More than ever before, there’s an obligation for businesses to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees. From a moral perspective, many would think this should have been happening all along.
But it’s only quite recently that an emphasis on employee wellbeing has really entered the mainstream, and companies are now under greater pressure to meet these expectations.
In this article, we explain what is meant by workplace health and wellbeing and highlight the four pillars of wellbeing. We also discuss the importance of employee wellbeing for businesses and provide some tips on how to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace.
What is meant by health and wellbeing in the workplace?
In its simplest form, workplace wellbeing covers the physical safety of employees during working hours. This may involve companies implementing the appropriate security measures in their office or putting the necessary fire procedures in place. It could also be the prevention of accidents/injuries by using the right furniture and signage.
But it should go even deeper than this. As we learn more about health and wellbeing, we realise it’s far more nuanced than originally thought. There are many factors that play into an employee's mental health. Many people need to feel a sense of purpose in their life to maintain good self-esteem, for example. Whereas some employers will not provide them with this.
There are social and economic elements to wellbeing too, as well as considerations like diet, exercise, and sleep, which all contribute to health (and can all be impacted by your company). An employee's financial wellbeing affects their quality of life outside of work. And the stress they endure whilst working has a toll on their physical body.
The workplace can be a social outlet for lots of people. But as many have now shifted to remote or hybrid working, this may have been lost. As sociable creatures, our mental health can suffer if we don’t experience meaningful interactions.
What are the four pillars of wellbeing?
Is the physical safety of employees valued, and do they have the apparatus to maintain good physical health?
Are employees fulfilled in their roles, is stress as low as possible, and do they have access to the relevant outlets if their mental health is suffering?
Can staff communicate in adequate ways, can they avoid being isolated, and do they have time to connect with others outside of work?
Are workers in a good position financially, and do they have the relevant help if they’re struggling with any finance-related matters?
Why is it important to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees?
It is of course the ethical thing to do to ensure all employees are well looked after during working hours. But the company itself can also benefit from having a fit and healthy workforce, in some of the following ways:
When an employee takes time off sick, it ultimately costs the business. Their work may have to be outsourced or redistributed internally (which will impact productivity). Sickness is far more likely to occur when workers are struggling with any of the aforementioned pillars. They’ll also be more likely to leave the company if they’re not happy at work, which will lead to increased recruitment costs. With more legislation coming into place around wellbeing too, businesses can be hit with substantial fines if they don’t act accordingly.
If an employee is not feeling well, it’s not very likely they’ll produce their best work. Whereas, if they’re feeling energised, they’re better equipped to make a significant contribution. If they find their work to be fulfilling, motivation will be higher as well. And if they can see that the business cares about their wellbeing, they’ll probably take greater pride in giving something back.
Less toxic culture
When most of the workforce feel like they’re under pressure, it’s more difficult for healthy relationships to be maintained. When a toxic culture exists, it can stifle successful collaboration. And ineffective collaboration will ultimately lead to fewer positive outcomes. Whereas when everyone in the workplace is in a positive mindset, there’s less chance of conflict occurring.
The morale of employees can be felt by customers and clients when they have direct communication. If staff are generally having a bad time at home and at work, they are far more likely to pass on negative feelings to important partners. However, when they’re feeling happy and healthy, they will transmit a positive signal. The quality of customer service and products created will also be higher in this scenario too, leading to better customer outcomes.
Keep up with the times
By not embracing the cultural shift towards wellbeing, there’s an increased risk your business will be left behind. If former workers leave negative reviews, this will have reputational consequences too. If prospective employees view your business as outdated in this regard, it will be difficult to attract the best talent. However, if you embrace the changing culture, it could provide a competitive advantage, and keep your business ahead of the times (just when Generation Z are shaping the future of the workplace).
How to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace
Encourage a good work/life balance
Employees that overwork are at risk of burning out. If they don’t have enough time to switch off, then they’ll never feel rested, and probably won’t be as productive. A balanced lifestyle is important, and new ways of working have made this more attainable. Flexible working allows people to work around their personal life, if, for example, they need to pick up their children from school. Being able to do this will undoubtedly reduce stress. The rise of remote working and hybrid working has also improved the work/life relationship because workers have more free time in the evenings (rather than having to commute). This time could be used to cook healthier meals or to be physically active.
Pay employees fairly
Employees should be reimbursed fairly for the work they do. It may seem tempting as an employer to save money by offering the lowest possible salary. But it’s better for both the individual and the business in the long run if they are paid well. As a result, they will have a better quality of life. And with fewer financial worries, it’s possible they will be more focused and less stressed at work. They will also feel more valued, which plays a part in their motivation, loyalty, and general attitude.
Create a wellbeing network
You should look to create a dedicated network for employees when it comes to wellbeing matters. The idea would be that employees who are struggling with any aspect of health and wellbeing then have somebody they can reach out to, and a place they can log concerns if they think there’s more the company could be doing. On top of this, businesses could partner with well-known charities so that staff can access professional help if they need it.
Organise socials outside of work
Many people have suffered from some form of isolation/loneliness during the shift to remote working and virtual meetings. Businesses should of course allow staff to work on premises when it is possible (and safe) to do this. But it should also be a priority to arrange regular meetups outside of working hours. Not only does this provide people with the social interactions that benefit their mental health, but it also helps to form greater bonds among teams (so that they can better work together during professional hours). This could be something as simple as encouraging a monthly meal or drinks gathering.
Provide health incentives
There are plenty of ways for companies to incentivise a healthy lifestyle for their workers. They could provide employee benefits or financial help, with things like gym memberships, medical/dental treatment, or perhaps discounts on health-related products/healthy food. They could also set up sports teams, which encourages employees to lead an active lifestyle after work. Creating a company running club or football team, for example, is a great way for employees to blow off some steam after a busy day.
Offer a clear career path
Staff should be shown a clear career path when they join the business (or start a new role). This journey should be outlined in detail, showing exactly what they must do to reach each step along the way. By having this progression and clear goals, it helps them to develop into more highly skilled workers. It also provides them with reassurance, confidence, and purpose, as they know they are working towards something better. The company could fund courses and provide extra training along the way, so that resources and finances don’t become an obstacle.
Make work seamless
This isn’t to say that work shouldn’t be challenging, or that employees shouldn’t be trying their utmost each day. It’s more that they shouldn’t have any unnecessary hurdles that could impede them. Processes should be as streamlined and as efficient as possible. When efficiency is high, and the workforce have the necessary tools at their disposal, stress and discontentment can be reduced. Responsibilities and hierarchies should be structured rationally, so that each individual has a manageable workload. It’s important to embrace the latest technologies (given the importance of employee engagement). This empowers them to complete their work to the highest standard.
Which technology can assist with health and wellbeing?
In terms of providing the right tools, it’s worth seeking out the latest software solutions in your field. If, for example, you have a finance or HR team, there are dedicated accounting and HR sustems that can automate many of the manual tasks and solve the most common challenges within these realms.
But it’s important to go one step further than this when it comes to health and wellbeing. Many businesses have adopted cloud-based systems and instant-messaging services during the pandemic, to ensure employees can stay well connected and up to date. Not only this, but there are solutions specifically designed for productivity and task management (so that workers can remain on track and in control).
At Advanced we provide a platform called MyWorkplace. It integrates with your most used systems, bringing them together in one place, and with a single sign-on. MyWorkplace has snippets of functionality from each system, on one screen. So, your most pressing tasks can be actioned instantly, without the need to navigate in and out of multiple systems. Task prioritisation becomes simple, and there’s clarity around performance too thanks to useful dashboards.
MyWorkplace integrates with our Cloud-based accounting software, Advanced Financials, and our HR software, Advanced HR, meaning tasks such as booking/approving annual leave, submitting expenses, raising purchase orders, or buying office supplies, can all be done at the click of a button.
If you’re invested in the health and wellbeing of your employees, be sure to read more about our game-changing workplace productivity tool, MyWorkplace. This system is perfect for HR and finance teams who are looking to increase productivity through streamlined daily tasks.