When it comes to creating wellbeing initiatives in the workplace, many businesses lean towards quick wins to have an impact on the morale of staff. Free fruit or drinks in the staff canteen or a pizza party on a Friday are great mood boosters, but the kick of joy is often fleeting.
Effective workplace wellbeing should be treated like a long-term investment that uplift staff with benefits that augment their lives. Wellbeing is not one size fits all or static, it should be treated as an evolution. What works this year won’t necessarily have the right impact the next year. As employers, we should be constantly auditing support systems to ensure we are proactively fostering growth, invested in their career and personal development of our people, and are here when the gloves are off and staff need immediate support.
Let’s look at some of the different ways we can achieve this:
Training: Each and every one of your staff will be at different places in their lives and career and will want very different things. When approaching training and development, it’s important to invest in both the personal and professional development of your staff. This could be in the form of planned CPD opportunities that empower them to progress within their current job role or a training budget your staff can use to prioritise development they are passionate about. Staff retention can also be supported by offering regular training both related to what your business does as well as giving them a wider skill set to feel as though they are stretched and learning – making your staff advocates, whether they are in sales or not, by ensuring they are experts in your business and within the sector.
Flexible Working: Hybrid working has seen a significant rise in the last few years and employees have become accustomed to the positive impact it can have on their work / life balance. In fact, new research shows that hybrid working is the most sought-after benefit for job seekers. Jobs website Indeed have revealed hybrid search terms have increased by 6,531% in the last 12 months. Offering staff the flexibility to choose when and where they work can have a significant impact on their mental and physical health. Likewise, you may have staff who feel they thrive in an office environment, so it’s important to help your business and staff find the right balance rather than a dictated regime where possible.
Social Initiatives: Following on from hybrid working, it is important to ensure that staff who are working predominantly from home are getting much-needed social interaction with their colleagues. Many people loved the flexibility that came with working from home throughout lockdown, but many reported feeling isolated. Keeping a regular social calendar gives everyone the opportunity to unwind and find enjoyment outside of work – for those who want it. There is an obvious opportunity for team building activities, but without making it cliché, make events opportunities for people to know each other better, interact with people they normally wouldn’t, and build relationships. These don’t always have to be in the form of an event in the evening, such as a meal. There are good examples of daytime activities that have a residual effect on their physical health include things like lunchtime walking clubs or group exercise challenges. Maybe you could host a charity walkathon and raise money for a cause close to those in your business?
Remote workers will inevitably miss out on some of the wellbeing initiatives you offer for staff within the office, in particular special lunches or treats. One way to avoid them feeling excluded is to have the treat come directly to them.
Company-wide meetings: Having a platform where leadership can share recent activities across the business and tell staff what the next objectives and goals are helps everyone feels like they are included with the growth of the business. This is often a great opportunity to boost morale by publicly praising staff for their achievements and help staff better understand the work departments they may not regularly interact with.
MHFA: Offering Mental Health First Aid training can be an excellent way for your employees to not only better understand their own emotions, but also can foster a safe space mentality within your business by providing colleagues trained they can go to for mental health support.
Cycle to work schemes: Offering a cycle to work scheme is not only a good way to help encourage your staff to keep active, but it is great for the environment, reduces the need for your business to maintain a big car parks and saves staff money on parking fees. Guidance on the benefits of implementing a cycle to work scheme can be found by clicking here.
Importance of Sick Days / Me Days: It may sound counterproductive, but it is important for businesses to reinforce the importance of sick days within their workforce and this may also include normalising extended time off or sabbaticals. Staff who are not taking sick days are more susceptible to burn out and experience a longer absence. Sick days should be monitored, but not discouraged. Someone who is genuinely ill should feel supported to take the time to recover and return to work 100% rather than showing up and potentially making others sick. The notion of a sickday has also evolved over recent years, previously people felt that it had to be a physical ailment which presented a barrier to coming into work but considering things like bad mental health days as sick days are super important to having a workforce that feels respected and that they can rely on their employer. “Me days” are another great initiative that can be pitched as a day for them to do something for themselves or for those days staff wake up and aren’t feeling themselves.
Mental health resource: Offering mental health resources can extend beyond offering MHFA training. Your staff might find it useful to have access to subscription-based services such as Calm. Some staff might not find the proactive self-care approach useful, but instead are drawn to crisis or reactive counselling support. When considering this, it is important to seek out a service which is confidential, even to you as the employer if possible. Giving staff a confidential space to reach out for support means they are more likely to seek help if they do not feel like there will be judgement from their employer and less likely to experience an unplanned absence.
Performance reviews: Maintaining regular employee performance reviews gives staff the opportunity to voice their ambitions and gives the business the opportunity to identify growth opportunities. Feeling appreciated and seeing progression opportunities keeps employees engaged and ultimately supports retention. This also reflect on the employer as having regular reviews that have no action creates a sense of disengagement between the employers and individuals, so reviews are important for improving employee wellbeing, but it gives you the opportunity for you to create action points.
Business Resource: Burnout due to impossible workloads is a very real problem in the modern workforce, with businesses not filling heads as needed, not backfilling, or simply not offering employees the correct salary for the work they complete. This will lead to a disengaged workforce and inevitably lead to churn. This overstretched workforce will lead to single points of failure in your business and many businesses don’t attempt to fix these cracks until it is too late. This becomes incredibly dangerous in the modern employment market with millennial and gen-z employees not willing to take these conditions and the idea of long-haul roles on your CV become more and more outdated so will not fear to leave should they not be treated fairly. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the modern business to evolve to support their staff and ensure that resourcing and workload are top priorities to manage the wellbeing of your staff.
Creating a culture that fosters the individual wellbeing of your employees has been proven to have a ROI by preventing staff churn and reducing absence. Based on the average days off per employee we see due to sickness, extrapolated out to the 32.5 million people working in the UK with an average wage of £12.17 per hour, edays data estimates that the cost to UK employers is £8.1 billion per year, or around £250 per person per year. By increasing your spend on employee wellbeing initiatives, you could see a reduction in this average cost for sickness and increased productivity with a happier and healthier workforce. People are the most important element of any business, and by prioritizing wellbeing, you are also proactively looking after the health of your business.
Lewis is a highly skilled marketing professional with extensive experience in the HR and SaaS sectors. His writing focuses on discussing key topics and challenges for HR surrounding absence and leave management, digital transformation, employee experience and effective resource planning.