Over the next few weeks and months, millions of UK workers will head back to the office. Whether they are returning from furlough, or they have been working remotely since the government announced lockdown in March, many are likely to be nervous about the transition.
Looking after the wellbeing of employees is a role that employers have become increasingly responsible for. The pandemic has accelerated this process, and a recent PwC survey found that the UK was leading the way when it comes to protecting their workers.
This is an important issue for us here at BlueSKY, as Mind are our chosen charity for 2020. So, here are some tips for how your clients can promote wellbeing at work.
UK businesses overwhelmingly providing wellbeing support
PwC conducted a recent survey of UK CEOs to explore how business leaders have responded to the coronavirus pandemic. They found:
- 93% of UK CEOs prioritised protecting employee health and safety over everything else
- 90% provided wellbeing support and initiatives, compared to just 61% of CEOs globally.
Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC UK, said: “Alongside the devastating humanitarian impact, Covid-19 has created some of the greatest challenges faced by businesses for generations. Against this backdrop, our survey suggests that UK businesses are ahead of the pack in recognising the toll the pandemic is having on their workforce.
“We have a challenging road to recovery, and few businesses can survive without a healthy and motivated workforce. While there are many difficult decisions for businesses to make in the short and medium-term, it’s critical we continue to invest in health and wellbeing to protect the workforce of the future.”
Why it’s important for clients to focus on employee wellbeing
Research has consistently shown that employees who feel valued and supported tend to have higher wellbeing levels, are more committed to the organisation’s goals and, importantly, they perform better too.
By supporting staff wellbeing, employers reap the benefits through enhanced morale, loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity, and profitability. Open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone – employees, employers, and the bottom line.
Indeed, a survey by mental health charity Mind found that 60% of employees say they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing.
What clients can do to improve wellbeing in their workplace
- Promote wellbeing in the workplace
One of the key ways an employer can promote workplace wellbeing is to send a clear message that wellbeing matters. They can do this through:
- Including mental health in the induction and training – explaining the support that is available and how the organisation manages mental health
- Raising the profile – for example, inviting a speaker on mental health to an event as part of activities for mental health awareness
- Getting the message out – using internal communications channels from blogs to the staff noticeboard
- Encourage wellbeing champions – people at all levels of the business talking openly about wellbeing sends a clear message that support exists
Even encouraging employees to take full lunch breaks, avoid working at weekends, and take their full annual leave entitlement are positive steps.
In recent weeks, many clients will have seen the benefits of flexible working – both in terms of location and working pattern. For example, working from home can reduce a stressful commute while working flexible hours can help an employee to manage stress by allowing a later start time twice a week to accommodate exercise.
Employers benefit from increased morale, commitment and productivity, and reduced sickness absence while employees can fit their lives around their work, helping them to remain healthy and focused.
- Tackle the cause of mental health issues
If clients don’t monitor their employees’ wellbeing, they won’t have a clear picture of what’s really going on, so action to improve wellbeing in the workplace may be less effective.
Routinely taking stock allows employers to:
- Understand the factors that affect staff wellbeing in their workplace
- Identify what they are already doing to support wellbeing
- Plan further improvements, enhance morale and increase productivity.
Issues that affect wellbeing in the workplace vary. Often triggers that lead to mental health problems and stress include long hours, insufficient breaks, unrealistic expectations or deadlines, lack of control over work, inability to use annual leave, poor internal communication, and poor managerial support.
As workers return to the office after lockdown, the physical work environment also becomes important for wellbeing. Changes to hygiene procedures, the office layout, communal areas, and interpersonal interactions are likely to be challenging. So, it’s important that employers improve the work environment to minimise risk (and employee stress) and to make it as conducive to wellbeing as possible.
Reviewing these issues regularly can help clients to tackle areas of concern before they become problems.
- Lead by example
For clients who are business owners, line managers or senior executives in their business, leading by example is one of the best ways they can support workplace wellbeing.
They can start by sending a clear message to their staff that their wellbeing matters, and by speaking to employees regularly to check how they’re getting on and what might be causing them stress. They should also create space for their team to ask questions and raise issues.
Clients should also make themselves available for their staff. Regular one-to-ones and reviews can help maintain good working relationships and it also helps to manage workloads by clearly defining work and agreeing reasonable deadlines.
Employers should also promote positive work relationships, encouraging:
- Staff exercise and social events
- A culture of teamwork, collaboration, and information-sharing
- Robust policies on bullying and harassment
- Peer support, buddy systems and mentoring
Get in touch
We’re committed to promoting wellbeing, and Mind is our chosen charity of 2020. Mind offer some excellent resources your clients can use to help promote wellbeing in the age of Covid-19 – perhaps they could consider making a donation to the charity in return?
If you have clients who would benefit from advice on how employee benefit schemes could also help support their workforce, we can help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0118 987 6655.