Employee wellbeing. Employee engagement and loyalty. Productivity, motivation, purpose, and drive. Corporate wellbeing programs. Is it all sort of the same thing? What’s the difference?
When we talk about wellbeing in the context of the workplace, a lot of similar but different terms get thrown around and things can actually get pretty confusing. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, many consider them to mean different things when it comes down to it.
For this article, we’re going to be exploring the idea of work wellness and how it encompasses all of the aspects of wellbeing at work - read on to learn more about what it is and why it matters.
What is work wellness
Work wellness relates to how your job and the work that you do affect your overall happiness and wellbeing. This includes many different areas of working life, from your physical working environment, to the social climate at work, all the way to how your work is organised and managed.
If we break it down even further, work wellness represents a combination of physical, mental, and financial health factors. It can also represent how satisfied you are - personally and professionally - with your work. High levels of work wellness enables employees to be more resilient against stress, to feel motivated and engaged, and to produce their best work.
A couple of other elements which affect work wellness can be:
Available resources and tools
So why not just stick to the traditional terms of corporate or employee wellbeing and be done with it? Well, the idea behind the move to the work wellness concept is that it represents a holistic approach to wellbeing at work which is inclusive of different types of workplaces and workers. There are a lot of different ways that people work nowadays - from being full-time employees in physical workplaces outside of the home, to hybrid working models, to fully remote set ups, and much more.
So whether your team is full-time or made up of freelancers (or a mix!) work wellness programs aim to address their different needs across the board.
Why does work wellness matter, anyway?
It’s becoming increasingly important to have conversations about work wellness and to better support it. Mental health issues have been steadily rising on a global scale for the last decade, and if that weren’t enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of depression and anxiety worldwide.
Many people are struggling and they need help.
Despite the all-too-familiar desire to put on a brave face and act ‘professional’, the world of work is not immune to the effects of the increasing levels of mental health struggles around the world. According to the CIPD’s Health and wellbeing at work survey, organisations are reporting increased levels of ‘presenteeism’ (people working even though they feel ill) and ‘leavism’ which is when people use holiday days as sick days because they need a break.
These are not signs of a happy and flourishing workforce; these are signs that the current way of doing things is leading to toxic organisational cultures, unmanageable workloads, and ultimately more burnout and illness than is necessary.
Forward-thinking employers can make a huge difference
The good news? Employers are uniquely positioned to have a positive effect on the overall health and wellbeing of the people who work for them. Here’s why: the average worker in the UK for example will spend 1,795 hours a year working and approximately 84,365 hours over a lifetime.
That is a colossal amount of time. Many of us end up spending more time at work or working remotely than with friends and family, so it’s no wonder that how you feel at work has an enormous impact on your general health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, work-related stress is still incredibly common. The consequences of being constantly overworked, mismanaged, and undervalued are very real. If our working lives are a consistent source of stress, our mental and physical health can be seriously impacted. This in turn affects our productivity, motivation, and engagement, which harms the business goals of the organisation as a whole due to absenteeism and high turnover. Gallup studies support this, stating that employees who frequently feel burned out at their job are 2.6 times as likely to be looking for a new job.
As a result, forward-thinking employers should be looking to foster a holistic work wellness approach at their organisation, which goes beyond the physical safety of their employees (which is fairly standard in most working environments) and gimmicks or superficial perks.
Organisations need to take a step back, listen to their employees, and address all the ways the workplace can negatively affect an employees health, whether that’s physical, mental, social, or more.
Benefits of investing in your employees work wellness
Work wellness is key for a thriving workplace. Here are a couple of the benefits that come along with investing in your employees work wellness:
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 their physical and mental wellbeing. When employees feel that their needs are being met, their efforts recognised, and that their employer is genuinely invested in them, their motivation and productivity will soar.
The opposite is true when their needs are being neglected: when people are overworked and underappreciated, they will inevitably suffer from lower energy levels and lack of focus, which affects their overall performance. By prioritising employee wellbeing, employers have the power to create a happier and healthier workforce as a whole.
Lower absenteeism, presenteeism, and leavism (all the isms)
Absenteeism is the ongoing missing of work without a concrete reason, while presenteeism is when staff come in to work (either in person or virtually) despite feeling unwell and not actually up for it. Finally, leavism is when staff use their holiday days as sick days because they are feeling unwell and need more time off.
Lost productivity, which includes all of the above, costs the UK economy a staggering £73 billion a year. So it makes both moral and financial sense to support the health of your employees holistically, and prevent them being pushed to the point that they can’t function well anymore, meaning less missed work days and a stronger organisational bottom line.
We also have a complex multi-generational workforce, with baby boomers starting to retire and the first wave of Gen Z workers flooding the ranks in recent years. Their expectations and standards of employment are very different, and they put a higher emphasis on employers who prioritise the mental health and overall wellbeing of their staff members. Employers who want to attract the top talent will need to invest in creating healthy, nurturing, safe, and satisfying working environments.
Better employee retention and engagement
When employees feel that their employers support them and prioritise their wellbeing, they are much more likely to stay on with the company. This reduces recruitment, onboarding, and training costs for new employees, and helps with referral hires as well.
Happy employees tend to make for great brand ambassadors too; they will happily help your company maintain a good reputation in the market, which helps with recruitment and employer branding too. In fact, engaged employees are 23 times more likely than their disengaged counterparts to recommend their place of work to others as a great place to be.
The challenge ahead: traditional corporate wellbeing programs won’t cut it
Traditional corporate wellbeing programs tend to focus on health insurance plans, corporate yoga classes, gym packages and other similar perks. However, the majority of these perks, although well-intentioned for the most part, actually don’t have much of an effect when it comes to addressing mental health issues and burnout. Recent studies show that traditional wellbeing programs have little to no effect on health metrics or costs at the workplaces which offer them.
What it comes down to is this: a “one size fits all” wellbeing program cannot truly effectively address the needs of a diverse, multi-generational workforce, and can even end up being discriminatory. For example, free yoga classes may really resonate with employees who are interested in exercise, but they may further alienate or marginalise other types of employees who cannot participate for health reasons or due to disabilities.
Instead of focusing on offering PR-friendly corporate perks, organisations need to speak to their employees and get a feel for where they stand when it comes to unfair workplace practices, poor management, and unmanageable workloads. They need to understand how well their line managers are doing, in order to scale positive workplace practices rather than negative ones. Then they can develop and implement holistic work wellness programs which support the physical, mental, and social health of their employees, offering different forms of resources and assistance in different areas.
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. Click the Start Here button below to book your free demo today.