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Nick Shaw


HR consultant

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Why wellbeing in the workplace is a joint effort


Creating a culture of wellbeing should be a collaborative effort: employers should empower staff to become happier and more productive.

Wellbeing at work is a hot topic. Everywhere you look there are new suggestions for employers on how they can support employees’ mental, physical, financial and emotional wellbeing.

While getting employers on board is vital in creating a happier work environment, it is also up to employees to take responsibility for their own sense of wellness. 

The concept of wellness and wellbeing are hard to define and can mean different things to different people, but broadly speaking they cover a person’s physical, mental and emotional health.

Employees need to actively engage with the benefits on offer to ensure that what companies are offering their staff is both beneficial and useful.

As these areas can be impacted by a range of different issues, there are lots of ways employers can choose to help improve their employees’ wellbeing.

However, simply putting schemes in place is not enough to turn the tide when it comes to stress and mental health. Employees need to actively engage with the benefits on offer to ensure that what companies are offering their staff is both beneficial and useful.

Getting it right

Creating a positive work environment can go a long way in helping to stem the financial consequences of an unhappy or stressed workforce, from sick days to lack of productivity as well as staff turnover and the cost of replacements.

Importantly, many millennials and the incoming Generation Z workforce want to work for forward-thinking companies that care about creating a positive and supportive work environment for their staff.

Wellness is a key part of this offering and employers should be offering benefits such as flexible working, yoga or team lunches as a way of attracting and retaining staff.

However, there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to wellbeing. There are numerous different options available to companies and finding the right one takes time. What a company decides to go for should fit with its culture, office space and, crucially, the personalities of its staff.

Knowing what will work for everyone can be a challenge. What seems like a great idea to one person may not work when rolled out across the whole team. For example, if office yoga is on Monday mornings, people may rather catch up on weekend emails instead of taking time out.

Equally, encouraging employees to eat away from their desks is all well and good, but companies must make sure they provide an alternative setting to make it work. Finding the practical solutions to the initiatives on offer is an important part of the wellbeing process.

Two-way communication

Communication between employees and employers is vital in making sure that the benefits on offer are actually working. Managers who set up wellness initiatives won’t know what has proved beneficial or not unless they have feedback from staff.

While it is the employer’s responsibility to offer opportunities for wellbeing and follow through with their ideas, employees also need to be willing to try the activities on offer and willingly offer their thoughts on what may need improving.

By providing feedback, be it through a manager catch up or on a company survey, wellness programmes will become more effective and suitable, making for a happier and more productive office.

Understanding individual personalities and motivators will help in producing useful, tailored wellness schemes that can reduce stress and encourage overall wellbeing.

For example, if no one raises the fact that the lunchroom is not big enough to accommodate everyone, people will continue to eat at their desk. Making sure there is open communication and a strong partnership between staff and the business is the only way to ensure change.

Companies should also work to find out exactly what it is their staff actually want from a wellbeing package. For employers, understanding individual personalities and motivators will help in producing useful, tailored wellness schemes that can reduce stress and encourage overall wellbeing.

Some employees may need a nudge when they’re facing stressful situations, while others are more self-aware of when things are getting on top of them.

This insight and recognising how different employees react to different pressures and situations will not only make sure wellness programmes are suited to their workforce, but that each individual in the business is catered for.

In addition, if employees are given access to their own personality types and motivators, they will also be more involved in the opportunities on offer.

For example, for someone who works best during the middle of the day, taking a long lunch away from their desk is likely to disrupt their productivity. However, that same person may find mornings unproductive and so want to counteract that by getting involved with morning yoga.

If both the employer and individual understand these unique attitudes, the wellness programmes available will be far more effective and successful.

Opening up communication between employees, management and HR also enables companies to come up with ideas that fit with their corporate identity.

Effective programmes

There is little doubt that effective schemes can help reduce stress and improve both mental and physical health. This can go a long way in creating a happier and more productive environment that not only encourages employees to stay put, but also makes the company more appealing to the incoming generation of new workers.

Employers can do a lot to support employee wellbeing and management should lead by example, championing wellbeing from top down, but for it to truly work it needs to have buy-in from the whole company.

When employees get involved and figure out what works best for them, wellness initiatives are transformed into a truly effective tool. Employees that understand themselves will also be able to take greater advantage of the opportunities on offer. The result will be an engaged workforce and greater morale, productivity and retention levels.

In a nutshell, taking a two-way approach to wellness will also ensure the programmes have maximum impact for everyone in the company, creating a workplace that has a positive approach to wellness embedded in its culture.

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Nick Shaw

HR consultant

Read more from Nick Shaw

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