The dictionary definition of wellbeing is “The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” It’s understandable, then, that wellbeing is a term which is increasingly used these days - after all, we all want to be healthy and happy. We spend a large percentage of our lives working. In fact, the average British person will spend 3,507 days at work in their lifetime. So, it makes sense that wellbeing in the workplace is just as important as outside of it. With this year’s health crisis, it makes more sense than ever to make employee wellbeing a priority.
When we talk about wellbeing, it can either be physical or mental. Both are equally important, yet mental health often gets overlooked. Perhaps this is because physical wellbeing is easier to gauge. It’s easy to tell if your colleague is ill, whereas it’s less obvious if someone is struggling with mental health issues. Additionally, although things have improved considerably, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health. In fact, a recent survey found employees are three times more inclined to talk about their physical health than their mental health at work.
Considering three fifths of employees experience mental health issues connected with work, this is an area which clearly needs attention. The onset of COVID-19 has further exacerbated the need to focus on mental health - . disruption of routines, adapting to change, and the shift to remote working have all led to increased stress. A study of employees in Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US found 44.4% of remote workers have experienced a decline in mental health since the beginning of the pandemic.
Mental health issues cost UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion every year, but this goes beyond the financial impact. Diane Costigan, Director of Coaching & Well-Being at international law firm Winston & Strawn, explains, “A well-being strategy is a talent strategy. Without it, you’re putting everyone at a significant disadvantage.” When your employees are healthy, they are more productive and motivated. Moreover, it builds team morale, helping the company move towards a common goal. All this creates a solid reputation and brand, which attracts talent, driving future success.
Take a look at these steps to ensure your employees are not only surviving, but thriving:
Employees are 23% more vulnerable to mental health issues if their manager is uncommunicative. Set the tone by being honest about your own feelings. Especially now, it helps for others to know that they are not alone in feeling isolated, stressed, or overwhelmed. If a colleague is becoming withdrawn, acting erratically, or letting standards slip, reach out and ask how you can help. Set aside some time to talk, so they don’t feel rushed. Show you’re there to listen and avoid forcing a solution, as they may just want to talk. Create a portal with useful mental health resources. This will encourage colleagues to add to it, lessening stigma and improving the company culture. If there isn’t one already, set up an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides assessments, professional counselling, and follow-up services to help employees with workplace and personal issues.
Increased remote working has seen more employees feeling isolated and alone. Research shows that loneliness can be equally as damaging as smoking and obesity, so it’s crucial to make sure your team is connected. Check in on a daily basis, schedule regular team and one-to-one meetings, and organise informal virtual chats to touch base. Even when working from home, you can still boost your team’s morale and retain a sense of normalcy.
Whether in the office or working from home, you can improve your employee wellbeing by enhancing their working environment. In the physical office, create an area dedicated to brainstorming, discussing, and collaborating, to bring your team together. Provide healthy snacks, gym discounts, and classes such as yoga in the office. Impact the remote working atmosphere with a virtual collaboration portal, where everyone can share ideas. Send out regular newsletters with tips on managing mental and physical health. Continue providing training and development by shifting it online. This will reduce those feelings of ‘Groundhog Day’ and give employees a goal to work towards.
Tap into, share, and read these useful wellbeing resources:
https://www.mind.org.uk/ - Extensive information and advice on managing mental health.
- Focusing on mental health in the workplace.
- Expert mental health insight from the NHS.
https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/ - Support system aimed at ending mental health stigma.
- Tools, papers, and tips on managing wellbeing at work
Mindset online self-coaching tool - Send this form (free during COVID-19) to employees so they can assess how they’re coping in isolation.
Christmas can often lead to increased feelings of loneliness. This year will be especially trying for those who don’t have loved ones nearby, have financial struggles, or are simply dealing with the stress of the pandemic. If you are finding it difficult to cope, reach out and call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 – they’re there to listen 24/7.