Employee wellbeing is concerned with both the physical and emotional health of employees, helping to prevent problems arising or, if they do, helping employees to cope with them so as to have a minimal impact on their work — in short, to be more resilient.
Wellbeing is a multi-layered subject, involving not just the human resources department but the health and safety profession as well.
This topic discusses why employers should invest in employee wellbeing programmes and how employers can help improve the welfare of their employees.
- Employee wellbeing is concerned with the physical and emotional health of staff, recognising that happy, healthy employees lead to better organisational performance.
- Providing support and help for employees where they have problems, whether those arise from work or home, helps minimise the impact of these problems on the business. Employees who have problems — whether work-related or personal — are unlikely to perform as well as they would if the problem did not exist. People have their own mechanisms for coping with problems and some are better than others at minimising the impact on their work. Just as employers preserve their investment in plant and equipment by oiling and maintaining them, they need to maintain their investment in employees by nurturing their wellbeing.
- As part of the employer’s duty of care, work should be properly defined and organised. Employers’ duty of care to their employees can manifest in many ways. Examples include:
- properly defined and organised jobs
- procedures for risk assessment and safe systems of work
- consideration on how to motivate staff and minimise undue stress
- training to ensure employees have the necessary skills to do their work
- providing supervision, giving feedback on performance, identifying personal development plans and help to overcome poor work performance
- good communication between management and staff so that staff are kept informed or are consulted about issues which affect their jobs and livelihood
- managers alert to problem areas within their departments, eg bullying or harassment
- well-maintained equipment and an absence of work-related injuries
- areas for rest and relaxation at work so that staff can move away from their desks to eat lunch and even a quiet room where staff can go to spend a bit of time in prayer or meditation
- ensuring that no-one works excessive hours
- ensuring that all staff take their holidays
- a culture in which employees are encouraged to raise concerns with their manager so that problems do not fester.
If employees feel that the workplace is well organised, that their jobs are interesting and worth doing and that they have an opportunity to make their views heard, the potential for work-related stress and employee disengagement will be greatly reduced. In turn this provides a sense of job satisfaction for employees and contributes to a feeling of wellbeing.
- Where staff have specific problems, employers may be able to point them in the direction of professional help. There are numerous issues which may arise and impact on an employee’s wellbeing, such as:
- stress — this may be caused by personal as well as work-related issues
- relationship problems, such as divorce
- family illness, particularly where the employee is responsible for caring for children or elderly or sick relatives
- long term illness and coming back to work
- financial problems
- problems with teenage children
- unwanted pregnancy
- drug and alcohol problems
- childcare difficulties
- being harassed or bullied
- housing issues, for example moving home
- legal issues, for example disputes with neighbours or traffic accident claims
- sudden injury or disability of self or relative
- traumatic incidents, for example being a victim of crime.
In many instances, employees will simply want support and some practical assistance, which is usually co-ordinated by the HR department and laid out in company policies, but occasionally some will have difficulty in coping with the problem and will need expert help.
- There is a whole range of initiatives that employers can introduce to encourage employee wellbeing. At the most basic level, organisations can and often do provide back ground health awareness information, often consisting of NHS leaflets tacked to a staff notice board.
- Employers need to evaluate the benefits of wellbeing initiatives from the perspective of both the employee and the employer. Wellbeing initiatives have a dual purpose.
- To increase the mental and physical health of employees.
- To help reduce employer costs through sickness absence and employee disengagement.
Employers need to be sure that the initiatives they are taking are having the right effect but this may take time. The response of employees can be measured through staff attitude surveys as long as these are carried out regularly and have a high participation rate.
Employers should also look critically at the statistics to see if the initiatives are having the desired effect on the bottom line, by analysing:
- sickness and absence figures, the length of absence and causes of absence — this way you can see if rehabilitation procedures or in-house interventions are having an impact
- staff turnover
- staff retention figures
- accidents at work
- staff satisfaction (as measured through staff surveys).
Where schemes or parts of schemes are not adding either to employee wellbeing or to the bottom line, employers need to revise and revisit the schemes, in consultation with employees.
Contact us should you require assistance.