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Clare Avery

e-days Absence Management

HR Manager

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Wellbeing at work: why we need a culture shift, not just a policy change


Wellbeing isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ – it should be a core part of your employee strategy. Here, we look at the business drivers for this and how to implement good wellbeing practices in your organisation.

Bereavement, sleep loss, relationship issues, stress, anxiety and depression – these are just some of the common mental health issues that could affect anyone at any time.

If any member of your team is currently dealing with one of these issues, then it will have an impact on your business.

In this article, I’ll explore ways you can create a wellbeing culture shift in your business, because if you want your business to become a wellbeing wonderland, you do need a big shift. This is one area where a simple policy change just won’t cut it.

Why your business needs a wellbeing culture shift

According to mental health charity Mind, one in four people will suffer from a mental health problem each year.

In England, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem in a given week.

According to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), absence from work for mental health reasons equates to 57.3% of all absences.

Some examples of business drivers for wellbeing

Wellbeing in the workplace is not just about creating an absence of illness. It’s about creating wellness, through championing a combination of good physical health and good mental wellbeing.

The specific driver for wellbeing in your business will depend on who you are and what you do.

When it comes to wellbeing in the workplace, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. You need to tailor things for your team and your business.

You’ll have to take a number of factors into consideration, including the size of your team and your available budget.

Here are some business drivers for wellbeing that you might want to think about:

  • Paid leave: go beyond maternity leave and offer generous parental leave for men and women. That way, couples can decide whether one or both parents take on the caring responsibilities.
  • Carer policy: in our aging society, increasing numbers of people need to take care of elderly relatives. Your care policy should reflect this. With generous leave and entitlement, employees will be able to take time off to meet any kind of carer responsibility.
  • Financial security: employees cannot be their best selves if they’re constantly worrying about money. A generous salary, and a commitment to paying a living wage, is a strong driver for wellbeing. You could even go deeper, offering budgeting tips and other financial advice to any employees who request it.
  • Employee engagement: there are strong links between employee engagement and workplace wellbeing. Set clear guidelines and offer plenty of training and development opportunities. Let every employee know what part they have to play in helping achieve your business’s vision. This will make them feel valued, empowered, and more willing to invest their time and energy in any wellbeing scheme you introduce.

How to find the driver of wellbeing in your business

You’re creating a culture shift, not a policy. You can’t expect to introduce a few measures and see a change overnight.

When it comes to wellbeing in the workplace, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. You need to tailor things for your team and your business.

Start by taking the time to understand your organisation and your people. Talk to your team. What do people want from their working world? What’s stressing them out? Have they got any ideas for how things might be improved?

Make it clear to your employees that their views matter, and that you’ll take their feedback onboard.

Finally, you need to create a vision for the future – your long-term goal. How do you want your business to look 10 years from now? What sort of changes will indicate that your wellbeing culture shift has been a success?

Some budget-friendly ideas for setting the wellbeing wheels in motion

Many of the world’s most successful businesses like to shout about their wellbeing cultures. They talk about things like unlimited leave, full-size basketball courts, travel allowances, and luxury kitchens filled with delicious and nutritious food.

The world’s most successful companies will do whatever it takes to promote a culture of wellbeing – because they can afford to.

You might not be able to afford such extravagant and elaborate schemes, but there’s still a lot you can do to set the wellbeing wheels in motion in your business.

Create ways or places for everyone to talk

Did you ever hear the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved?

Many people who suffer from mental health issues suffer in silence. Many don’t want to talk about their issues because they don’t want to be a burden.

We spend the vast majority of our waking lives at work. Managers, HR teams and other decision makers have an obligation to ensure that there’s nothing in the workplace that compromises anyone’s wellbeing.

Go for an open-door policy at work. Make it clear that anyone can come and talk about anything at any time, and that everything will be strictly confidential and absolutely non-judgmental.

Time to switch off

If you want to avoid overwork and burnout, you need to move away from the always-on, 24/7 mindset.

Make it clear to all employees that work must stop the second it gets to 5pm (or whenever your business stops working). Clearly communicate that you don’t expect any employees to take phone calls or check their emails out of work hours.

Mental health training

There are many stigmas associated with mental health, largely because many mental health conditions are widely misunderstood. You can change that.

Mental health toolkits for your managers can help them to spot the signs of suffering, and equip them to handle any situation. Similarly, a mental health first-aid course for the entire team can dispel many myths, and make everyone aware of what’s at stake.

The business case for wellbeing in the workplace

It’s estimated that sick leave costs UK employers around £29bn each year. There’s a strong business case for anything that could help to reduce unplanned absences in the workplace.

This isn’t the only business case for a wellbeing culture shift:

  • Productivity: the key to productivity is understanding how people can perform to the best of their ability. Understanding and supporting mental health could allow your employees to reach their full potential.
  • Attraction: want to attract and retain the top talent for your business? People will be drawn to your workplace if they feel it will be beneficial to them and their personal lives.
  • Resilience: resilient employees can rise to any challenge, and bounce back from any failure, but not many people are born resilient. Maybe we should be helping people to build it, not just expect to recruit it.
  • Compliance: the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are considering implementing more requirements on businesses to report on and support mental health. With a mental health culture, you can satisfy these requirements long before they become mandatory.

Wellbeing – well, why?

We spend the vast majority of our waking lives at work. Managers, HR teams and other decision makers have an obligation to ensure that there’s nothing in the workplace that compromises anyone’s wellbeing. By paying close attention to your wellbeing strategy, you can ensure that your employees are fully equipped to make your business a success.

Interested in this topic? Read Five simple stages to creating a wellbeing strategy that drive positive business results.

Author Profile Picture
Clare Avery

HR Manager

Read more from Clare Avery
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