Create a programme that helps people breathe, restore and regroup
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, employee wellbeing has become a hot topic. It sometimes seems that forward-looking companies can no longer function without yoga classes and a mindfulness app.
However well meaning, however, this idea can become something of a token gesture, attracting more headlines than long-term participants. The fact is it’s much easier to negotiate a corporate gym membership to tick a box on the action plan than to give people real influence over their own mental and physical health.
A holistic employee wellbeing strategy for the workplace should cover a range of areas, including company values and purpose, emotional health, community connections, financial peace of mind, social support, career management and, of course, physical wellbeing. Done well, it will pay dividends for both employee and employer.
Values and purpose
First get the fundamentals right. The fact is that people increasingly want to work for an organisation that reflects their values. Without this basic alignment, you will always struggle to genuinely engage them. This applies to both existing and new employees – and will play a huge part in the battle to attract top talent in a post-pandemic jobs marketplace.
The good news is that employers who can demonstrate their commitment to the whole employee – not just the person they see in the office from 9-5 – will retain a significant advantage over those who continue to treat its staff as expendable cogs in the machine.
Of course we have long appreciated the importance of mental health support, but the pandemic has placed this firmly in the spotlight. It’s no surprise that people are feeling more stressed than ever.
The implications for companies go way beyond a sympathetic ear from managers and a third-party helpline to call. Inclusion and flexibility policies, new leadership styles, practical childcare arrangements, tailored work plans, and workplace design changes are just some of the areas where you can have a dramatic impact.
Some companies have always valued their roots in the community, while others seem to treat relations with their neighbours as an irksome item in the annual report. Finding the right local partners – whether schools, charities or community groups – and making a binding commitment that benefits both parties is the key to a successful, sustained partnership.
It takes work, but the results can be stunning in terms of employee engagement and retention, local support for the organisation and, of course social and environmental improvements.
Financial peace of mind
It’s no surprise that money worries dominate most employees’ concerns about work. Insecurity caused by the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem – and has led many people to consider alternative employment that might be more lucrative or dependable. The wise employer will recognise the human impact of such problems and take action accordingly. This doesn’t necessarily mean increasing salaries but may involve services such as providing emergency credit that an employee can offset against future income.
Much emphasis has been placed on the ‘watercooler effect’ that many employees have missed during lockdowns, furlough and working from home. The social benefits of a shared working environment and all the personal interactions it nurtures, have been sorely missed. After all, many of us make our most meaningful, lasting friendships at work. And this has a beneficial knock-on effect for employers, in terms of reduced absenteeism, higher quality of work and fiercer loyalty to the company.
Smart employers are busy creating new structures and systems for flexible or home workers, to help them connect virtually and in real life and to remind them of the broader benefits of being part of a working community.
All kinds of events cause us to reassess our career priorities – from having a child to discovering a new passion. The pandemic is no exception and many workers have responded to upheaval by reassessing their options.
For companies who want to retain and recruit the best people, this means developing a broad set of talent policies including adaptable compensation packages, more attractive learning and development opportunities, easier internal transfers, online courses and skills training.
A few years ago, corporate thinking on physical wellness extended to the gym and back. Today it encompasses a range of issues, from exercise to nutrition to sleep. Maybe people don’t automatically look to their employer for lifestyle advice, but in fact the workplace is an ideal setting to learn good habits.
From desk ergonomics to healthy lunches, from exercise classes to expert guidance, companies are becoming proactive and imaginative in the ways they encourage their staff to stay healthy and positive.
See the results
Wellbeing covers a broad spectrum, but by developing and implementing a well-considered, comprehensive programme, you can dramatically improve a range of metrics including job satisfaction, performance at work and company loyalty, while reducing absenteeism and churn rate.
What’s more, you don’t just help people achieve a more stable yoga pose. Rather, you give them meaningful control of their work/life balance – and reap the benefits of a more productive, more motivated workforce.