Employee well-being, more than just workplace health

Employers used to think of the wellbeing of their employees as a health and safety issue limited to the management of injuries and ill health experienced or acquired at work. It is well researched and documented that a poor physical working environment is linked to high levels of sickness absence and turnover, along with poor performance.

Traditionally, especially in a number of industries such as manufacturing, hospitality and retail, employee wellbeing tended to be approached on a reactive level. However, both the Government and employers alike now advocate a more holistic approach, in which the employer takes measures to improve the way in which work is organised and manages the physical and psychological aspects of the job. This has changed the way employee wellbeing is viewed.

Employers have also recently begun to realise that staff engagement and health at work are closely connected and that many initiatives designed to boost levels of employee engagement such as flexible working and improved job design also have spin-offs for wellbeing. The corollary is that better employee health boosts commitment and productivity. Furthermore, the working environment and organisational attitude to employee wellbeing is playing an increasingly important role in employer branding and talent acquisition.

Additionally, with the UK workforce becoming older, more women entering and staying in the workplace and a growing pressure generally for workers to be as productive as possible (due to, for example, fierce competition from cheaper overseas labour and the global economic downturn), wellbeing initiatives have an increasingly important role to play within the workplace.

Employers that want to invest in employee wellbeing should look to adopt an organisational approach through a well thought out wellbeing strategy. Such a strategy is likely to be embraced and successful if employees of all levels of seniority are involved in its development and implementation. Many companies have chosen the ‘champion’ approach which allows those employees who are already generally enthusiastic about health, fitness and wellbeing to drive the initiative.

In order to develop a wellbeing strategy which works and delivers results, employers should first determine what their employees are interested in doing. Different groups of employees will have a different set of needs and varying interests and it is usually the case that one size does not fit all. Additionally a mix of on-going initiatives such as subsidised gym membership and stress awareness training for all managers combined with targeted campaigns to keep interest alive, for example giving up smoking, healthy eating or taking up a new sport are usually the most successful strategies. Sometimes, simply removing barriers to exercise and health can go a long way, for example, installing a bicycle rack.

All organisations have something to gain from embracing employee wellbeing and with a little innovative thinking and the buy-in of an enthusiastic few, even the smallest and most ‘strapped for cash’ organisations can improve the health and happiness of their workforce. The subsequent knock-on effects for the business will be a more engaged workforce of higher performers which is why we build employee wellbeing considerations into our Recruitment Process Outsourcing and HR services. A healthy workforce means a healthy business, so what are you waiting for, start thinking about how you can improve employee wellbeing for the benefit of both your staff and your business?