The focus on employee well-being by government and businesses reflects a growing realisation that happiness and well-being directly affect individual productivity, team harmony and ultimately business profitability.
As a result, more and more businesses are exploring ways to make their employees happier, healthier and generally more content with their employer and working conditions.
This really began as a significant movement in 2010 when the government launched the National Wellbeing programme in order to "start measuring our progress as a country, not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving; not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life".
As a result, a framework was developed with specific metrics that are designed to measure well-being. The metrics identified are either objectively measurable, or subjective states that individuals experience.
The objectively measurable metrics are markers such as life expectancy, unemployment levels, wage levels, etc. Whilst the subjective markers were concepts such as good connections with friends and family, health, job satisfaction and economic security.
The idea was to explore more rounded and inclusive ways to measure the progress of an entire nation rather than just using the cold, hard economic data to measure success and progress.
"The objective is to complement the more traditional economic measures used by policymakers and to provide an additional way to think about what we value and the progress we’re making as a society." - https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-wellbeing
Health and Wellbeing At Work
If we fast-forward a decade it is clear that well-being is now an important topic for UK businesses, however according to the research over half of employers still do not feel that they are effectively dealing with mental health, which is a huge part of well-being and corporate wellness!
A study by Barnett Waddingham in 2018 found that whilst 79% of organisations saw mental health as a priority, only 47% of organisations felt they were dealing with mental health effectively.
This was in light of the finding that 25% of people experience mental health issues EVERY YEAR!
When one considers that each year 25% of the general population will experience mental illness it is obvious that mental health will have a big impact on business in terms of absenteeism, productivity and office morale.
On the other hand, firms that take positive steps in terms of the well-being of their staff will be rewarded. Studies have shown that a focus on employee well-being increases employee happiness, engagement and productivity.
This suggests that employee well-being should be one of the core pillars of any business strategy - after all, without the people to drive the company forward how can it possibly grow to its full potential?
Employee Wellbeing & Workplace Wellbeing
When we talk about employee well-being it is important to be clear about what this actually means in real terms.
Historically, in less enlightened times, when the employer/employee relationship was perhaps more hierarchical, wellbeing at work was essentially all about making sure that employees were able to go home at the end of each day in one piece, that they hadn't been physically injured or exposed to unnecessary risks during the course of their work.
In the longer-term it also encompassed a concern for employees ongoing health and that they shouldn't be exposed hazardous materials or situations that could manifest in later life.
When we talk about employee wellbeing today we are referring to a much broader set of issues, which does include the physical safety of employees but also extends into the mental health realm and ultimately is about ensuring that staff are happy, healthy and optimistic about their work and working environment.
Whilst it is true that employers do in fact have limited influence over individual's well-being, as multiple influences contribute to a person’s feelings of health and happiness, it is also true that most employees spend more time at work than they do with their families and so it can be argued, convincingly, that employers, in reality, have a huge say in how a person feels about their life.
Taking external influences out of the equation, it is clear that employers have no real influence over an employee’s family circumstances, home environment, personal characteristics and attributes.
Staff Wellbeing – Factors in Health and Well-being at Work
Whilst employers influence is very limited outside of working hours and the workplace environment, they are responsible for employee working conditions such as how much control does the employee have over their work - are they valued as a thinking, creative individual or are they seen as nothing more than an automaton mindlessly carrying out set tasks day-after-day?
Do employees have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, or are they treated as general dogsbodies with little regard for fairness or progression?
Related to these are the everyday realities of the workplace such as having a variety of tasks within a job, receiving enough training and support to be proficient and confident in a role, and are working hours and breaks enough to provide employees with sufficient rest and/or flexibility?
In addition, the general workplace environment, office or shop floor atmosphere is a massive contributor to how an employee feels about their job. The HR polices instituted will influence the environment, especially those policies regarding pay and promotion which can often be a source of conflict and dissatisfaction if they are not transparent and perceived as fair, both in their formation and application.
So it is clear that although employers are not entirely responsible for how people feel about their lives, they do have a significant impact upon these feelings and it must be noted that an effective employee well-being programme can help individuals better cope with challenges in their life outside work.
The pay-off for employers who take an enlightened, holistic approach to employee well-being with an aim to make their staff happier and healthier is that employees will display higher levels of creativity and productivity, take fewer sick days, be more dedicated to the company and therefore remain in their jobs longer, which all ultimately benefit and build the businesses they work for.
Barnett Waddingham's research survey on corporate health and wellbeing found that there was a significant difference between employee and employer experience and perception of workplace well-being.
For many employers ‘corporate’ or ‘employee’ well-being has historically been the preserve large multi-nationals, or certainly larger businesses rather than SMEs, however that attitude is changing as seen by the explosion in well-being programs following the realisation that the benefits of such initiatives apply to all business big and small.
There is actually no good reason why any business, big or small, cannot have an employee well-being programme – the benefits are available to all businesses who are forward-thinking enough to institute such an initiative.
Corporate Well-being Programs
Employers, having recognised the importance of staff well-being are beginning to implement measures and programmes to make their employees feel more valued, better supported, and as a result this enables those employees to perform their roles to a much higher standard.
Even the best working environments can be stressful at times and research has shown that up to 30% of employees consider their workplace to be a place, at least sometimes, of high stress causing issues in employees such as anxiety, poor sleep, fatigue and other associated side-effects.
Corporate well-being programmes are employer-led and are designed to alleviate some of that stress and their resultant conditions. These programmes can include a wide range of benefits and often consist of initiatives such as psychological support services, mindfulness and resilience training, smart working, employer-sponsored loans and onsite massages.
Corporate Health and Well-being – The Benefits
There are some well-established benefits that companies can enjoy as a result of providing health and wellness perks for their staff.
1. Reduces Absenteeism
It has been well-documented that health and wellness programmes significantly reduce the number of sick days taken by staff in any given organisation.
Absenteeism in the UK means that;
"Employees lost an average of 4.4 working days in 2018 because of sickness or injury, according to the latest official statistics.
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, revealed the total number of days lost to sickness absence increased by 7% between 2017 and 2018. Last year 141.4 million sick days were taken compared with 131.5 million in 2017, when the figure reached its lowest since records began." - https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/sickness-absence-2018-increase/
The most common reasons for sickness absence in 2018 were as follows;
- minor illnesses such as coughs and colds (responsible for 27.2% of days lost)
- musculoskeletal problems (19.7%)
- "other" reasons including accidents, diabetes, infectious diseases and poisonings (13.7%)
- mental health conditions including stress, anxiety and depression (12.4%)
A robust health and wellness strategy will help mitigate a significant number of these absences, many of which occur precisely due to conditions or situations that wellness programmes are designed to combat.
A well thought-out wellness programme that is aligned with the organisational goals of a business can prevent minor illnesses through the promotion of a healthy diet and lifestyle, on-site massage can prevent and heal musculoskeletal problems that keep people out of the office, whilst mental health conditions and stress can also be alleviated through various activities that form part of corporate wellness.
So, it is clear when one looks at the data that a significant majority of illness and conditions that keep people out of the office can be mitigated by employers taking more care of their staff!
2. Improves Employee Recruitment and Retention
Businesses are built on people and when your best people are continually leaving it becomes very difficult to move forward in any meaningful way, whether that be for a smaller business or a team or department inside a larger organisation.
It is accepted that employees who do not feel valued or supported are likely to move on to new jobs.
This process of changing employers presents further hidden costs for the business losing staff, as not only do they have to go through the difficult process of finding and training new employees, but they also suffer from the lack of engagement and ultimate withdrawal from the goals and culture of the organisation once an employee has decided that they are going to leave!
This process can actually start many months prior to someone handing in notice and results in ‘zombie’ employees who have essentially ‘downed tools’ and are just going through the motions, totally dis-engaged form their employer and colleagues.
An employee wellness programme will make employees feel more grateful to their employer, it will make the decision to leave much harder as any perceived perks form the programme will need to be replicated in some form in any new employment package.
3. Improves Employee Engagement
When employees are engaged with their jobs, they become more productive and more committed to their employer.
Employee engagement is something that happens as a result of the employee feeling valued and cared for by their employer, rather than just a unit of productivity whose only worth is defined by what is produced for the business.
More enlightened employers are becoming aware that as social creatures’ human beings work better when in a good environment and part of a harmonious team.
In March 2017, The BMG Research Employee Panel showed an increase in engagement levels of 31% from employees who believe their employer cares about their well-being.
4. Increases Team Morale
When employees are healthier, have fewer sick days, feel valued by and are engaged with their employer and stay in their roles for longer, team, or office, morale rises significantly, making the workplace an even more pleasant place to work.
This is what might be described as a ‘virtuous’ circle in which the benefits of a wellness programme feedback and produce ever-increasing returns for both employer and employees.
Corporate Wellbeing – Summary
It is hardly revolutionary to extol the virtues and benefits of employee well-being programmes for both employers and staff, however despite huge gains in awareness and implementation over the last 10 years there is still a long way to go in improving employee well-being in the UK.
As a wellbeing company BusyBodies can offer onsite, in-office massage to staff as part of corporate wellbeing programs.
In-office massage has been scientifically-proven to increase office morale, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity and to make employees feel much more positively about their employers.
Ultimately looking after and treating staff well have huge benefits for employers and as such all organisations should be investing in well-being and reaping the benefits of happier, healthier and more productive staff.
Stress Awareness Month - 1 to 30 April 2020
Mental Health Awareness Week - 18 to 24 May 2020
National Work Life Week - 1 to 5 October 2020
Back Care Awareness Week - 8 to 12 October 2020
International Stress Awareness Week - 4 to 8 November 2020