WELLBEING IN THE WORKPLACE: FAD, FALLACY OR FORWARD THINKING?
Wellbeing. It has to be one of the business buzzwords of the moment. And to be honest, even the term ‘buzzword’ can be a bit off-putting. Isn’t wellbeing just a faddish relative of clean eating and green juices, Brain Gym for kids in the classroom and corporate yoga for their grown-up relatives? We’re certainly not denying that elements of workplace wellbeing can seem like a corporate version of fashion victimhood, and just because the likes of Google can hand out massage credits doesn’t mean that this will be realistic or affordable for smaller organisations. But plenty of corporate wellbeing practices are rooted in common sense and caring principles – and can generate a whole host of positive benefits
for the business as a whole as well as for employees. Here are three key areas that we think a good wellbeing programme should cover – and some ideas for what you might implement in each.
1. MENTAL HEALTH MANAGEMENT
While we still have a long way to go, mental health has never been talked about so openly in this country, and this has to be a good thing. According to the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, one in six people in the past week will have experienced a common mental health problem, underlining just how prevalent issues like depression and anxiety can be. Mental health problems can be devastating on an individual level, dramatically affecting people’s abilities to enjoy or even carry out their day-to-day work – and this, in turn, means that mental health is an important employer issue too.
We certainly don’t want to imply that workplace wellbeing strategies are a suitable substitute for proper medical attention in the case of mental illness. However, making it clear that your workplace prioritises staff happiness and security; introducing strategies to help individuals manage their workloads in the most appropriate way for them; and paying attention to factors like rest, mindfulness and good physical health, can certainly all help to support positive mental health in your workplace.
Happier workers are, generally speaking, more productive workers, and powerful brand ambassadors to boot.
In practice, mental health strategies might include creating break-out rest areas, which have been shown to improve creative thinking and ideas generation, introducing scheduled meditation or time out, and creating a structured programme of mentoring to ensure that members of staff always know what they are working towards and where they can go for support if they are struggling.
2. PHYSICAL WELLBEING
This is perhaps the aspect of workplace wellbeing that most often springs to mind, thanks to the rise and rise of corporate exercise classes, and many larger organisations offering healthy food and snacks as a matter of course. But you don’t need to be a huge business to make this sort of thing work. Sure, you might not be able to operate a full-scale canteen, but providing fresh fruit bowls, proper water coolers, good-quality tea and coffee and perhaps a free, light breakfast is pretty simple and cost-effective. Corporate yoga has become something of a cliché – yet because of that, an instructor will be available in almost every town or city to visit your office and take staff through a class that supports physical and mental wellbeing. Or what about starting an office sports team? Cycle to Work schemes are also becoming increasingly popular, and are a great way of helping staff to build exercise into their regular routines, while also saving money and stress on a regular commute.
As this organisation shows, focusing on the physical health of your staff can have a wide range of knock-on benefits, including fewer staff absences, clearer thinking and lower staff turnover – all of which of course have a direct impact on productivity and the bottom line.
3. WORK/LIFE BALANCE
This aspect of workplace wellbeing focuses on ensuring that staff can properly balance their home and work lives, and don’t feel that their leisure or family time is negatively impacted by work commitments. Mobile connectivity and tools like videoconferencing platforms mean that it has never been easier to facilitate flexible and home working, while allowing staff time off for volunteering, or to build up additional days of leave after certain periods of service can demonstrate your understanding of their life beyond the office. Sabbatical programmes after several years of service are growing in popularity too; they are a fantastic way of both developing staff loyalty and enabling your staff to try new experiences, broaden their horizons – and bring those learnings back to the office.
Doubtless, some aspects of corporate wellbeing strategies have become as clichéd as posters with cross-sections of icebergs proclaiming hidden depths. But let’s face it – clichés emerge through repeated exposure. We might well roll our eyes at the notion of another office fruit bowl or yoga class – but underneath it is an approach to employee health and happiness that can reap multiple rewards.