An increasing number of employers are turning their focus to well-being in the workplace as part of a drive to improve company culture. Why? The penny has finally dropped in business that a happy and healthy workforce is engaged, motivated and a key driver in business success.

Business needs are also driving a revolutionary change in performance management. The old-school days of the annual appraisal are over.

A huge cultural shift is taking place in the business community. A strong company culture is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s essential. As businesses endeavour to build more agile workplaces, performance management has moved away from the stuffy, ineffective annual appraisal to more regular and less formal check-ins between managers and employees.

In this blog post, I want to address why businesses need to take the issue of employee well-being seriously. Importantly, I will answer why it is that employers need to integrate well-being into performance management.

Why bother with well-being at work?

Workplace well-being programmes are attracting interest because they have a significant impact on employee health. Well-being initiatives are a significant lever in reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, and have been shown to contribute to an increase in productivity.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) argue that supporting and promoting employee well-being can deliver mutual benefit to people, businesses, economies and wider society. It’s a view we support here at Breathe.

Well-being in the workplace matters for a number of reasons and it isn’t just physical health that needs to be supported. Mental health is important too. Promoting health is part of a cultural drive to ensure employees are engaged and want to be at work.

A healthy, happy workforce is good for staff turnover. Employees are less likely to leave if they are engaged and enjoying their work. When employees are disengaged, absenteeism, workplace accidents and mistakes go up. Promoting health adds to the bottom line.

See more about The Culture Economy in our report here.

What is good workplace well-being?

Creating a culture of health and wellness is much more than providing a bowl of fruit and a cheap gym membership. All too often, mental health and the social and emotional side of wellness at work gets forgotten. Employers think they have ticked the wellness at work box by providing workplace yoga, a fruit bowl and mindfulness courses.

But, a recent report in The Guardian highlights the way business is using well-being as a buzzword without any real substance to back it up. The report highlights the profoundly insulting nature of a free banana for breakfast when you’re so depressed you are finding it hard to go to work, especially since it is often parts of the working environment and culture that is making a person sick. This situation is sadly ironic and all too common.

So, what exactly constitutes good workplace well-being? Smart organisations understand that staff perform better when healthy, yet many still seem to lack the insight to make innovative change to better support overall well-being and mental health.

Genuine well-being programmes can only work if they are embedded from the top down. Simple actions like supporting staff to take lunch breaks and keep to healthy working hours is a good place to start. Raising the profile of mental health in the workplace is also important, as is promoting an open door policy for dialogue and feedback. A culture of openness and promoting a healthy work-life balance are key.

The financial wellness of employees is another area business would do well to take a look at. Financial stress can be a huge distraction for employees. Practical guidance on how to budget, save and invest for the future are just some of the key areas employers with financial wellness programmes are focusing on.

It’s common sense that a happy and healthy workforce benefits the business. Healthy and happy employees are a blessing to families, communities and society too. There isn’t a downside to investing in employee health and happiness.

For more information on how to promote well-being and tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems, see mental health charity, MIND’s well-being at work resource here. See 11 key factors for improving wellbeing, as recommended by The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), here.

What is performance management?

Performance management is the blanket term used to describe the process of assessing and supporting employees in order to advance the goals and objectives of the organisation. It focuses on developing employees’ capabilities over time to enable them to contribute to the success of the business. Performance management is a pro-active process of ongoing accountability, support and encouragement based on regular communication and check-ins between managers and employees.

How is well-being relevant to performance management?

Good performance helps everyone in the organisation and well-being is essential for that to happen. Formalising the importance of well-being at work helps managers and employees focus on healthier ways of working. ACAS point out that a major factor that diminishes well-being at work is overwork and high job demands.

One of the most poignant starting points for well-being at work is enabling employees to reach out when they are feeling overwhelmed. The problem for businesses still operating a system of annual reviews is the lack of opportunity that presents to employees to ask for support when they aren’t coping as well.

Performance management has such huge potential as a tool to improve wellness at work. With openness, honesty and the right support employees can achieve great things. Most importantly is the weekly check-in. It gives employees a voice and makes conversations about stress and work-life balance so much easier.

Pay-rises and perks aren’t enough to engage employees. Caring about their well-being and their future is.

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