Diane Coolican: Employee Wellbeing is Not Optional

The old redwoods in California that have seen many generations pass by
The old redwoods in California that have retained their health long enough to outlast generations

One in four employees in the UK suffers from workplace stress. That is an alarming statistic, given that 75 percent of UK employers believe that they have a role to play in employee wellbeing.

More surprising then, is the fact that only a quarter of employers offer an established health and wellness programme to their employees.

So, where is the gap, dare we ask?

Budgets

Budgets serve as a prime culprit, when it comes to investing in employee wellness. Many organisations tend to respond – and respond well – to wellness related problems when they arise. However, the lack of an adequate budget to put an all-encompassing employee wellness programme into place prevents organisations from tackling issues before they begin to seriously impact employee health, and in turn, affect performance.

However, while budgets play a role, often it can be a limited view of team development that keeps an organisation from investing in its employees. It also hardly helps that frequently employees feel pressured to put tasks and deadlines before their own health and wellbeing – both mental and physical – perpetuating the cycle of workplace stress.

But why is employee wellbeing, to any extent, the responsibility of their employer? After all, most employees know what they are signing up for when they take up a potentially demanding role.

Development 

What many companies, and those leading them, fail to understand is that wellbeing is an important aspect of team development. In fact, it is critical to employee retention. Research has shown that a third of workers are likely to switch employers due to poor workplace wellbeing. If you are committed to developing a sustainable, dedicated, and productive team, employee wellbeing needs to be on the cards – especially in a day and age where most international brands with a share of voice, be it Google, Virgin or Coca-Cola, are actively promoting healthy behaviour in the workplace.

Moreover, this change of perspective needs to come from the top. To be able to take the first steps towards achieving employee wellbeing, it is business leaders who need to see employee wellbeing differently – instead of seeing it as a “nice to have”, they need to see it as a necessity to ensure that workplace stress is reduced and employees are healthy and engaged.

Morale

While I have cited some renowned global brands, boosting team morale does not necessarily look the same at all companies – i.e. it does not have to be conducted on a very large scale right away or cost millions of pounds. Adopt an approach to employee wellbeing that works for you and the individuals in your teams. Regardless of the size of your business, it is an essential part of building a company where employees feel valued.

Therefore, see employee wellbeing as a form of talent management and retention. Doing simple things like offering flexible work schedules, making healthy snacks available, or offering them a certain amount of “creative time” every month, during which they can network, attend interesting events or learn a new skill, can make a world of a difference to how employees feel – and perform.

Culture

Having said that, company leadership and senior management play an integral role in maintaining employee wellbeing, it is important to drive a culture that promotes employee wellness across the organisation, where employees at all levels encourage each other to put their health and wellbeing first. In such an environment, employee wellness initiatives are a lot quicker to implement and far easier to sustain.

When a report suggests that more than half (57 percent) of UK employees have encountered mental health problems while in employment and one in five claims that their working environment has a negative impact on their health, we have a problem. There is a real need to address the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees to help them be the best they can and benefit your business in the long run.

Put simply, ensuring employee wellbeing is more than just providing a benefits package – it is a way of working that is likely to produce successful employees, and consequently, a successful business.

Diane Coolican is a leadership development specialist and Managing Director at Redsky Learning, a specialist learning and development consultancy based in Leeds. For more information on Redsky Learning, please visit: http://www.redskylearning.com/.

 

About Robert Leeming

Robert joined the HRreview editorial team in October 2015. After graduating from the University of Salford in 2009 with a BA in Politics, Robert has spent several years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past he has been part of editorial teams at Flux Magazine, Mondo*Arc Magazine and The Marine Professional.
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