Win-win: a happy and healthy workforce will be more productive and engaged
The number of companies with a defined wellbeing strategy is growing, up 20% on last year, according to Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK. This positive step demonstrates that employee wellbeing is no longer ‘nice to have’, but an area of focus that is growing in importance for UK employers.
We anticipate that employee wellbeing will continue to rise up the corporate agenda in the coming months. More and more organisations are realising the positive impact that looking after their employees can have on their overall engagement, health and productivity.
For current wellbeing programmes, the focus on mental health and physical activity continues to be important, so employee assistance programmes (EAPs), discounted gym memberships and health screenings will remain popular initiatives. We can also see increased attention on supporting financial wellbeing and promoting good sleep behaviours.
Main areas of focus
Physical and mental health continue to dominate wellbeing, which is not surprising when we consider that employers have seen a rise in the number of staff with mental health problems (up 41%, according to the CIPD’s Absence Management 2016 survey).
Public awareness of mental illness – through campaigns such as Time to Change (set up by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in 2009) – has grown over the last five years but there is still a stigma attached to mental illness when compared with physical illness.
More can and must be done by employers to help employees with a mental illness, both by providing access to support services such as counselling, mental health first aiders and EAPs, but also by providing line manager training in how to support and manage employees with a mental health condition. Line managers must be properly equipped to support the company’s overall wellbeing strategy.
Culture and environment
Although mental and physical health are often considered top priorities, it’s worth emphasising that in order for a wellbeing programme to be effective, organisations need the right culture and workplace environment too. This includes designing the workplace to promote healthy behaviour, and offering facilities such as showers and access to drinking water. The culture and environment you create can influence the choices your employees make and their overall wellbeing.
Technological developments are a growing feature of wellbeing programmes – wearable fitness devices, apps to measure sleep and online wellbeing advice are a few examples. Technology has the power to provide aggregate data so that employers can review the progress of their wellbeing programme. It also enables you to reach a diverse workforce across multiple locations.
It’s good to see that more employers are measuring the effectiveness of their wellbeing strategy and the impact it has on their workforce. However, further improvements in this area are needed to ensure continuous funding for wellbeing programmes. I believe we now need to start sharing best practice so we can learn from each other and share the available information.
One thing is clear: a happy and healthy workforce is likely to be a more productive and engaged workforce. Looking after your employee wellbeing is a win-win for everyone.
Beate O’Neil is head of wellbeing consulting at Punter Southall Health & Protection
This article was supplied by Punter Southall Health & Protection.
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