Businesses across the world are making employee wellbeing a priority. The benefits of a healthy workforce should be self-evident. After all, what sort of employer wouldn’t want their employees to find their work fulfilling and rewarding? But there’s a strong business case for employee wellbeing too. Studies show that happy employees are good employees – there are strong links between wellbeing and productivity.
What is Employee Wellbeing?
What does employee wellbeing look like? Think of it as a combination of good physical health and good mental health. It’s influenced by a number of factors – some physical, some social, some psychological, and some environmental. It’s a deep and complicated issue, so if you need a thorough primer this handy graphic should help.
Employers can work to promote the wellbeing of their employees. Something as simple as adding more plants to the workspace, or effectively controlling the ambient temperature, can make a huge difference. You can also help to ensure that your workers are never overwhelmed by their work. Good communication and adequate break facilities can help here. But even better, you can champion flexible working and other initiatives that help ensure a good work/life balance.
The Benefits of Employee Wellbeing
If you invest in employee wellbeing, you might look forward to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, better staff retention, improved employee relations, and an overall happier, healthier and more satisfied workforce.
Barriers to Introducing Employee Wellbeing
If there’s so much to be gained, why don’t all businesses invest in employee wellbeing? What’s stopping companies from implementing programs? And what’s stopping employees from taking on wellbeing programs?
Here are three of the biggest barriers to employee wellbeing, along with some suggestions for how you could overcome them.
1. Cost Perception
This is the big one. According to a recent study, 50% of employers consider cost perception to be the biggest barrier to employee wellbeing.
Whether you’re investing in new premises, bringing in an inspirational public speaker, or even just buying more plants for the workspace, it can cost money to develop an effective employee wellbeing program.
Any investment in employee wellbeing is more or less guaranteed to pay for itself – you can’t put a price on a happier and more productive workforce, after all! But some businesses may lack the budget for investing in a program. If you feel that employee wellbeing is out of your price range, it can make it difficult for any real change to take place.
Yet a program to boost employee wellbeing doesn’t have to cost the earth. Indeed, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all. For example, exercise is a big factor in determining employee wellbeing. If you can encourage staff to take walks in a local park, or to take the stairs instead of the lift, you’ll have made a step towards improving everyone’s health and happiness without having spent a single penny.
2. Not Enough Time
Even if they don’t cost any money, employee wellbeing programs will still require a significant investment of time. Apart from anything else, designing, implementing and managing a program can be a full-time job in itself.
Then there’s the time it takes to actually work on wellbeing. If you’re scheduling activities during working hours, can you afford to let staff take any time out of their day? The alternative is to schedule activities outside of work hours. But how many employees will willingly commit to anything beyond their contracted hours?
Once again, it’s important to remember that any investment in employee wellbeing is going to pay off. If it’s worth an investment of money, it’s also worth an investment of time. Even if employees are taken away from their everyday tasks to focus on improving their wellbeing, the ultimate benefits will surely outweigh any temporary setbacks to productivity.
In any case, many businesses get around this issue by scheduling their wellbeing programs during natural breaks in the day, such as lunchtime. This way, nobody misses much of their work, and nobody’s obliged to stay late at the office.
3. Not Enough Interest
You know the old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Ask any employee if they’d like to be healthier, happier and more fulfilled at work, and they’ll likely say yes. But ask them to commit to a wellbeing program and they may not be quite so keen.
Some people are simply inherently resistant to change. Some people shirk at the idea of exercise, or anything that’s going to take them out of their comfort zone. But a major barrier to the uptake of wellbeing programs is that some workers simply don’t see the point. What are they for? What are you trying to achieve, and why?
If you can’t clearly outline your purpose and your goals when it comes to wellbeing, don’t be surprised if the uptake’s low. For example, say you introduce an exercise scheme. Unless you highlight the many personal and professional benefits that exercise can bring, some employees may assume that you’re simply urging them to lose weight. Some may even find this idea insulting…
So take the time to effectively communicate your goals. Explain why you’re investing in employee wellbeing, and stress, again and again, the many potential benefits that you hope to achieve with your program. Some employers even offer incentives. For example, you might allow for employees to come into work one hour later than usual – so long as they spend that hour exercising.
Are you ready to Invest in Employee Wellbeing?
UK workers just might be among the unhappiest workers in the world. Studies show that we each take on average some 6.6 sick days a year. This comes at a very real cost to businesses, to the tune of around £29bn a year.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees have everything they need to do their jobs well. This must include doing everything you can to promote a culture of mental and physical wellbeing, in the workplace and beyond.