FROM THE MOMENT WE RISE, OUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING IS AT THE CENTRE OF EVERYTHING WE DO.
The way we live, work and play all influence the way we feel and function. Looking after and supporting our health and wellbeing is essential in everyday life, and equally fundamental to help us soldier on when we’re faced with personal struggles, challenges at work, and more recently, a global pandemic!
Businesses and employees across the nation are having to adapt to a ‘new normal’ way of life - thanks Covid-19.
It’s important now, more than ever, to provide the right support to keep the health and wellbeing of your employees in check. Of course there’s the law too, a ‘duty of care’, to do what’s reasonable to meet minimum standards in the workplace.
But you might want to ask yourself, “is meeting the minimum standards reasonable enough?" Yes it might be cheaper and less hassle, but let’s just say that it was the other way round and all employees gave back to your business, in terms of results and productivity, was the minimum. Would that seem reasonable?
Didn't think so.
It’s much simpler and cost effective to maintain health and wellbeing than to try and fix it, you just need to look at the stats... The cost of absenteeism due to poor health and wellbeing is estimated to cost the UK economy a whopping £18 billion (Personnel Today) - that’s huge and a lot of hassle.
You don’t need to be a maths wizard to know these numbers are bad for business… and that was before Covid-19 came knocking.
If the high cost of absenteeism isn’t enough to demonstrate the importance of supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace, Covid-19 should’ve certainly done the trick. We’re in choppy, uncharted waters, trying to navigate our way through, and the health, safety and wellbeing of people is now a top priority for a positive ‘new normal’ employee experience.
Why does Health and Wellbeing Matter in the workplace?
When it comes to organisations the benefits of supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace, there are too many reasons to list. But from decades of research and tonnes of data collected, the highlights are that it can:
- Promote behaviour change
- Improve overall health and productivity
- Make a positive impact to the bottom line
Of course, it’s not just about the money, pandemics and legal obligations, today’s employees are after more than just a wage. Caring is an engaging quality that we look for in others, it’s only natural to look for it in the workplace too.
Businesses that support health and wellbeing inspire loyalty in their employees and attract new talent. A supportive experience in the workplace is remembered and appreciated, it creates a positive culture and longer-lasting connections, where people become advocates of your business and want to stick around.
To put it simply, if organisations want to be attractive and survive the next phase of this pandemic, businesses they must care and invest in the health and wellbeing of their people, to stay fit, to stay healthy and to keep thriving in the “new normal”.
WHEN 'S A GOOD TIME TO SUPPORT EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND WELLBEING?
If your goal is truly to put employees’ health and wellbeing first, then there’s never been a better time to start making a real effort and showing your support.
Leadership strategies should consider the needs of today, and plan for tomorrow. Health and wellbeing programmes should give careful consideration to the daily employee needs of employees, and provide clear guidance and processes to follow, especially in more extreme circumstances.
To promote, support and help prevent health and wellbeing issues, early intervention is best.
Leadership teams should be trained sufficiently to spot the tell-tale signs of when someone is struggling. It's super important to know when to step in, when to take a step back, and when you just need to offer a little extra support to lighten the load.
Team leaders and managers often have the best opportunities to discover an issues with open and supportive conversations, for example during 1-2-1's or regular check ins. This kind of dialogue can get to the heart of health and wellbeing issues fast, and before they get out of control.
There are times when negative impacts on health and wellbeing are beyond our control, such as personal life events... or a global pandemic...
These events can have a long-lasting, and devastating impact on our lives - scary to admit, but a very real fact that we need to be aware of, and prepared for.
Lockdown restrictions have affected all of our lives in some way, be that physically and/or mentally, this presents even bigger problems for those who are already suffering with mental health issues. A little extra care is needed now.
Aiming for a lighter note, there are joyous life events too! Like our first home, a wedding, or the arrival of beautiful bouncing babies! They can be the most beautiful and rewarding times of our lives, but if we’re realistic (and honest), even the most wonderful life events can leave us rung out emotionally and physically (and quite possibly financially), especially when we’re squeezing work in here too.
Providing health and wellbeing support during daily happenings, difficult times or important life events is crucial to help employees balance work with any health and wellbeing matters they may.
Health and wellbeing support should be available all the time, and be continuously improved to make a positive shift to an organisations’ culture.
HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT HEALTH AND WELLBEING IN THE WORKPLACE?
Listening, talking about, and promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace, will build trust and engagement. Starting with open conversations is the best way to lay the foundations for a supportive business culture.
Awareness of the need for health and wellbeing support in the workplace has been on the rise over the years, but Covid-19 has taken that awareness to another level. Yet it can still feel taboo to admit that we’re struggling with something. We all need safe spaces and platforms to connect, and we need human communication to remind us that it’s OK to not be OK!
Communicating regularly and providing engaging updates on matters of health and wellbeing in the workplace is so important. But be mindful that employees receive a lot of info, so make it easy to spot the good stuff. Create a different look, and certainly a different feel for health and wellbeing communications. The more they stand out and feel genuine, the more likely employees will read them.
Health and wellbeing packs are a great way to keep employees engaged and encourage healthy ways of living, especially now during Covid-19, and certainly for the future ‘new normal’. Resources like these are great at providing reassurance and encouraging employees to make behavioural changes and small improvements to their day-to-day lives. Wellbeing starts with self-regulation, but let’s be fair, sharing’s caring, and a few top tips and a helping hand, is always appreciated.
Let's talk variety
Try to offer a variety of wellbeing support for physical, mental and financial wellbeing - one can often impact the other, and it's important to provide the right support at the right time or we risk these issues spiralling out of control.
When it comes to our physical health you can explore options such as discounted gym memberships or cycle to work schemes. Weight management and a general lack of exercise has been a common lockdown theme for many of us - by providing these types of benefits you can not only improve your employees psychical health, but exercise is good for your mental outlook to! Plus, with a Cycle To Work scheme, you're helping your employees to avoid public transport, which is a ‘new normal’ need for some employees commuting in Covid-19.
Offer extra support for mental health, help break down barriers and create clubs for difficult conversations, invite expert speakers if you can, or simply put in place 'watercooler' chats to keep everyone connected.
All of the above is not to suggest for one moment that business leaders and HR managers must now become gurus in everything health and wellbeing, there’s expert Employee Assistance Programmes with professional support for that. These programmes can be seamlessly integrated into any business and help take the pressure off day to day struggles through BACP accredited counselling sessions and advice.
Health and wellbeing is complex, and we all have different needs at different times.
Unfortunately there isn't a one-stop shop solution and we definitely can’t just dip in and out when we feel like it.
We must make a long-term commitment to make a real change to the health and wellbeing culture in the ‘new normal’ workplace, and a genuine difference to the lives of our people.
Oh, and just for the record, you don’t need to throw a load of cash at it either. Care, show empathy, provide a safe platform for your employees to speak freely, and be prepared to listen – we can all do that right!?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” - Mahatma Gandhi