With employee wellbeing a top priority for businesses, John Cradden outlines ways owner managers can best support their No 1 asset, their people.
Businesses both large and small have been taking steps for some time to promote healthier workplaces and look after the health and wellbeing of staff. Happy workplaces are productive workplaces, after all, but it’s also been apparent for some time the positive effect that paying attention to employee wellbeing can have on staff retention.
Research by the UK mental health charity Mind found that 60% of employees say they’d feel further motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support their health and wellbeing in the workplace.
“90% of employers had noticed an increase in mental health challenges in the workplace since the pandemic”
But while employee wellbeing has been taken seriously over the last few years, the pandemic certainly helped put it centre stage. Thanks to the pressure and stress of dealing with massive changes to the way we work, including adjusting to remote working, virtual meetings and home-schooling.
As a result, much of the focus has turned to supporting mental wellbeing and helping employees deal with issues like stress, depression or anxiety.
Manage mental health challenges
This can be seen in initiatives like the Workplace Framework, a new resource produced by the charity Mental Health Ireland to help guide and equip employers and staff with the tools to understand and manage mental health challenges in the workplace. A survey by the charity revealed that 90% of employers had noticed an increase in mental health challenges in the workplace since the pandemic.
Supporting physical wellbeing in the workplace remains important, too, which could involve the temperature in the office, the ergonomics of their chair or their activity level, but also things like offering healthy food options, providing gym membership perks or promoting your cycle to work scheme.
But it needn’t be expensive to do, either. Here are a few simple but cost-effective ways to support physical and mental wellbeing at work.
Encourage staff to take breaks
Taking a break for 15-to-20 minutes has been proven to help cognitive function. Encouraging staff to take their breaks is straightforward enough in an office environment, but be sure to do the same with those working from home too.
Facilitate flexible working
The evidence is already strong that flexible working is among the most valued employee benefits, so if you haven’t already introduced flexible working into your employee wellbeing programme, now is the time to review how you approach the traditional working day. With a change in our working lives, childcare and career demands, it has never been more important for businesses to adapt to the changing environment. As well, some companies are currently experimenting with four-day weeks, with positive results so far.
Whether you’re in the office or working from home, it’s good to talk. Having a regular one-on-one sessions with team members is a great way to keep on top of issues, and find solutions to problems that are already apparent. You could take this further buy establishing an EAP (employee assistance programme), a structured way of providing an outlet for workers to discuss any personal problems or concerns they may have.
The ergonomics of our working environment can play a big role in ensuring employees’ physical wellbeing. Take the time to make sure employee workstations are ergonomically friendly, comfortable and in good condition. Good ergonomics will prevent the occurrence of injury or damage to your employees’ physical health.
Create a dedicated break room
If you have the room, creating a dedicated space for your employees to relax and recharge during their breaks at work is a simple and cheap perk. Not only will they get a deserved break from their desks, but break rooms provide a space for your employees to socialise with their colleagues.
Support the right to disconnect
If your company culture creates the expectation of long, unsociable hours and remaining in contact outside of office hours, then you may need to review this. All employees in Ireland now have the ‘right to disconnect’ from work, something that must be supported by companies in a bid to support work-life balance. Line managers should ‘provide assistance’ to employees who feel obliged to work longer hours than agreed.
Promote your initiatives
And if you’re looking for ways to promote what you do for employee wellbeing in your company, employer organisation Ibec runs an annual National Workplace Wellbeing Day (taking place this year on April 23), with free resources and ideas (and you don’t have to be an Ibec member to avail of them).
Don’t overdo it
It is tempting however, to go a bit overboard with employee wellbeing initiatives. For instance, if there are too many, they may end up making unnecessary extra demands of those with already busy lives.