occupational wellbeing: Career wellbeing consists of someone being content with their profession overall. This depends on good workplace conditions, job satisfaction, their ability to progress in their desired career path, etc.
  • Social wellbeing: Humans are social creatures, and feelings of isolation can definitely worsen someone’s wellness. Since it’s important to form meaningful connections and friendships, encouraging social activities at work can be additionally helpful.
  • Community wellbeing: Another similar aspect to social wellbeing is the feeling of connectedness within one’s community. This can be fostered by supporting local communities within the workplace with measures such as volunteering.
  • Financial wellbeing: It’s unfortunately very common to stress about your livelihood. To oppose this, caring for your employee financial wellbeing consists of providing wages that can comfortably cover living expenses, medical bills, etc. while additionally leaving spending room for one’s personal enjoyment.

Why is wellbeing at work important?

Prioritizing emotional wellbeing in the workplace can have many benefits; both for each individual worker, and the success of the organization overall. One of the most important pros of promoting better employee wellbeing is that it improves overall productivity. According to the Gallup Business Journal, employees who are physically and mentally healthy are 13% more likely to do great work. The same research also suggests that healthy employees are 32% more likely to stay at their job. This proves how wellbeing improvement efforts will also improve employee retention.

How to promote wellbeing at work

The Great Resignation showed us that people aren’t afraid to leave their jobs to find better conditions, and this includes wellbeing benefits. To maximize your employee retention, you should know how to promote wellbeing at work in the most effective way possible.

Who is responsible for sustaining the wellbeing of workers?

The department of human resources (HR) usually takes the brunt of it, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones that should be responsible. As a matter of fact, everyone is (and should be) responsible to some level: HR and people professionals are responsible for maintaining the company culture, people in managerial positions are responsible for the wellbeing of everyone on their team, and each employee is responsible for themselves.

Obstacles to sustaining wellbeing

Before you create an effective employee well-being program, you should first try to eliminate obstacles that stand in the way of sustaining wellbeing in the workplace. Some of the major obstacles you might face can be:

  • Lack of meaningful managerial engagement
  • Ineffective communication channels and methods
  • Unsatisfactory work conditions (excessive workload, insufficient wages, etc.)
  • Repeated accounts of discriminatory actions, such as microaggressions
  • Not providing the necessary tools and technologies for a productive workflow
  • Weak company culture & team spirit  

These are all things that will obstruct your ability to prioritize workplace wellness. You’ll be able to fix these issues easier once you better understand the different elements that contribute to wellbeing.

The 7 pillars of employee wellbeing

The UK-based CIPD has conducted very extensive research on workplace wellness, and they came up with seven core “pillars” of employee wellbeing. These seven components are now commonly used as the basis of any effective wellness program.

Health

It is an accepted fact at this point that bad physical health increases risk of mental health issues, and vice versa. Due to this interconnection, sustaining both physical and emotional wellness in your employees are equally important. Encouraging your workers to stay physically active can work in many ways: Providing workers with gym memberships and access to fitness apps, organizing sportive team outings like hikes, introducing paid time for activity breaks, or even investing in standing desks in your physical workspace can be effective. Just be mindful of what physicality can mean for different people, like those with disabilities. They will most likely have different needs for exercise (like flexibility training, physical therapy, etc.), and those should be accommodated as well.  On the other hand, employee mental health is another vital aspect. Issues of mental health in the workplace most commonly occur due to two reasons: Work-related stress and burnout. These are both important issues that can have serious consequences, and companies should have strong policies to prevent them. This is why promoting mental health at work is critical to support employee wellbeing.

Good work

What makes work “good” is a combination of many things, some of the key ones being:

  • Effective management and communication
  • Supportive work environment
  • High job quality & meaningfulness of one’s work
  • Clear job description and objectives
  • Ability to be autonomous and innovative  

When one (or some) of these aspects are missing, employees can quickly lose their motivation and productivity. Companies must aim to improve your workplace conditions to align with these aspects, and provide good work opportunities for everyone involved.

Company culture

Your workplace culture is more important for employee wellbeing than you might realize. These are (usually unwritten) rules about what working at this company means for everyone: Core values, company vision, aims, etc. This means that it is usually interlinked with management, so bad managerial practices can have a heavy influence on it. Managers should focus on creating a culture of equality, support, and allyship. People with different identities should feel like they’re being treated with the same compassion, and everyone should feel listened to. Fostering open communication, accommodating everyone, and having strong anti-discrimination policies are important in this case.

Social/community  

This pillar is about creating interpersonal communication, and building strong relationships in the workplace. You don’t need to have all your coworkers be close friends to achieve this–you just need to foster a supportive social environment in your company.Team building is extremely important to combat isolation. Providing socialization options, like organizing ‘icebreaker’ activities and mixers, is a great way to give your workers the opportunity to get to know each other beyond the limitations of work. As a result, they can also rely on and actively support each other during hard times. Another key part of creating a supportive community is to make sure everyone gets to speak up. If employees don’t feel like their voices are being heard, and that they’re left out of important decisions, for example, their involvement with the company will gradually decrease. When you show everyone individually that they’re valued, you’ll foster a much more supportive workplace environment.

Personal growth

Having the time and money to dedicate to your personal growth is essential for employee wellbeing. It increases self worth, helps improve their skill set, and reduces stress–which does wonders for their mental health in the long run. Fostering personal growth is key to creating a work environment where the workload doesn’t feel suffocating. You can easily promote this by incorporating the concept into your benefits programs, e.g., by providing memberships to courses and certification programs. You can also conduct company-wide surveys and invite experts for training sessions if there is a common interest for a particular subject.  

Financial support

Another pillar is financial wellbeing, which can also be at the core of many people’s mental health-related issues as well. The global state of the economy, as well as the recent trend of layoffs, has left many people worrying about their futures at work. Factors that support financial wellbeing can include things like:

  • Having stability and job security
  • Sufficient wages
  • A comprehensive retirement plan
  • Equal pay opportunities for people with different identities
  • A benefits program for insurance, PTO, etc.
  • Additional support for student loans
  • Financial literacy and investment support

Lifestyle

A person’s lifestyle directly affects their health, which is why this point also ties into the first one. To help both of these aspects, you should be supporting the good lifestyle choices of your employees, such as getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. This can be easily fostered in a physical workplace by providing different dietary alternatives for in-office food. Another option for remote working is to encourage these health and wellness measures by signing your employees up for gym memberships, meal plan subscriptions, etc.

Tips for building an effective wellbeing program

Considering all of the pillars above, here are some tips on how to set up a wellness program at work:

  • Build trust and encourage open communication in your work environment
  • Seek out feedback from employees, and implement their suggestions & requests  
  • Prioritize inclusion and diversity in the workplace
  • Enforce strict anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies
  • Don’t skip over providing positive feedback and letting your employees know their work is appreciated
  • Promote an environment of self improvement by supporting learning and skill-building ventures
  • Integrate benefits to improve physical and mental health through gym memberships, meditation sessions, etc.
  • Make sure your company culture is clear and inclusive
  • Consistently evaluating your wellbeing programs, and adjusting them accordingly

Best practices of wellbeing support from companies around the world

A joint research by Great Place to Work and Johns Hopkins University shows that only 16% of workers in the US report a high state of wellness in the workplace. In comparison, employees of “The Best 100 Companies to Work For” report a staggering 58%. So, what is it exactly that these companies are doing right with their employee wellness programs, and how can you apply it to your own? One such trailblazer in the working world is Salesforce, a cloud-based software company. A central aspect of how they encourage employee wellbeing is having “a central space for wellness resources”–what they named “Camp Pono”. This is a dedicated virtual space where employees can access things such as cooking demos, meal recipes, and yoga sessions. The fact that this solution is virtual both increases engagement and accessibility, as well as encourages employees to seek out wellbeing solutions whenever and wherever.  Another example is the tech company Cisco. In 2018, they started a policy to end the stigma around mental health issues by encouraging open communication, offering confidential counseling 24/7, and improving access to medical plans that also have family coverage.

Nurturing employee wellbeing is essential

Improving wellbeing at work can be a challenge at first. But with a comprehensive employee wellbeing program, you can ensure a better work experience for everyone. Implementing the right strategies can be the solution you need to improve your company. Keep following Ruul Blog for more insights about modern workplace culture and trends.

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