Achieving that perfect balance between your career and home life has always been a challenge. When employees have more control over their lives, instead of juggling the stresses of work and family, they are able to leave work issues in work, and home problems at home. Emotionally balanced employees also feel more valued and motivated – in turn this can lead to increased overall productivity for the company. Wellbeing is not a perk, it's a strategy too; and potentially a win-win situation.

Companies who build a reputation for themselves by supporting work-life balance, are quickly becoming very appealing to prospective candidates and on a somewhat cynical (but practical) note, it's a great PR strategy too. Not only this, it has been shown that companies who place an emphasis on employee wellbeing achieve a higher employee retention rate and increased employee loyalty. With so many benefits to be gained from encouraging a healthy balance for your team, you’re probably itching to get started – the following article will outline some tips and strategies for those working in HR and for employees themselves, to help create and maintain wellbeing in the work place.

Exercise

One of the best ways to increase the feel-good factor for staff is through exercise!

According to recent health studies, every able-bodied adult should participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Employees who exercise are also less likely to miss workdays due to being ill. It’s now common for office buildings to have some sort of gym facility on site – encourage your employees to take advantage of this! If you aren’t lucky enough to have a gym on your doorstep, consider offering your staff a discounted membership.  

Exercise has also been proven in dozens of studies to be beneficial for mental health as well as physical health – the two often go hand in hand. This in turn is great for work morale, productivity and general energy levels & enthusiasm of staff.  If you don’t have a gym in or nearby work – consider an outdoor exercise intervention; as research suggests that exercising outdoors has mental health benefits above that normally experienced with exercise indoors.

Movement is so important for the human body (and mind) to function correctly, that it cannot be overstated.  If space allows bring in a Tai Chi or yoga teacher.  Sitting all day is such an issue that Dr. James Levine stated:

"Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death"

A lot of people will not have time to exercise when they get home – so the more it can be promoted in work, the better for your staff and your company.
 

Be Parent Friendly

Many of your employees may be parents, and parenting duties have to travel to the workplace occasionally. Try to allow some flexibility for employees to care for their children, such as a flexible start or end time for those who have to do the school run.

You can also consider offering your employees a childcare service discount to help manage the practicalities of caring for children during the workday. If your company offers a high level of flexibility for parents, this is often rewarded by staff loyalty in return.

Making the workplace more parent-friendly can be as simple as offering 30 minutes flexi-time on Fridays, allowing people to beat the traffic and start the weekend earlier.  It’s surprising how many businesses stick to the traditional 9 til 5, even though their business model is in no way relevant to a 5pm finish.

One thing that I recently learned to appreciate is onsite car parking. If an office with nearby parking is available, it is a massive 'plus' for working parents.  A long commute can be stressful for anyone, and after a long drive it can take a significant toll on morale if you have to fight for a space in an inner-city multi storey car park and pay £5 to £10 a day for the privilege – something to consider when looking for a new office building.

 

Remote Working 

Remote working has a number of benefits for the environment, the employer and the employee. Employees avoid the commute to work – saving time and money. The journey to and from work, can in some cases take hours and be more stressful than the job itself, making remote working a potentially huge advantage for employees.  

There is also some research to suggest that remote workers are actually more productive because they have fewer interruptions. Business owners can work from home and still create a professional image, with a virtual office address and even a virtual receptionist service. 

The only downside for some people is that it can be difficult to place a psychological boundary between work and home & family life. There are a number of ways to overcome this, for example, you can set aside an area that is specifically designated for work. You can even 'fake a commute' home, by stepping outside and taking a walk for 20 minutes at the end of your working day. Set your intention to switch to 'family-life-mode' as you approach the front door on the way back.

 

Chill Out Zones

Every employee has a bad day every so often; for those times when everything is getting too much, wouldn’t it be nice to have a quiet corner to spend five minutes in? Create a pleasant space in the office where employees can take a breather. Try decorating the space with plants and comfy seats, maybe even provide some light reading. Make this a place of solitude to slip away to for five minutes when the world gets too much.  Having an area which is 'safe' from work stresses, can have a significant positive impact on staff wellbeing.

If a chill out zone isn’t a realistic prospect in your office – consider adding some plants.  This may sound ridiculously simple, but an office enriched with plants has been shown to do wonders for staff morale, productivity and even air quality.  In fact, Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University concluded that employees were 15% more productive when bare offices were enriched with houseplants.

 

 

Team Building Activities

You may dread the words “team building day” – but they really do encourage a sense of camaraderie around the office! When your employees bond and feel like they can depend on each other, they can support each other and express how they’re feeling when emotions associated with stress get too much. Try to mix it up from the usual conference activities and include an activity that everyone will enjoy. A hike, a FIFA XBox competition or a visit to the pub – make these get-togethers optional so people can choose something that suits them and their interests.

Team building activities onsite can be a great way to make it easier for people as they don't have to worry about what time they will get home and how they will commute to the team building activity 'centre'.  For example, watching the big football match or the Olympics in the office, can be a great way to build some comradery without people having to go out of their way or their normal routine.

Is there anyone better than your employees to ask when you’re working out what they want in the workplace? We didn’t think so. Hold a monthly meeting and find out what challenges your team has in trying to maintain a work-life balance, you may even come up with some collaborative ideas!

 

Supportive Colleagues

In all the buzz around wellbeing in the office, it's easy to forget the fundamentals. According to the "polyvagal theory", people get burntout because they are not in an environment that they feel safe and secure in. If you are around people who constantly engage in vicious gossip and you have a manager with an erratic temperament, you are not likely to feel relaxed at work. Encourage a culture that promotes supportive relationships and teach employees productive ways to vent stress.

 

 

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