6 min read | 2 June, 2015 By Chloe Suret
The evolving demographic of today's workforce means that it is more important than ever for employers to take action and create effective health and wellbeing initiatives. With the workforce becoming older, an increase in women working and a decrease in manufacturing roles, wellbeing initiatives are at their most beneficial.Managing employee wellbeing is critical for businesses. Employers should be aware that if employee wellbeing is low, it will lead to increased sickness and absence levels. This will subsequently lead to poor performance levels and a reduction in productivity and result in increased labour turnover for the business.
As a result, it is vital that employers adopt a health and wellbeing policy. This policy should highlight the business’ commitment to employee wellbeing and the steps it is willing to take to ensure well being is improved.
There are a wide range of initiatives employers can take to improve wellbeing. Most critically however, employers need to ensure that they engage with all their employees to determine initiatives they would find most beneficial. These could range from encouraging employees to become more active, providing them with support and guidance to give up smoking, fostering a workplace environment which encourages healthy eating or taking action to reduce stress by training line managers on mental wellbeing.
The following tips are some guiding notes which employers can adopt to form part of their health and wellbeing strategy or, additionally, can be used as a framework for the creation of a more formal health and wellbeing policy.
Create a workplace culture that has a clear vision and purpose where employees are aware of their individual contribution.
This will ensure that employees are engaged with the success of the company as individuals aren’t usually fully involved in the aims of a business without encouragement to do so.
Creating a culture where employees feel valued and supported will generate confidence amongst employees which can be created by:
Ensuring the business purpose is clearly communicated throughout the entire organisation
Ensuring senior staff members are easily accessible to staff and there are constant effective lines of communication
The necessary training and development programmes are provided for all employees
Ensuring that any conflict issues are dealt with quickly and professionally
Providing the necessary rewards and recognition for good work and encouraging teamwork.
Providing training and development opportunities to employees adds value to the individual and the workplace.
Training illustrates to the employee that they are valued as an individual and are worth investing in for the future.
Training also exposes individuals to new and interesting learnings which normally lead to positive and motivational outcomes, decreasing any negative stressful pressures.
Induction training for new starters in particular is a useful way to establish expectations early on and make employees aware of the current health and wellbeing policies to support individuals.
An organisation that has complicated reporting structure and complex managerial layers, can result in unhelpful separation between management and employees.
Gaps for managing health and wellbeing issues can therefore get lost. Adopt flat and simple managerial structures, enabling a more effective management of staff and reducing stress and wellbeing issues.
Everyone wants to be involved in decisions that will effect them, their workplace or their future so keeping managerial structures flat and tight will ensure better lines of communication for stress and wellbeing matters.
It is important that the contractual pay and conditions of the individual fairly reflect the role they undertake and the value of that role to the business.
Employees who work overtime should be fairly compensated with either time off in lieu or in overtime payments. This is important as employees who are expected to work hours longer than their contract states with no reward can lead to increases in stress, decreases in morale, resulting in a decrease in productivity and performance. Over time this is likely to lead to experience employees leaving the business
Rewarding long hours however is not an entirely effective method to reducing stress and the damage of well being. Strong performers who thrive on stress are at a higher risk of burnout as they are working at an unsustainable level. It is therefore important to properly manage employee workload and working hours to avoid mental exhaustion which could lead to depression or breakdown resulting in long term absence.
Job security and the uncertainty that your job might be at risk is a significant source of stress for employees. This stress usually goes beyond job performance of the individual and impacts the home life and family of the individual too.
It is therefore crucial to keep employees informed and reassured during times of change or in cases of potential redundancies. Visible communication at all levels is vital in these situations.
Being honest and transparent with employees, especially in bad situations is essential. As well as needing reassurance in these situations, people also need honesty and openness so they can prepare practically and mentally for potential change.
Strive for good communication at all levels in the business, in all departments and all employee levels.
Strong levels of communication creates trust and a cooperative workforce which decreases conflict and increases efficiency.
Strong communication encourages a positive work culture which promotes well being in the organisation.
Creating a workplace environment which encourages and supports a healthy work-life balance is an effective way to promote health and wellbeing in the business.
Encouraging employees to take time off, offering job shares, part-time working, flexi-time and working from home can all be highly beneficial to the individual and the business. It is particularly effective for those employees who have long commutes or young families.
Being flexible with employee working conditions increases their feeling of personal value and self esteem. This recognition increases loyalty to the business, commitment and sustained high levels of productivity.
Ensure your processes are fit to protect employees wellbeing right from the start of their relationship with the business.
Analyse and review your recruitment approach to ensure it enables you to hire individuals that are the right cultural fit for the business, as well as understanding fully the vision and responsibilities the role entails.
For current employees, make sure they feel supported in their role. Make sure they still feel suited to their role as people change as well as the roles themselves. If necessary address additional training opportunities or potential internal moves that they would be better suited to. This demonstrates the business valuing the individuals well being, increasing morale and productivity.
Offering counselling support to individuals where workplace issues have arisen is an effective way to address concerns of stress.
Providing this support is particularly effect in situations where employees are not coping well with changes in the working environment, are in manager or colleagues conflict situations or those who are under threat of redundancy.
Counselling should also be offered to employees as an additional benefit so they feel constantly supported in the workplace.
It is just as important to monitor the wellbeing strategies of an organisation as it is to implement them.
In order to manage well being effectively, it must be properly measured.
Individuals must be encouraged to safeguard their own wellbeing at work however being accessible and approachable also allows for greater encouragement for employees to highlight any issues of concern for them.
It is often more effective to conduct informal discussion with employees to expose any underlying anxieties as employees tend to feel more nervous in formal appraisal meetings.
It is important to remember that there is not ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating an effective health and wellbeing strategy. The most effective policies are those which are tailored and developed carefully. It is important to monitor and adapt your policies to reflect the changes in the workplace and the evolving needs of your employees. Remember, consult and involve your employees, discovering what really matters to them.