The world of work has changed dramatically because of the Covid-19 pandemic. With lockdown restrictions being enforced intermittently for over a year, a lot of workers have adapted to a different working environment. Many office employers have now adopted hybrid or remote working models. The majority of employees in 2022 said they would prefer to work hybrid, enjoying a balance between working from home and from the office. In comparison, just 5% would want to work remotely full time. For many, reduced social interaction has negatively impacted their mental health. Employee wellness programmes have increased in popularity in recent years as the way we work has changed. Other factors in 2023 may also be impacting the wellbeing of your staff. An increasing concern throughout the UK is the cost of living. Economic uncertainties combined with a rise in company layoffs may mean your staff are more worried than usual. By implementing workplace wellness programmes, you can support employees to deal with challenges, improve employee wellbeing, and reduce stress. We’ll explore what a workplace wellness programme is and what initiatives you could introduce.
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What is a workplace wellness programme?A workplace wellness programme refers to a collection of initiatives within a company that promote staff health and wellbeing. Wellbeing can be broken down into many types, from physical and emotional, to intellectual and social. Businesses should aim to care for all these needs in different ways.
Benefits of having a workplace wellness programmeThere are several benefits of having a workplace wellness programme. Firstly, it shows you care! It may sound obvious but it’s something that many companies miss. Everyone can benefit from having some extra support in the workplace, whether it’s through social events, or having a dedicated wellbeing buddy to talk 1:1 with.
Improved motivation and productivityBoth mental health and physical health are hugely important and go hand in hand in building a happier, heathier workforce. When you’re active, your brain produces endorphins and dopamine which make people feel happy, correlating to increased productivity.
Less absenteeismWhen staff feel supported both mentally and physically, they are much less likely to take days off work and can even avoid becoming ill altogether. According to the UK government, it is estimated that over £100 billion worth of productivity is lost each year as a result of workplace absence. These numbers reflect just how much absence affects the workplace and how damaging it can be to a company’s revenue. Evidence also suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK are as a result of mental health conditions, so it’s especially important to look after staff wellbeing. Not only is absenteeism an issue, but sometimes staff will feel pressured to work, despite being in poor health and requiring rest. This is known as presenteeism. Presenteeism is more dangerous than absenteeism as it is harder to spot: although staff may come into work, there will be a hidden negative impact on productivity and long-term wellbeing. With clear wellbeing guidelines, staff members can feel more confident knowing whether they should come into work or not and know that they are supported in their decision.
Retain your staffBy supporting your staff, you can increase employee retention and engagement levels. If you don’t prioritise staff wellbeing you could lose your best staff, and it’s costly to hire replacements. In fact, based on the average UK salary, it can cost roughly £5000 to hire a new member of staff. Losing staff is costly and can be detrimental to overall workplace morale. Company culture is a main criteria for employees choosing to stay with a business, and creating an environment where employees want to be will encourage talent recruitment and retention.
Show you careA workplace wellbeing programme has several benefits as we already know, but ultimately it demonstrates that you care. One way to go the extra mile to provide a considerate workplace environment is by providing free period products. Citron Hygiene recently conducted a study and found that 70% of menstruators said it’s important that free period products should be provided to employees. With the unpredictable nature of periods combined with the expenses of period supplies, they aren’t nearly as easily accessible as they should be. To further highlight this issue, almost 87% of women said they have had their period away from home without period products on them, forcing them to stop what they are doing and either go to the store or home to get the products they need.
What is the goal of an employee wellness programme?The goal of an employee wellness programme is to meet the needs of the team, ensure employees are happy, and support staff in their roles so they can deliver the best outcomes. Research suggests that healthy employees are 53% more likely to be productive, and can aid better collaboration, communication, and business outcomes.
What should your wellbeing programme include?There are 8 key types of wellbeing that we will look at in some more detail, these are:
- Physical – focusing on all matters of physical health (exercise, diet etc).
- Emotional – feeling supported mentally.
- Intellectual – participating in opportunities to learn (team training days, team-based tasks to further improve in the role).
- Purpose – having values and beliefs that provide a purpose.
- Occupational – someone’s satisfaction with their work and work-life balance.
- Financial – refers to financial stability.
- Environmental – encouraging staff members to engage in community activities to help the environment.
- Social – refers to building relationships with colleagues.
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Enhancing your current wellbeing programme for 2023Here’s some wellbeing initiatives you could introduce in your workplace in 2023:
Encourage exercise with discounted gym membershipsWhat better way to encourage exercise than with discounted gym memberships? Attending the gym can be costly and for some, they might not see the value they are getting. Providing free or discounted memberships can give your staff an incentive to go to the gym.
Promote a healthier work-life balance with flexible working hoursWorking to rigid, set hours may not always be ideal for everyone. In fact, over 76% of employees now want flexible working hours. By showing you care about what your staff want, you can reap the benefits. Flexible working can increase productivity, increase employee retention, and attract new staff in the crowded job market.
Use standing desks as an alternative to sitting down all dayIf the jobs of your team involve a lot of desk-based work, it can be greatly beneficial to invest in standing desks. Sitting for long periods of time can negatively affect posture and can lead to increased risks of diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease. Back, shoulder and neck strain are another consequence, which may lead to staff taking time off work.
Engage in regular mental wellbeing catch upsEmployee mental health is hugely important and plays such a big role in mood and productivity. You could have calls with employees on a regular basis to address work-related sources of stress and find solutions, together. Maintaining regular contact and understanding the signs of poor mental health can prevent bigger issues later down the line.
Train management team to recognise and support with mental healthUnfortunately, as many as 24% of line managers don’t believe that the wellbeing of their staff is their responsibility. Giving line managers Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training will allow them to have a better understanding of mental health and help them to support their teams in the best way possible.
Employee assistance programmesEmployee assistance programmes provide a way for employees to confidentially speak to mental health professionals about a range of subjects regarding psychological health and wellbeing. These experts can provide vital support to your employees to ensure they keep a good state of mental health, which again increases productivity and benefits both the individual and the company.
Promoting awareness of mental health issuesMental health issues are often stigmatised and those that suffer from them are less inclined to ask for help. Only 1 in 10 people are honest about needing a mental health day. In workplaces that are not open about mental health, employees may feel embarrassed or anxious about what other people may think, and so choose to ignore their own needs to keep their job. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health but encouraging conversation and increasing awareness can ensure staff feel comfortable to talk openly. Some companies encourage activities like ‘time to talk’, with the aim of getting the workplace talking and opening up about issues they would otherwise hide. This can either be in a 1:1 setting, with larger groups, in-person, or done remotely, but should always be optional for employees who aren’t comfortable with opening up to colleagues. You can also consider providing mental health days for employees as and when they need them. The intention of these days is to let employees take sick leave to manage their wellbeing. Mental health can often be misleading, as an employee may not show any signs of being ill physically, but emotionally they can be suffering a lot. Providing employees with a safe space to take the time they need can reduce stress and anxiety.
Personal development reviewsDeveloping is a key part of any working role and speaking to team members about their progression and achievements can be highly fulfilling. Reviews or appraisals can help to address strengths and weaknesses in a constructive manner as well as identify how employers can support staff in their roles.
Environmental initiativesEncouraging green initiatives can have a positive impact on wellbeing, mental health, physical health, and overall mood. As a workplace, think about how you can enable staff to spend time in nature or green spaces. From Cycle to Work schemes to taking part in waste walks, there are several ways you can go green in the workplace.
Charitable donations & fundraisingWhen we give to charities and perform other good deeds, our bodies produce essential hormones that help us to feel good. These are:
- Serotonin – positively affects our mood
- Dopamine – provides a sense of pleasure
- Oxytocin – creates a sense of connection with other people