How can businesses help improve the wellbeing of their employees
Understanding the concept of employee wellbeing and its importance to businesses both large and small, is paramount to reducing absenteeism. What is very often missing though is turning the concept into action. In essence, employee wellbeing is simply keeping staff healthy, motivated and present at work, so that they carry out the duties they are paid to do, are productive and contribute to the profit of the company.
The reality though is that many businesses pay little attention to the health of their employees until something goes wrong and by then of course, by definition, they are not healthy, not present, not working and therefore neither productive nor contributing to the profit of the company. Indeed, they go from being a contributor to your profit to being a drain on it.
If you are a small or medium sized business (SME) this can be hugely detrimental and lead to many consequential problems, such as low morale and high employee turnover. In larger companies the absence of an employee is often absorbed but this too can lead to low staff morale (other employees may be resentful of having to cover another member of staff's work), increased employee numbers (staffing levels may take into account average absences) and a direct hit to your bottom line as staff costs are artificially inflated to anticipate absences.
Through years of experience, Wellbeing People know that it need not be like this, employers of all sizes can reduce sickness absence, maintain and encourage a healthy workforce and show a positive return on any money invested in wellbeing.
1. Take responsibility
Help employees to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing by encouraging each individual to understand what they can do to improve their quality of life. We can't (and nor should we) force people to do things but what we can do is 'signpost' best practice and create an environment where employees can understand their health in more detail, in both the long and short term, and understand that small actions now are an investment in their future wellbeing.
2. Calculate the true cost of your sickness absence
Wellbeing in the workplace is where self preservation of employers and employees overlap. We ensure that our premises, equipment, cars and technology etc are fully supported, either by insurance policies, maintenance contracts or guarantees. But too few companies take the same view of their most valuable asset; their staff! When you do some simple sums; add up the true cost of sickness absences, the cost of recruiting and training staff, the cost of lost production and the cost of the time spent by HR, supervisors and managers on personal and health issues of staff, it can all become quite costly. The potential return you could gain through investing in your employees will become clear once you have those figures.
3. Invest in a wellbeing strategy
A small investment, when done correctly, can have a large impact on absences and pay dividends in your business. Creating an effective health and wellbeing strategy will demonstrate care and commitment to your employees and may reduce the amount of effort and resources required. If management buy in; deciding what wellbeing services and products you wish to invest in; finding providers to deliver; creating a committee or body of champions within your organisation to discuss what works through employee feedback; putting systems in place to monitor the success; then a health and wellbeing strategy can be incredibly effective. An effective health and wellbeing strategy will also ensure that your employee benefits' budget is spent productively.
4. Health check your staff
Employee health screening helps to identify potential risks to the health and wellbeing of individual members of staff. This ensures that the journey from initial engagement to final outcome maximises the potential to improve the individual's health and wellbeing by identifying the need and marrying it up to an appropriate intervention. This helps create an individual approach to helping staff achieve measurable outcomes.
5. Run a health fair!
A health fair is an event which aims to educate people to make positive choices around their own health and wellbeing through engaging in physical activities, health screenings, relaxation sessions and informative workshops. Holding a health fair enables companies to cover a range of topics in just one event! Research shows that having a health fair at work can help reduce employee absenteeism, improve work performance, increase job satisfaction and achieve a positive return on investment. Running a health fair not only looks after your employees but generates positive exposure for your company or organisation. Health Fairs are increasingly being brought to the forefront of corporate strategic initiatives as they show a good return on investment (ROI) with the additional benefit of health insurance savings.
6. Encourage hydration and healthy eating
Being de-hydrated affects our whole bodies and particularly impairs our concentration. It contributes to that lethargic, mid-afternoon 'energy dip' that we then feed with a chocolate bar or similar that helps give a boost in the very short term but doesn't really solve the problem. An extra cup of water a day costs virtually nothing and can have an immediate effect. To encourage this new drinking habit though, needs support; whether by way of Pee Charts which graphically illustrate when we are de-hydrated (we have one on every staff loo wall!); encouraging hydrated meetings with bottles or jugs of water on the table; installing a water dispenser in the office to make fresh water readily available - it all helps push employees to stay hydrated.
Promoting healthy eating habits at work can really make a huge difference too. Working a long day does not mean that employees cannot have a healthy diet. So often offices are full of snacks that are high in sugar and fat that don't offer a sustained energy release! Having fresh fruit available in the office or work kitchen encourages staff to eat well and helps to make staff feel valued! Research has shown that healthy employees can be up to 20% more productive due to increased energy levels, and over the longer term, employees who eat more fruit will have less illnesses and absence from work.
7. Employee Assistance Programme
In an ideal world you want your employees to turn up to work every day and get on with their jobs. But unfortunately a host of issues can prey on their minds during the day, which can impact their productivity, quality and morale. Many organisations are not equipped to deal with employees that are, for example, experiencing relationship issues, bereavement, mental health issues (which affect 1 in 4 of us), addictions or financial worries. These need not be detrimental to the running and profitability of your company if processes and support are in place.
Having somebody away from their work for a day or two or sitting in work pre-occupied with something from their personal life can dramatically affect their productivity. Providing a professional support service that your employees can use 24 hours a day can give them the tools to deal with issues that may arise in their personal lives, which will help them, not just stay healthy and happy, but productive for longer. Such a support service can be available to all your employees for as little as £1 a month per employee, a figure that compares favourably to the cost of having somebody out of the workplace for a day or the time and energy that would be spent internally on issues that you might not have the right skill set to address.
8. It is not just physical wellbeing that matters
Mental health is as important as physical health; it affects how we think, feel and behave. Mental health determines how we cope with stress, how we communicate and the choices we make. Wellbeing People believe that giving employees the right tools, knowledge and support is vital for the maintenance of good mental health. Businesses will benefit too as looking after your employees will help to create a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. Mental health workshops and programmes are a great way to raise awareness and are designed to help the employee as well as the employer. Learning something new is often the catalyst to making change; workshops will educate and inspire employees to make positive lifestyle choices.