Any regular viewers of LeaveMonitor may have recently read my article on employee benefits. In said article, I discussed the pros and cons of a number of employee benefits, making both employers and employees aware of the successes and pitfalls of such benefits. The more astute among you may have noticed that I placed employee wellbeing programs in the “red flag”, or “beware”, section. So, why am I now writing an article endorsing employee wellbeing programs?
Well, as my last article says, I believe that a company can create whatever wellbeing policy or program it wants. But, if it does not act on what it promises, it is nothing more than a superficial document. A company must truly care when creating its policy regarding employee wellbeing. This article will aim to help employers create a successful wellbeing program – but also aid employees towards determining whether a company’s program is genuine or superficial.
Defining employee wellbeing
Employee wellbeing is easiest defined as the impact someone’s job has on their life – what the impact is on an employee’s physical and mental health. When someone has “good” employee wellness, you expect to see an employee who’s job has little negative impact on their mental or physical health. Introducing a wellbeing program can contribute to the success of a business and employee health – mitigating the risks of work affecting an employee’s life.
Mental health problems are causing 70 million workdays to be lost per year. This equates to £2.4 billion lost. Thus, not only are individuals suffering, but companies are losing out. Big time. 1 in 4 adults have a mental problem in any given year. It is the job of a company to safeguard their staff as well as mitigate the effect of their work on their mental health. Worth putting together a wellbeing plan for your company? I think so too!
How to start building a program
A wellbeing plan needs to be more than a superficial document or motivational posters round the office. What do you want for your staff? What would you want in their position? What physical items do you need to achieve your wishes? Have you got a budget in mind? By the way, UK workers are amongst the unhappiest in the world. Whilst your program may take time and effort to build, if you want your workplace to have a lower average amount of sick days than the national average of 4.4 days, it is worth it!
“Perks” may be nice in the workplace, but employee wellbeing should not be a “perk”. In the modern workplace, it should be an expectation. As mentioned in my previous article on employee benefits, superficial workplace relaxation rooms may just not cut it with staff. If anything, employees just want to feel part of the team, valued by their company and respected by their manager for their hard work.
Here are some bullet points to focus on when building your plan:
- Fitness is a tricky one. Encourage employees to get to work on foot or bike. If possible, provide secure locations to store bikes. Maybe offer a cash incentive for not using a car or public transportation.
- Subsidized gym memberships
- A solution for smaller companies with smaller office space – rather than setting up your own gymnasium, approach a local gym and ask for reduced membership fees for your staff.
- Sports clubs
- Sometimes a company-organised club is a great way to help colleagues team build after work hours and at weekends. Further, these clubs do not need to be held in office space and can be held at local sports venues. A small price to pay for employee fitness, health and team building, surely?
- Work/life balance
- The natural world
- An unorthodox suggestion, but hold company events and meetings in the outdoor world if at all possible. Fresh air and sunlight is important to physical health and all too many employees find that, especially during the rather depressing months of winter, that they may not see daylight whilst at work. Let them know a world outside the office exists!
- Informal meetings
- Suits, shirts, ties, uniforms and dresses can sometimes be a little too much day in and day out. Reward your staff with informal meetings and dress-down days where an employee can be themselves (in an appropriately safe manner, depending on nature of business). This is a psychological reward – it is likely staff will feel more comfortable in their own clothes.
- Relationship building between staff and managers
- There is a toxic culture in the workplace of “them and us” when it comes to staff and managers. End this toxicity by acting as an equal of your staff members, sometimes it pays to be informal. Improving relations is very important.
- Supporting charitable endeavours of staff
- It pays to support your staff. Matching donations to causes, sponsoring a good cause or being part of a fundraiser not only makes your company look good but creates a happy and generous atmosphere amongst staff.
- Perks for new parents
- As becoming a new parent is a shock to the system, it may be best to introduce a number of perks related to wellbeing for a new parent. As sleep schedules are disrupted and post-natal depression may occur (in a staggering 1/10 women and some men), it is a good idea to perhaps introduce flexible working hours, a part-time return to work or, as a few companies have done, create a lactation room for new mothers!
Concluding thoughts on employee wellbeing programs
Hopefully, you can see how the world of employee benefits is far removed from that of staff wellbeing. While the above suggestions are just that, suggestions, it should be clear that an employee wellbeing program is a modern-day expectation rather than an optional set of perks or a superficial document outlining “care” programs.
Please find below a number of links showcasing how the big companies do it – feel free to take some inspiration from their wellbeing packages.
Google – Caring for Googlers
Microsoft – Empowering our employees
Nike – Worker engagement and wellbeing
Experian – “The happiest office in London”