Why organisations should prioritise employee wellbeing

Understandably, businesses want the most out of their employees and expect teams to work hard to deliver results. Times have changed, standard corporate benefits aren’t solely enough to motivate people anymore; employees want and need work-life balance, flexibility and trust. 

By adopting a flexible working approach and supporting employee wellbeing, employers are showing they understand that there’s a life outside of work, and that’s no bad thing – it’s all about how to achieve the right balance.
 
There are many advantages of supporting employee wellbeing, not only for employees themselves, but for company culture and team morale. Wellness programmes come in various shapes and sizes, not all of which require healthy budgets. There are plenty of free and easy-to-implement wellbeing initiatives such as; walking meetings to encourage fresh air and creative thinking - right through to healthy eating recipes, zoom or face to face socials, book clubs, steps challenges and mindfulness tips. In order for a Wellbeing Programme to truly succeed, it can’t simply be HR led. Leadership teams need to truly believe, by supporting and championing a variety of initiatives, helping to remove mental health stigmas and leading by example in making mental health a priority. Employee wellbeing needs to be an integral part of company culture and become deep rooted with the business. That’s where a Wellbeing Taskforce can come into play, a group of employees from across the business who support the facilitation and promotion of wellness initiatives and help maintain momentum.
 
Each of us has mental health and we all react to situations differently; stress, deadlines, workloads, therefore it’s vital to recognise the signs of poor mental health among teams and to equip managers with the tools they need to better understand how to support colleagues. Many organisations have introduced Mental Health First Aiders who are formally trained to offer comfort and support to those in a crisis until help arrives. Wellbeing programmes play a huge part in inclusion strategies; they often help employees feel truly valued by providing opportunities for people to speak up about their health (mental or physical), without fear of judgement. The more that mental health and wellbeing is talked about within an organisation, the more likely it is for individuals to open up and be their true selves. 
 
Employee surveys are powerful tools that encourage open communication to support the general engagement of employees within an organisation and establish what’s important to each individual. Providing a working environment where people feel valued, listened to and included, improves retention as employees are more likely to stay with the organisation and give back. The happier the workforce, the more loyal the employee. The retention of staff members has a big impact on a company’s employer brand. Employees are the greatest ambassadors of a business, and this ultimately plays a significant part in attraction and recruitment campaigns.
 
In a candidate driven market, employers need to up their game and stay competitive. That’s where an organisation's EVP (Employer Value Proposition) comes into play. By embedding flexibility and remote working into the company culture, organisations are working smarter, not harder. Employees are more inclined to finish that project if they get something in return; happy staff = happy profits.
 
Wellbeing and D,E&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) strategies go hand in hand. Having a diverse workforce helps individuals from all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. Balance in an organisation and promoting equal opportunities make the whole team feel valued and appreciated. Not everyone comes from the same starting point and mature leadership teams recognise that this isn’t just about being seen to do the right thing, it truly does enrich the overall skills and experiences of the organisation and in doing so generates positive business outcomes. Organisations should educate about the importance of different cultures and embrace and celebrate differences. Diversity attracts diversity.

I’ve touched on just some of the aspects of creating a balanced organisation but this isn’t just about being seen to do the right or politically correct thing. A programme created simply for the optics won’t truly add value. A programme created to ensure employees are supported and can function with fewer worries or stresses will provide the foundations to get the very best out of everyone. 

For those who think this is “soft HR speak” it's worth noting, it doesn’t mean you can’t be challenging or tough, nor does it mean that occasionally you won’t have people who abuse the flexibility and support offered. That can still happen and strong leadership will still manage such situations effectively. There will always be demanding business challenges that mean hard and sometimes painful decisions for our teams, but organisations with a well-developed culture of openness, support and respect for the individual will deal with these things far more effectively than those operating under a “fear” culture. 

The paybacks can be enormous. People who love their organisations and are happier in their work, will far more often deliver better, more consistent results and outcomes than those under long term pressure. Ask them if you don’t believe it, and then go and ask their CEOs...