Workplace wellbeing in 2021

According to research by Prospect, 35% of office workers have said their mental health has degraded since working from home.

But what can you do if you don’t have wellbeing at the centre of your organisation?

Contents

How wellness can inspire a great workplace culture

In March 2020, everything changed. For many employees it was their first experience in working from home. And for the first time, employee wellness came to the forefront of workplace culture. The past two years have irrevocably changed the workplace, and with that, evaluation and changes to workplace culture must be made to ensure the recruitment and retention of staff.

This is particularly important given a recent study by Microsoft, which estimates that in 2021 more than 40% of employees are thinking about leaving their current job for greener pastures.

Given the “great resignation of 2021,” it is imperative for companies to look forward and determine what their employees’ needs are. According to a recent XpertHR survey, the top factor being considered in future planning of the workplace was employee wellbeing, at 93.5%.

Dr. David Hamilton, our kindness tsar and author of 11 books on wellness, said “mental health and wellbeing is being taken more seriously now than any time I’ve ever known,” and that thought rings true for a lot of people, both across the UK and worldwide.

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Even here at Talent Insight Group, we are striving to improve our wellness culture. We are analysing our own employee needs and learning how to operationalise the insights we receive from employees in order to ensure that we are creating a culture that puts our employees first.

35% of office workers said their mental health had degraded since working from home. But what can you do if you don’t have wellbeing at the centre of your organisation? How can you implement a successful wellness programme? What should this look like? How can wellness influence workplace culture? Read more to find out.

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What is workplace wellness?

According to Derren Young, Chief People Officer at The Marketing Practice, employee wellness is “the sharp end of HR. It’s more than just structures and numbers, it’s looking after people as humans, which is really the key responsibility for leaders and people in HR.” Workplace wellness allows employees to be their best selves in the workplace.

Through engagement, access to resources and developing a culture where it’s okay and even commended for asking for help, employee wellness is a cornerstone for any successful business. People spend a huge portion of their life at work, and according to Vicky Edwards, Chief People Officer at Alfa Financial Software, “if we aren’t able to provide an environment where [people] feel psychologically safe, they aren’t going to thrive or achieve their career aspirations.”

The past 18 months have shown the darker side of employment; anxieties, challenges, health problems and sickness, lack of support and personal isolation have all been highlighted as issues facing the wider workforce. Each of these aspects impact both employee happiness and productivity. Where an employee feels that they have the tools to succeed, they often do. If they don’t feel they have been given the tools for success, a company has set themselves up for failure, high employee turnover, and loss of productivity, all of which impact the bottom line for organisations.

A workplace wellness programme is not a one size fits all fix. It requires a tailored solution, with input from employees, acknowledgement and responsiveness from senior leadership and constant vigilance from those implementing the programme in order for it to be successful. It requires a library of resources and an understanding of where gaps in service and wellness exist, and allows for senior leadership to bridge this gap by providing an array of services and resources to ensure employees feel supported.

What should a wellness programme look like?

There is no right answer to what a wellness programme should be.

Our experts, however, all agreed that a tailor-made wellness programme is the ideal model for each company. Sophie Kenos, Senior Managing Partner of Kenos Consulting who has worked in 52 countries across 6 industries says “if you want to understand what the employee wants, ask them!”

This sentiment was echoed throughout each conversation we had with our HR and wellbeing experts across the UK.

Companies such as Alfa Financial Software have a pulse survey every two months and ensure there is a two-way communication channel so there are multiple places where people can feedback ideas. “All of this comes back to culture,” said Vicky Edwards, Chief People Officer of Alfa.

The Marketing Practice recently underwent a review of their wellbeing programme, saying that the programme even differs country to country. Derren Young stated “with black lives matters in the US, we led a survey asking for feedback on how our employees feel and identified, and had a 98% response rate. In the UK, we focused on the 5 lenses of wellbeing: community, health, environmental, mental health and finances.”

They also followed up a month after changes were implemented, “It’s really interesting when we overlay what we’ve done with our surveys with the activities and initiatives that we take on. It’s a very kind and caring culture with lots of feedback, but it’s always done with the right intent, which is important.”

If you’re wondering what should be included in a wellness programme, our kindness tsar, Dr. David Hamilton, mentioned that there are 5 components that influence health, as advocated by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine.

These pillars are:

  • Stress
  • Community
  • Sleep Quality
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Activity

Each of these is integral to physical health and wellbeing, and are great starting points to consider when implementing a wellness programme in the workplace.

How can you ingrain wellness into your workplace culture?

Employee wellness can work wonders for creating a healthy and positive working environment.

“Employee wellness comes from two sides,” said Emily Lofting-Kisakye, HR Director for Cognita Schools.

“From the non-commercial business side, it’s important because you want people to live balanced healthy lives and want them to understand what happiness is for them and how they can provide balance to themselves. In the commercial/corporate sense, the better the wellbeing and balance is, the better the productivity; there’s less employee turnover, less cost of hiring – there are real quantifiable benefits [to workplace wellness].”

But really, how does wellness influence culture?

Sophie Kenos said, “When a company is investing in its people through a wellbeing programme, it absolutely contributes to a stronger brand and a better attraction and reception.”

She went on the say that while it may be easy for a company to mention employee wellness on their website, it’s another thing entirely to put this into practice. “People will look on sites such as Glassdoor to see if they really walk the walk,” she stated.

Every person we interviewed said that wellness has to come from the top. If it’s recognised that senior leadership teams are engaging with, and sign-posting resources, employees are more likely to utilise them.

“You have to mean it” said Derren Young when asked how companies can engrain wellness into their culture. “Only commit to what you can achieve. A company is nothing without its people. If they’re not happy, we’re not a good company.”

Emily Lofting-Kisakye also added a point which cannot be over-stated: “Top-down leadership is the most important. If your executives don’t model and lead it, where will it go? Support and resources for direct managers is also important as they are the most connected [to the workforce].”

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A study from the American Psychological Association agrees with our experts. The study shows that workplace wellness programmes with senior leadership support yielded positive employee outcomes, with 89% of employees saying they would recommend their company as a great place to work, and 91% of people said that they were more motivated to do their best at work as a result.

 

Wellness programme: the living case study

Having recently undergone a sizable growth in employees, we wanted to understand what our colleagues needed from us in order to be happy and productive at work, and in their home lives. We decided to implement a wellness programme of our very own, and we will be analysing our own progress over the coming months.

To start, we invited our employees to complete an anonymous 5 question survey.

Questions included:

  • “Are we doing enough to support your wellbeing?”
  • “How does wellbeing at TIG compare to your previous employer?”
  • “On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about the wellbeing support TIG provides?”

The most important question, however, was:

  • “What areas would you like additional resources or support on?”

From the answers we received, we were able to build a wellness programme, and split the programme into three tiers of priorities based on the responses. This helped us to ensure that our wellness programme will be tailored and customised towards the needs of our employees.

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In speaking with colleagues, we were also able to develop and implement a wellness newsletter, which will be sent once per month for “wellness wednesday”, ensuring that we are proactively looking at new tools, articles and resources, based on the results of our survey, to distribute to staff on a regular basis. We are also implementing a weekly coffee break once per week so staff can have a chat without necessarily talking about work. It helps to build team camaraderie, especially when working remotely.

Download the guide

Want to read this offline or share with a colleague? Simply fill in some details to download a copy.

Conclusions

Workplace wellness is not a corporate fad, or just buzzwords used to improve brand perception. Workplace wellness is a movement, an all-encompassing solution that brings out the best in your team. It increases happiness, support and productivity. It has the power to bring people together.

Dr. David Hamilton emphasised this: “when people are health in their body and mind, they are more productive. They’re more friendly. There’s less absenteeism because people are not off with stress or mental health leave. When people are mentally healthier, we are more creative.”

People are more aware of wellness programmes at work, and are more inclined to join your team if they know they will be supported. Stand by your people, and they will stand by your business.

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An article from Forbes highlights this, stating that 87% of employees consider health and wellness packages when choosing and employer. The article also states that more than half of Gen-Zers and Millenials consider company wellness programmes to be important or extremely important when deciding where to work.

Wellness helps in all aspects of business. From recruitment, to retention, attraction, pipelining and productivity, wellness touches on every outlook regarding HR and future talent.

It boils down to this: workplace wellness is here to stay, and if you want a successful wellness programme, let your employees guide the way.