29th May 2019
Wellbeing at Work: What’s It Got To Do With Performance?
“The most successful organisations are now turning their attention to employee wellbeing as a way to gain emotional, financial and competitive advantage.” – Tom Rath, Gallup
You’ve probably noticed on social media or through awareness campaigns in your workplace that 13th-19th May marked Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. Mental health and employee wellbeing is a topic that is being discussed more openly across organisations – according to CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report, the proportion of organisations raising awareness of mental health across the workforce has increased from 31% in 2016 to 51% in 2018. However, with evidence showing that levels of work-related stress and mental health related absence are not improving, there appears to remain a persistent gap between aspiration and implementation. But why should we care about wellbeing?
A government study on worker wellbeing and workplace performance suggests improvement in wellbeing results in improved workplace performance by boosting profitability, labour productivity and the quality of outputs or services. When it’s the people who are the driving force behind your organisation, it makes sense to acknowledge that wellbeing is intrinsically linked to your company’s bottom line.
Why Does Wellbeing Matter at Work?
Most people spend the majority of their time at work. With technology evolving at a staggering rate, today’s employees are now more ‘switched on’ than ever. How often have you scrolled emails over your morning coffee? If you’re a parent, how many evenings have you spent logging into your work laptop once the kids have been coaxed to take a bath, wrestled into their pyjamas and finally sent to bed? Does your lunch break mean a leisurely hour outside of the office or is it a case of pre-packaged sandwiches wolfed down at your desk?
It’s no surprise then that according to the CIPD report, 87% of respondents reported an inability to switch off out of work hours. When the lines between domestic and working life are becoming increasingly blurred, stress levels are on the rise and mental health is being compromised. Evidence shows that a stressful work environment has effects on employees ranging from physical symptoms such as higher blood pressure and lethargy, to emotional indicators such as anxiety and even depression. A stressed workforce is also more likely to have a low morale, poor motivation, recurring lateness and higher levels of absenteeism.
Unless we put measures in place to reduce this stress and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees, sickness absence will increase, productivity will plummet, turnover will rise and overall performance will suffer. It’s important that we take action now before problems are able to infiltrate culture and create a toxic environment.
How Can You Improve Wellbeing at Work?
Adopting practices to improve wellbeing at work doesn’t have to be overwhelming or disruptive to your current practice, nor does it necessarily have to be costly. By slowly rolling out some of the changes suggested below, you’re already making positive steps to improve workplace culture.
1. Create a Pleasant Physical Working Environment
Nobody wants to try and focus on the day’s work in a chaotic environment with frequent distractions and faulty equipment. Make sure offices are clean, well-lit and have proper heating and cooling ventilation.Work equipment should be fully-functional and colleagues should have access to a quieter area where they can take a break or make a phonecall undisturbed. Risk assessments and proper training are also key in preventing the rise in accidents that can come with a stressful working environment.
2. Allow Greater Worker Autonomy
What would give you greater motivation: a job where you’re made to do as you’re told in every aspect of your work? Or a job that gives you some autonomy in decision-making?
Employees want to have a ‘voice’ in work; it’s the difference between feeling trusted and feeling like a robot. Where possible, allow your employees to participate in certain aspects of organisational decision-making and give them a space where they can contribute their own thoughts and ideas on work processes.
3. Promote a Healthier Lifestyle
Promoting a healthier lifestyle is one of the first solutions people think of, but can often be the hardest to implement. Bonuses such as discounted gym membership and health insurance can be highly effective, but can be a costly place for SMEs to start.
You can, however, start by setting up campaigns in the business to offer advice on healthy eating and lifestyle choices. You can also implement programmes to encourage physical fitness such as ‘Cycle to Work’ days or set up an employee running group. At CDSM Thinqi, for example, we have our own weekly football matches, lunchtime gym sessions and an after-work running group. Not only does this benefit the physical and mental health of our colleagues, but it also provides a great way to bond with the team, chat to others from different departments and strengthen existing team-working skills.
4. Train and Educate
According to research by CMI, 51% of managers have had a member of their team disclose a mental health problem. However, what’s concerning is that almost half (49%) have never received any training on managing mental health problems and 20% had received training more than a year ago.
Poor mental health is responsible for 72 million lost working days per year, and education and training are vital if workplaces want to be able to recognise and deal with it effectively. While campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week help to raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding these issues, it is nevertheless critical that staff are trained to be able to support employees and accommodate their needs where needed. In addition to training, it is also worth scheduling regular one-to-one meetings which allow you to check in on colleagues and reassure them that they are in a safe place to discuss without judgement.
5. Encourage a ‘Digital Detox’
As stated previously, today’s employees are trapped in a ‘switched on’ culture. In order to help employees feel less overwhelmed and improve their work-life balance, encourage them to switch off from devices a few times a day where possible – whether that means getting away from the laptop at lunchtime, turning off work email notifications when out of the office or putting mobile phones into ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to improve sleep past a certain time.
However, it’s important you act as a role model here – by sending work emails outside of hours, you are setting an example that this is to be expected. Instead, try to only send work-related emails during office hours and make it clear that you do not expect responses outside of office hours. This reduces any anxiety surrounding missed emails or urgent requests.
Your people are your most valuable asset, so investing in their wellbeing is vital if you’re going to get the best out of them. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today – start small by implementing some of the changes listed above and make sure that you’re taking time to practice what you preach. You can’t bring the best out of others if you’re not taking care of yourself.
If you want a happy, healthy and high-performing workforce that attracts and retains the top talent, then start putting wellbeing at the top of your agenda.
After all, what sounds more attractive: an organisation that cares only about numbers or one that truly cares about its people?
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