Wellbeing at work has gained immense traction over the past decade and many companies have strategies in place to varying degrees but like all things, these need to evolve.
In today’s modern world, everyone is under increasing daily pressures and demands and it can often be the case that employee wellbeing is what is forgotten about first. A health-conscious and ‘well’ workforce will abundantly benefit your organisation, including less absences, greater productivity, higher morale, as well as promoting your brand reputation as being an employer who cares.
Having a health and wellbeing strategy is a fantastic achievement, however the term ‘wellbeing’ is rather broad and often used to cover generic mental and physical health. In order to empower staff, workplace wellbeing needs to change in order to keep up with the changing trends, especially that of prevention rather than treatment.
Here are 4 ways workplace wellbeing may change in the new decade.
People are remaining in work longer than they ever have before. A combination of an aging population, increasing numbers of women returning/remaining at work after having children and Gen-Z entering the workplace are a few of the key demographics making an impact. Your organisation will likely consist of different generations, ages, familial constraints and responsibilities and with these different generations, comes a diverse range of needs.
One way to provide support which all can benefit from will be to devise an inclusive and holistic wellbeing strategy. Health concerns, individual chronic illness and caring responsibilities for a loved one are situations which we can’t predict whether or not they will happen to us. But, by ensuring your staff have a programme to fall back on in times of need will pave the way in creating a positive surrounding whereby absence does not profusely impact productivity.
Budgets are tight for everyone and having absent or sick employees isn’t going to help this financial squeeze. A survey conducted by the CIPD found that sickness absence currently costs a business £522 per employee per year, in lost working hours, reduced output and time spent by other employees trying to compensate for them.
However, you do not need to necessarily worry about having support in place for all of your headcount. Instead, have an initiative or process which can be quickly implemented and adapted should the need for it arise. Perhaps you could stand out even further by extending policies to cover family members, including dependants and children. Not only will having support prevent you from being on the backfoot, but it could prevent unforeseen costs due to Ill-health – for them or a family member. One research identified that indirect costs of poor employee health may be several times higher than the actual costs of medical care.
Moreover, handling delicate matters of long-term illness which cause either a physical or mental impairment (such as cancer) fall under the Equality Act 2010, so not only will training and support programmes improve how sensitive matters are handled, but your business will also be acting in-line with the law.
2. Work-life balance
The business landscape has changed in recent years and the relationship between employer and employee has altered. Sequentially, the requisite of having a work-life balance has become a key consideration for people when job prospecting. Aon’s Benefits and Trends survey found that 97% of employees expect flexible working hours and 94% expect to have more agile/home working as part of their role.
What has caused this fundamental change in outlook? By and large, technology has been an instrumental enabler of the modern workplace, as business and staff can work from anywhere, at any time (if their business allows), so long as they have an internet connection. Not only has this altered the requirement for everyone to be in the same location at the same time, but it has supported different generations and demographics (such as parents) to be able to fit work around childcare and other commitments such as attending Doctor appointments.
However, one negative is that employees can find it difficult to switch off from work due to their laptop, emails and phone being within easy reach. This interconnected world is causing employees to not switch off for long enough in order to rest and reset themselves for the next working day. This lack of personal focus could cause them to become run-down, stressed and ill which will impact their level of output and productivity in the short and long-term.
The Everyday Health Tracker found that almost 1 in 3 people working full time feel the demands of work are a key reason for not being able to follow NHS health guidelines on the amount of exercise they do and eating a healthy diet.
To encourage the right balance, your management team and company ethos could place a focus on employees getting the job done well, rather than being concerned with the number of hours and set times people work.
Beware, you won’t solve the issue of work-life balance simply by supplying an attractive benefits package. Instead, create an authentic environment where employees can fit in fitness routines and attending medical appointments around their work. This will help instil and maintain this culture which will aid in improving staff retention, motivation, advocacy and productivity.
Employee experience is an important issue and consideration. As a business, you should be demonstrating that you value the health and wellbeing of your employees and are evolving business practices to meet these expectations. A proportionate number of firms provide a variety of benefits for their staff but perhaps this isn’t always needed. The employee benefits market is saturated. It’s easy to be distracted or misguided by the latest service or product to hit the market.
However, focusing on quality over quantity will help you get the most value out of your benefits package. It doesn’t matter what size business you are and budgets you have, by having a select few programmes and not worrying about having benefits to address a variety of issues will work towards having a toolbox of support when the situation arises. It is probably time to take stock and look at what you are paying for and asking if they are bringing any value to your teams.
Generic health benefits are great but there is a gap when it comes to dealing with a specific illness or medical issue and the usual choice of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and Private Medical health Insurance (PMI) may not be able to substantially address these needs. Personalisation will be key in fixing this. For example, if someone was struggling with nutrition and body image after undergoing chemotherapy, do you have something which they could turn to for relevant advice? Alternatively, after treatment, the individual is often left to get on with things which can be a difficult and emotional journey. Enable them with 360degree care of they need it in order to protect them and your organisation.
A seismic shift in placing the individual in control of their own health, and that of their family’s will help reduce the burden and practicalities of caring for someone with a chronic illness and empower them by providing alternative and tailored resources in order to make an informed decision.
4. Leadership development
Investing in your employees can take many forms. Rather than focusing on fiscal benefits, how about training managers so they can confidently handle a medical diagnosis within their team? Provide programmes and coaching so that they can offer relevant and safe advice and support should their team need it.
For example, enable managers to be able to identify if a colleague is a working carer and support them through their journey with the help of a programme. Or develop their empathetic skills with someone who has an illness. Do they come across as genuinely wanting to help them and aren’t just checking up on performance?
Regarding returning to work, are managers able to be supportive and offer a phased return? Being mindful of symptoms and understanding how simple changes can help will aid a successful return.
When it comes to communications, establish a safe environment where employees can talk about an illness, family health or anxiety. Encourage a culture whereby mangers can converse and discuss matters amongst themselves within a community to support each other to deliver a consistent level of help and advice to staff.
Looking after all of the people within your business may seem an impossible and costly task but working on an inclusive offering will serve to empower your teams and pave the way in changing how people view their own health.
Tailored initiatives may be required to enable employees to deal with their different wellbeing issues but providing support for both employee and their family will further instil the focus your organisation places on personal health, as well as promoting your organisation to be a caring and socially responsible establishment.
Looking after your employee’s wellbeing should no longer be seen as an additional cost, but a sound business investment. The concept of Workplace Wellbeing has moved on from being a nice thing to do, to being the right thing to do and it’s extremely likely that businesses will continue to invest in this. Financial incentives are a fantastic benefit but what price can you put on the health of your staff?
Understanding how the health and wellbeing of your staff impact your business will help you in preparing a business case for having steps in place to help prevent negative repercussions from occurring.