“Fake it ‘til you make it” works for some people, but for companies that don’t have a handle on employee wellbeing, “fake it ‘til you break it” may be more apropos. It’s entirely possible for employees to come to work every day and have zero enthusiasm for their work or their workplace. With employee engagement tied directly to financial performance, and wellbeing tied directly to engagement, the implication is clear. Wellbeing and engagement are inextricably linked, and companies ignore them at their peril.
Why employee wellbeing is so important to a company’s bottom line
Workplace stress is on the upswing as people deal with burnout, boredom, work-life balance and the fallout from the pandemic. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that 71% of employed Americans typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday. Stressed-out employees lack interest, motivation and energy. They have difficulty focusing on tasks and don’t put a full effort into their work. They’re irritable with customers and coworkers. They’re more than three times as likely to say they intend to seek employment elsewhere in the next year.
A systematic review of 56 published studies of worksite health programs cited by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that well-implemented workplace health programs can lead to 25% savings each on absenteeism, healthcare costs, and workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs. That’s quite an impact on a company’s bottom line. It’s no wonder that employee wellbeing has become a top priority for HR leaders—companies can’t afford not to promote wellbeing at work.
The pressure is on to establish ‘well at work’ programs… But how?
So much of what constitutes success rests on how engaged employees are with the company—their involvement and enthusiasm for their work and their workplace. ‘Well at work’ programs can go a long way in ensuring employees are engaged, healthy and satisfied. Here are 10 steps to consider when launching one.
Step 1 – Commit to investment and action
Before anything else, gain full buy-in from your organization’s leadership team. Building an employee wellbeing program requires investment dollars and the commitment to act on your promise to employees. Employees have excellent “BS” detectors. Saying one thing then doing another—or doing nothing at all—can cause people to disengage even further.
Step 2 – Find out exactly what is causing employee stress
This isn’t a guessing game. Whether you have 50, 500 or 50,000 employees, surveying them is a must. Most people don’t talk freely at work about what’s bothering them—not to each other and certainly not to their supervisors—and it’s imperative that your employee wellness program is grounded in reality. Invest in an anonymized survey to get your program off on the right foot.
Step 3 – Think about workplace stressors in terms of categories
Wellness has many dimensions, and workplace wellbeing ideas are as varied as the people seeking them. When establishing a ‘well at work’ program, it can be helpful to categorize what’s causing workplace malaise. Each company will have a different list based on the results of their survey, but here’s an example. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is characterized by three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
Step 4 – Do your research
Once you understand what is negatively affecting your employees, start educating yourself about all the ways you could attack the problem. Employee wellness is thoroughly researched, so you will be able to glean a good understanding of the subject from surveys, academic publications and case studies online. That research will enable you to have more productive conversations about what you want to implement and why.
Step 5 – Develop your program framework
You will likely want to engage an expert in employee wellness programs to develop one that is tailored to your needs and proven to work. Based on current research, the APA suggests:
- Increasing your employees’ options for where, when and how they work
- Giving your employees a voice in organizational decisions
- Developing programs and policies that support employee mental health
- Taking a critical look at equity, diversity and inclusion policies
- Reexamining health insurance policies with a focus on employee mental health
Step 6 – Train your managers to promote health and wellbeing
Per the APA, “Teaching supervisors how to support employees and recognize the signs of stress and mental health issues helps reduce turnover and absenteeism. Managers and supervisors who work directly with employees are key to implementing and sustaining policies and procedures and creating a supportive environment.”
Step 7 – Develop a coaching program
Establish a caring culture that enables your company to flourish by implementing a coaching discipline. Coaches can help employees with self-reflection and mental health awareness. Programs such as CoachHub Wellbeing™ are personalized to meet each employee’s needs and enable them to take concrete steps to improve their mental health.
Step 8 – Rethink your office layout
In the quest for collaboration, attractive aesthetics and a high-energy environment, many companies have ignored the very real need for quiet space to think, reflect or concentrate away from interruptions and background noise. Rethink the purpose of public spaces and private areas (executive offices and conference rooms) in terms of employee wellbeing.
Step 9 – Give employees tools, time, space and privacy
Establishing a program is one thing. Enabling people to use it is another. Two of the biggest stressors for employees are heavy workloads and unrealistic job expectations. Make it okay for people to access the wellbeing tools you’re giving them without having to tackle work they missed by doing so.
Step 10 – Keep in touch
As we learned from the pandemic, things can change quickly. Survey employees often to ensure your program is still providing value. Listen to what your employees need and act on it. Don’t be afraid to eliminate any aspects of your program that aren’t being utilized; invest in what’s working and what’s needed instead.
Establishing an employee wellness program can go a long way toward creating a psychologically healthy workplace that benefits employees and builds the foundation for long-term business success.