One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it catalysed a seismic shift in our approach to managing mental health at work, turning employee wellbeing programs from ‚Äònice to haves' to ‚Äòmust haves'.
Since 2020, organisations have grappled with never-ending disruptions, forcing them to accelerate their digital transformation journeys and continuously re-evaluate workplace norms. These disruptions have had a colossal impact on our collective mental health, and, as a result, employee wellbeing is now at the forefront of leadership agendas all around the world.
The importance of a culture of care
Employee expectations in regards to company culture, flexible working, and compensation have also changed - and a lot. According to a study by Limeade, employees are increasingly choosing to work for organisations that foster ‚Äòcultures of care', which they are also more likely to recommend to a friend (and less likely to leave).
So it's not just a question of doing the morally correct thing; supporting employee wellbeing to create environments where people can thrive and do their best work also makes a ton of commercial sense. As companies continue figuring out how to navigate the post-pandemic world of work, they will need to prioritise employee wellbeing in order to reach their business goals.
But where to start? In this article we're going to explore exactly what we mean by employee wellbeing, what benefits it brings both to individuals and organisations, and what you can do in your own company to support it as a whole.
What do we mean by employee wellbeing, anyway?
Employee wellbeing is defined as the overall mental, physical, emotional, and even financial health of your employees. This includes how their professional responsibilities, stress levels, and working environments affect their overall wellness and happiness. Some of the main factors that affect employee wellbeing are:
- Company culture
- The physical working environment
- Organisational policies
- Working hours
- Compensation packages
- Relationships with co-workers
- Available resources and tools
In short, while employees are generally expected to take care of their own physical health (beyond standard workplace safety provisions of course), employee wellbeing initiatives are responsible for providing their staff everything they need to thrive and produce their best work.
Key benefits of supporting employee wellbeing
Supporting employee wellbeing isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. 60% of employees say they feel more motivated at work and are more likely to recommend their organisation to others if their employer proactively supports mental wellbeing.
Some individual benefits of employee wellbeing initiatives include:
- Lower stress levels
- Improved productivity
- Job satisfaction
- Positive atmosphere
- Improved wellbeing
As organisations, some of the benefits you can expect are:
- Higher performance
- Lower employee turnover
- Improved brand reputation
- Reduce health spending
- Attract top talent
By putting employee wellbeing first, you're not only prioritising your staff's overall health but also providing the environment and tools they need to do excellent work, which inevitably leads to success for your organisation.
How to support employee wellbeing in 2022
Without further ado, here are our top five recommendations for what leaders can do to support employee wellbeing going forward.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
A recent Mind Share Partners study shows that employees who felt their managers were not good at communicating have been 23% more likely than others to experience mental health declines since the outbreak. So whether your team is staying fully remote, heading back to the office, or working out a hybrid model, creating a culture of intentional and regular check-ins with your reports is more important than ever.
How? Go beyond the usual niceties to really understand how your team members are doing and what they need:
- Practice active listening
- Provide 1-1 time with reports so they feel seen and heard
- Ask specific questions to find out what they really need
- Set clear expectations and priorities
- Ask for suggestions from the team on how to improve the overall working conditions and environment
Why is all of this crucial? Without continuous and open communication, it's easy to miss when someone is struggling.
And the past couple of years alone have had a huge impact on employee mental health worldwide. A recent study by the World Health Organisation shows that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a whopping 25% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic alone. According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, this is just the tip of the iceberg‚Äù and a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations' mental health.‚Äù
- Model healthy behaviours
Managers often get caught up in the many things they need to sort out and forget to take care of themselves. This doesn't just negatively impact them; it also affects how their team behaves and feels too.
In order to make your team members feel safe enough to open up and prioritise their own wellbeing, you need to practice what you preach. This means modelling behaviours like:
- Taking real breaks
- Signing on and off at reasonable times
- Having a therapy or coaching session
- Taking proper time off
- Taking sick leave (and actually resting)
- Not sending messages after work hours
As a leader, it's not enough to say that you (and your organisation) support wellbeing and work/life balance. Talking openly about your own boundaries, self-care practices, and mental health struggles helps destigmatize these conversations in the workplace and show employees that it's ok to open up too.
- Create a culture of recognition
Being seen and appreciated is a basic human need we experience from a young age. Even as adults in a workplace, we crave recognition for our contributions. According to research, eighty-two percent of employed adults consider recognition important for their happiness at work, while 44% of employees switch jobs because of not being adequately recognised for their efforts.
Employees can be recognized for all sorts of things, from personal achievements to excellent behaviours to reaching important milestones. Recognizing staff members consistently and well can help organisations support employee wellbeing, performance, and engagement, all of which lead to lower turnover in the long run.
Here are some of our tips for recognizing employees in the workplace:
- Make recognition timely: if it happens months after the fact, it becomes less effective (and also feels less genuine)
- Figure out what most motivates employees and give that to them - for example, some people may appreciate a personalised gift, extra days off, or special training more than money, and vice versa of course
- Use your company comms platform to showcase both large and everyday accomplishments
- Tie the recognition to business objectives where possible so the employee can see how their efforts are making a direct impact
Taking the time and effort to instil a culture of recognition company-wide goes a long way to creating a flourishing and healthy workplace.
- Flexible working arrangements
If the events of the past couple of years have taught us anything, it's that we need to be flexible in order to deal with new situations as they arise. This is especially true for employers who want to retain their staff members as the ‚ÄòGreat Resignation' carries on.
To give you an idea, 64% of respondents in the People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View‚Äù report stated that they would look for a new job if their current employer insists on them returning to the office full-time. As leaders, it is of the utmost importance to practice inclusive flexibility that helps people maintain healthy boundaries and work setups that are designed for their personal situations.
Here's how you can start:
- Communicate regularly, especially at times of change
- Have 1-1 meetings with all of your direct reports to communicate workplace duties, expectations, and understand their personal situations
- Work with your organisation and reports to come up with customised solutions for particular challenges (for example mental health struggles, or childcare, or disabilities)
- Highlight the benefits of returning to the office but give people the option of whether or not to come back
- Consider staggered work shifts to reduce foot traffic in common areas and also accommodate varying schedules
- Trust your team members - they are adults and the overwhelming majority of them want to do a good job, both for themselves and for the organisation. Trust them to get the job done and they will reward that trust.
- Invest in continuous growth and learning
Companies hesitate to invest in employee development as it takes a while to see the return, and because there's a risk that team members will take all their new skills elsewhere. Despite these hesitations, it is more important than ever for companies to invest in the continuous growth, learning, and development of their employees.
Well, for starters, millions of people worldwide (4.5 million in the US alone) are quitting their jobs and looking for alternatives that meet their needs in terms of work/life balance, flexible hours and remote set ups. Another factor is investment in their development; LinkedIn's Workforce Learning Report states that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.
As a manager, here are a couple of things you can do to invest in your team's long-term growth:
- Create a custom development plan for each team member
- Encourage them to pursue passion projects both inside and outside of work
- Organise budget for continuous training and upskilling
- Try budget-friendly options like mentoring schemes and job-shadowing initiatives
- Explore digital tools which help scale coaching opportunities to the whole company
Supporting employee wellbeing is more important than ever. With millions quitting their jobs to pursue jobs that will provide better work/life balance and benefits, organisations who listen to their employees and put their needs first will differentiate themselves from the crowds, creating workplaces that people really want to belong to.
Vyou is a work wellness platform that helps your team measure, track, and improve how they feel at work, no matter where they work from.
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