5 min read | 12 March, 2021 By Laura Sands
Workplace health and wellbeing is an organisational must-have. No longer a ‘nice to have’ or afterthought, the cost of not looking after your employees is high – poor mental health alone is costing UK businesses in excess of £45bn per year.
The evolving demographic of today's workforce means it’s more important than ever for employers to create effective health and wellbeing initiatives.
With the workforce becoming older, an increase in women working and a decrease in manufacturing roles, workplace health and wellbeing is now an essential part of running an SME.
Workplace health and wellbeing is about ensuring your employees are safe, healthy, satisfied and engaged with their work.
There are a wide range of initiatives employers can take to improve wellbeing. But what works for one person may not work for another.
The challenge for business leaders is to run a business in a way that not only keeps all workers safe, but also healthy, satisfied and engaged. It’s a tough ask, especially with so many other pressures involved with running an SME.
The workplace has changed considerably over the past few decades. For this reason, health and wellbeing has had to shift focus.
Poor mental health is the single largest cause of long-term absence, experienced by 59% of organisations. By supporting your workforce and implementing a well-structured health and wellbeing programme, you can reduce the risk of mental ill health on your employees – and your business.
It’s increasingly common to have multiple generations working in the same business. This brings opportunities, but also means businesses need to change the way they support their staff to reflect the health and wellbeing challenges experienced by a broader range of individuals.
An increasing number of employees work from home. Despite the advantages of cutting the commute and being able to work in their tracksuit bottoms, their wellbeing can suffer. It’s easy for home workers to feel isolated, they may struggle to keep up ongoing communication with the rest of their team and their physical fitness can suffer.
Not only that, but musculoskeletal issues can become a factor if employees are working on less-than-ideal set-ups.
Employees expect more of their employers. Employees (and the law) expect you to put policies in place to keep everyone fit, healthy and engaged. If you don’t, you’ll lose your best employees, find it hard to recruit new ones (thanks Glassdoor) and may even find yourself embroiled in costly tribunals.
There’s also a financial benefit to healthier employees. A healthy, engaged workforce is more productive with better retention rates. You will also have lower occupational health costs and potentially lower health insurance payments. Investing in health and wellbeing pays for itself.
To manage wellbeing effectively you must start by measuring it.
Keeping track of absence and retention rates will give you an indication of any parts of the business that might have a health and wellbeing problem. It’s a good idea to track your business’s performance against industry norms so you get a sense of what’s normal, and what’s not.
Other numbers – such as failure to use holiday allowance or excessive working hours – might indicate potential future problems as well.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating an effective health and wellbeing strategy. The most effective policies are those which are tailored to your workforce’s needs and developed carefully.
Once you have your policy in place, continue to monitor (and adapt if necessary) your policies to reflect the changes in the workplace and the evolving needs of your employees.
A positive workplace culture with a clear vision and purpose ensures employees are aware of their individual contribution. This way they are more likely to be engaged with the success of the company as individuals – something that’s relevant to the engagement and satisfaction aspect of employee wellbeing.
You can also ensure your culture protects employee wellbeing from the very start of their relationship with your business.
By reviewing your recruitment approach, you can make sure you hire individuals that are the right cultural fit for the business, as well as who understand the vision and responsibilities of the role.
Find out more about building a positive workplace culture.
With poor mental health affecting increasing numbers of employees (at least one in six), it’s more important than ever to focus on mental ill health prevention, support and resilience training.
Normalising discussions about mental wellness is an important part of this – by opening up, you encourage others to do the same or recognise that they in fact have a problem. This can prove critical in preventing mental ill health getting to crisis point.
MIND is an excellent source of support with resources, training and toolkits to help you support your workforce, regardless of your industry.
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 and working from home can benefit employees and your business. It’s particularly effective for those employees who have long commutes or young families.
Some employees might feel they need to work extra-long hours to impress their managers. For this reason, encouraging managers and business leaders to role model a healthy work-life balance is doubly important – it sends a message that as a business you prioritise a healthy approach to business.
Strong communication is a vital part of any organisation’s health and wellbeing strategy.
During periods of organisation change, job security and the uncertainty are a significant source of stress for employees which can also affect their home lives.
As well as needing reassurance in these situations, people also need honesty and openness so they can prepare practically and mentally for potential change.
It pays to put extra focus on communication when you have employees who work remotely or part time. These employees can often get left out of informal updates or may miss the notices that get shared on the office walls. Keeping these employees fully in the loop will mean a more cohesive team.
Prioritising workplace health and wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do you for the success of your business. Interested in learning more? Watch our recent webinar on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.