What Is Workplace Wellbeing?

Workplace wellbeing encompasses activities, programs, policies and strategies that aim to promote both positive physical and psychological health at work. However, many also overlap with personal wellbeing outside of work because, let’s face it, employees can’t maintain good wellbeing at home…

Donna Wrigglesworth, author of blog about workplace wellbeing

Blog5th Mar 2024

By Donna Wrigglesworth

Workplace wellbeing encompasses activities, programs, policies and strategies that aim to promote both positive physical and psychological health at work. However, many also overlap with personal wellbeing outside of work because, let’s face it, employees can’t maintain good wellbeing at home but not at work and vice versa.

Workplace wellbeing has become increasingly important within many organisations in recent years with the rise of hybrid working and the knowledge of research that shows 34% of people say work is the biggest cause of stress in their lives.

Job and financial Security

The last few years have seen many businesses, either collapse or make mass redundancies, often without notice. This news can establish uncertainty in people that may have been a loyal employee for many years, let alone relatively new employees or people working in start-up businesses.

Since the pandemic, both job and financial security have become big worries for millions of people. Whilst no company can be completely sure that they won’t ever have to make redundancies, they can put backup plans and strategies in place to support employees through these difficult times. This can be as simple as ensuring that a reasonable notice period is given to employees to find new jobs and fair redundancy settlements are provided.

As many organisations are currently feeling the pinch on their finances, it can make it harder to fairly compensate employees and stay afloat. Some tips employers can follow to make sure employees are fairly compensated can include: benchmarking job salaries against national or regional averages for the same positions, analysing your gender and ethnicity pay gaps as well as the diversity of your workforce across the organisational structure, implementing career progression and skills development strategies for everyone so that they can increase their career and earning potential, and investing in an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that is rich and diverse in benefits and perks that employees can make use of.

Employee Support

Support covers so many aspects of workplace wellbeing. Ensuring professional support to help employees develop and improve skills or further their career, or emotional or physical support in times of need (for example, financial difficulty, experiencing problematic behaviour, ill-health or simply giving any sort of advice). Support is something that not only senior leaders must be ready to provide but one that all employees can work on.

The bottom line is, if employees don’t feel supported, they are more likely to leave or suffer in silence, which could result in higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism and lower levels of productivity.

A good work-life balance can mean something completely different to each person, making this almost impossible for organisations to get right when they look to make adjustments in the workplace. However, sometimes simply giving people open options such as the choice to work completely remotely and discussing individual needs like certain days or times off for childcare is one of the best ways to try and cater to a range of different needs.

Employee Health

Both physical and mental health of people has taken a front seat in the last few years. Enhanced sick leave policies that also integrate the need for people to take time off for mental health reasons, EAPs that provide benefits such as private healthcare, access to online GPs, free sight and hearing tests, and general compassion and understanding for those with health issues or who are carers, are all gradually more standard and sought after requirements for employees. However, currently only 25% of UK companies have an employee well-being programme in place.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of long-term sickness, every year millions of working days in the UK are lost due to work related stress. Absence is very expensive for employers due to the loss of productivity and the associated costs of paying sick pay to the absent employee and paying for temporary cover for the employee’s work, whether by employing additional staff or paying existing staff overtime. Where employees experience stress this is likely to have other serious consequences for the workplace. Stress can result in poor performance, low morale, accidents, costly tribunals, and civil claims against the employer.

With all this in mind – What can you do as leaders to prevent workplace stress?

It is good practice to take steps to reduce the risk that stress may occur within your organisation, even where you do not consider that any of your employees are currently experiencing stress related symptoms. You could take the following steps to help to prevent stress:

  • Encourage communication within the team:Where employees feel that they can discuss problems with their colleagues this can help to reduce the risk of stress. This could be achieved by holding regular team meetings and encouraging staff to approach you and colleagues informally with any issues that they have.
  • Foster good relations with employees: Taking the time to get to know your team members is key, so that changes to their normal behaviour are easier to spot. Develop an understanding of each person’s stressors in your team.
  • Ensure that employees have an appropriate amount of work to do:Where employees feel that they are unable to cope with their workload, this can cause stress. Regularly review the amount of work employees have, for example at regular one to one sessions. You should consider the impact of absences and departures on remaining staff and how the work can be shared fairly within the team.
  • Ensure that individuals take proper breaks: Checking that employees are not regularly working long hours and that they take regular breaks. If an employee is consistently working through lunch or beyond their contracted hours, you should try to establish if this is because of a short-term increase in work or if it is a longer-term issue. You should set a good example by taking breaks and working appropriate hours.
  • Have regular meetings with employees: Having regular meetings with team members about their work will give you a good idea of what employees are doing and any problems that they have. Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Provide appropriate training: You should conduct regular reviews to identify training needs for the members of your team. Employees could be involved in identifying their own training needs. Where training needs are identified, you should provide training. Training is particularly important for employees who have additional responsibilities following a promotion.
  • Be alert during periods of change: You should keep employees well informed and encourage them to raise concerns during periods of change, for example when the organisation is going through a restructure. Where possible, you should involve employees in decision-making. You should be alert to the possibility of employees experiencing stress during this time.
  • Recruit employees who have the skills to perform the role: When recruiting, you should consider what the duties of the job will be and what skills and experience the successful candidate will need. This will help to ensure that the right person is recruited to the job, so the job-holder does not feel out of their depth.
  • Do not delay: You should take immediate action when you suspect that an individual is stressed or when an employee informs you that they are experiencing stress. This should help to avoid the problem escalating. You should seek support from HR and Mental Health First Aiders if applicable if in doubt.
  • Empower and include people. Provide them with a sense of belonging
  • Ensure pyschological safety – make sure everyone feels they can speak out without feeling criticised or bullied.
  • Ensure good job design – it is varied and challenging.
  • Give recognition!
  • Promote a good work life balance – role model good wellbeing habits. Don’t email out of hours or at the weekend for example. Promote physical, mental, emotional, social and financial wellbeing.

Health is a key area many employees find they encounter the most troubles with when it comes to disputes with their employers. To tackle these, employers must make sure that they have a better understanding of different disabilities or health issues, what constitutes discrimination based on them and how they can prevent mental health problems or support those with them, especially if they are as a result of workplace bullying, discrimination or harassment. How are employers tackling the cause of the problems as well as the consequences?

Another effective strategy is the implementation of wellbeing awareness training and workshops which address specific concerns, such as burnout, stress management, and the unique challenges posed by women’s health issues such as menopause. These sessions offer practical, sustainable solutions and foster a sense of community and support among employees. Unlike digital tools, they require active participation, which can lead to longer lasting impacts on health and wellbeing. Over and above empowering the workforce, providing employees with knowledge and specific tools to manage their health proactively, they create a culture of inclusion, fostering confidence and helping employees feel truly valued.

If you have any queries about workplace wellbeing please do not hesitate to get in contact with Donna Wrigglesworth, or your usual AAB People contact.

By Donna Wrigglesworth

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