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What is employee health and wellbeing?

5 min read | 9 April, 2019 By Rachael Down


Employee health and wellbeing is a vital weapon for any successful company. Your staff are people and we believe that putting them first helps to inspire productive and smart work.

Start on the inside and you'll soon see it's the secret to navigating your company goals as well as an intrinsic part of running any organisation. Not only is it morally imperative, but it makes good business sense too.

Happy employees equal productive employees. Staff who are stressed, run down, disillusioned and marginalised will not only exude lower morale but could also lead to higher employee turnover and recruitment costs.


Employee health and wellbeing schemes aim to:

  • reduce direct healthcare costs;
  • build and sustain high employee morale;
  • drive effective recruitment and retention;
  • improve productivity; and
  • reduce the damaging trend of presenteeism.


Why do we need to look after our employees’ wellbeing?

According to a CIPD survey of more than 1000 HR professionals, bosses who take employee health and wellbeing seriously enjoy a healthier and more inclusive culture (35%) and lower staff sickness (31%).

While many companies now recognise the importance of supporting their employees, there is still a gap between the ideology and the actual implementation.

In all cases it seems that prevention is better than cure. And mental health is no different. Thankfully, according to the CIPD, workplace mental health awareness has increased from 31% (in 2016) to 51% (in 2018). Figures show that stress is now the leading, number one cause of sickness absence from the office. 

Although technology is viewed as a positive step forward, a whopping 87% of HR professionals reported that the most common negative effect is an inability to switch off outside of work hours.

Disabilities and health issues for an ageing population are also having an impact on wellbeing. Combine this with wider economic pressures and we begin to understand the true impact of neglecting employee wellbeing concerns. 

For a workforce to sustain efficient productivity, businesses need to take health and wellbeing seriously. For those businesses that have already pledged to improve their culture, they're already reaping the benefits.

According to one report, if employees have access to a health and wellbeing programme, 89% of them are more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work. 


How can employers help?

Employee health and wellbeing programmes were traditionally the preserve of larger companies and initially viewed as 'job perks'. Fortunately, developing an employee health and wellbeing strategy that encourages optimal physical and mental health is now firmly on HR consultants and managers' radars. 

Helping staff to positively manage or overcome health and wellbeing concerns will reinforce trust and respect. The more they feel that you've got their back, the more eager and ready they are to perform. Our Espresso Report - Health and Wellbeing serves up some full-bodied culture shots of why - like culture - employee welfare needs to be addressed in the workplace. 

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5 steps for a great start to employee health and wellbeing:

1: Why do you want to create a programme?

What do you hope to achieve by creating an employee health and wellbeing strategy? What results are you after? By considering the programmes' purpose and the reasons why it's so important, you’ll help persuade senior management and employees to join the initiative. Initial planning also sets you in great stead in terms of budget, implementation and measuring its success.

2: Encourage staff input

Talk to your staff about what they want. Why not create an employee wellbeing survey and  dare to ask your staff for their opinion on what areas need improvement? Needs assessments are also a handy tool. By looking at the different roles and potential health and wellbeing risks to your employees, you're more likely to prevent absences while providing the necessary support to your team. For example, if they sit at a desk for many hours they could be at risk of poor posture and lack of exercise.

3: Create a plan of action

How will you implement your wellbeing programme? What type of programme will you use and what are the benefits to your staff? How long will it run for and how will you monitor its effectiveness? What resources or budget will you need to run it? Check out our Workplace Health and Wellbeing post to discover how you can make it work for your business. 

4: Implement your plan

Softly softly is the best approach here. To avoid overwhelming your staff (after all, humans' dislike for change is widely reported) don’t introduce everything all at once. Start small and allow an adjustment period. For example, if you're not already, introduce flexible working and encourage staff with office lurgy to stay at home to prevent team contamination. 

5: Measure and assess your plan

To back up and ensure its effectiveness, it's wise to monitor your employee health and wellbeing programme. Analytic software, which tracks staff illness, absence and personal performance (just like what we have on Breathe) is key here. 


Examples of wellbeing programmes:

Gym memberships

Free or subsidised gym memberships can encourage staff to become more active. Generally, staff who are fitter have healthier immune systems, which means they're less likely to take time off for illness. Exercise is also a great tool for tackling mood disorders and mental health.

Therapy sessions

Some companies choose to provide access to counselling sessions for staff who feel they need it. You can allocate a set number of sessions per staff member or offer discount on sessions. Alternatively, for those staff who seek private therapy sessions, such as CBT or psychotherapy, you can reduce further stress by allowing time for them during the week to get to appointments.


This is different to professional training, but you could run sessions which help staff to deal with stress, work-life balance and mindfulness. Our line managers and members of our mental health team - Space to Breathe - recently attended a Mental Health First Aid for Work course, and thus feel like they now have the tools to help spot and manage the signs of workplace depression. 

Smoking cessation programmes

We all know smoking is one of the biggest causes of cancer and a whole host of other illnesses, yet people still do it. Organising sessions through work can encourage more smokers to quit and improve health.

Healthy foods

Offer nutrition advice and provide healthy lunches and snacks for your staff. Google's cafeterias offer free, healthy and nutritious food for staff as well as the opportunity to socialise and interact with colleagues and peers.

Nap times/zones 

Sleep is vital for cognitive function and productivity. That's why some companies have created specialised nap rooms that provide a setting for staff to have a short power snooze and recharge their batteries before returning to work; renewed  and refreshed. At the Consumer Electronics Show last year a number of suppliers showcased their nap rooms, receiving a positive response from many large corporates. 


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Posted on 9 April, 2019

By Rachael Down

in Health and wellbeing

Tag Health and wellbeing

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