This article is the first in our Employee wellbeing series. Further details are below.
Employee wellbeing has risen to the top of the business agenda in recent years. In this series, we will explore some of the areas upon which employers are focusing to foster and promote employee wellbeing, including menopause, flexible working, fertility and leave from work. We discuss below, the broader issue of wellbeing and the reasons why employers should not underestimate its importance.
What is employee wellbeing?
Employee wellbeing is the overall mental, physical, emotional and economic health of employees. Previously employers have tended to focus on the physical health of staff and the physical working environment but the concept of wellbeing has developed and now expands beyond that encompassing all aspects of working life. Clearly, factors outside the workplace can affect employee wellbeing but with the pandemic having radically changed ways of working and remote working blurring the distinction between home and office, personal issues are no longer hidden at home and employers are more open than ever to adopting a holistic approach to promoting a happy, healthy workforce.
Why is it important?
Increased staff wellbeing has been shown to have tangible benefits for employers:
Operational impact: research shows a clear correlation between employee wellbeing and company performance which, in turn impacts company profits. Having policies and procedures to support staff physically and emotionally in various aspects of their lives and to ensure effective communication between the business and staff has been proven to improve employee satisfaction and engagement in the workplace which in turn improves customer/client experience and increases operational effectiveness.
Reputation: organisations which invest in wellbeing benefit from an improved profile in the market. Increasingly, when awarding business, clients and customers look for organisations which reflect their own vision and brand values as well as their own approach to diversity, equality and inclusion. Organisations which can demonstrate they look after their staff and are willing to adopt innovative and modern solutions whether through policies or use of technology become more attractive in all aspects of their operations.
Staff retention: organisations with wellbeing initiatives have been proven to have reduced staff turnover. Employers who accommodate and support employees who may be experiencing challenges for whatever reason, are looking for an alternative working pattern to achieve a more balanced life-style or who are keen to develop their career are well placed to retain talent which may otherwise be lost. In the context of labour shortages, this is more important than ever before.
Recruitment: there is currently fierce competition for top talent. In a market where employees increasingly value non-financial benefits such as a positive work culture and prioritise work-life balance, an employer’s ability to demonstrate that they share and support these values is a key recruitment tool.
Diversity, equality and inclusion: wellbeing policies and initiatives are an integral part of any DEI strategy and promote a diverse and inclusive workforce. Such policies are a key tool in attracting people back into the workforce such as new parents, retirees and those with disabilities or previous ill health who have talent and experience but may otherwise feel that they are unable to sufficiently balance the demands of work with their own personal circumstances.
Minimises legal risk: a holistic approach to wellbeing reduces the risks of staff dissatisfaction and absences relating to stress, anxiety and depression, all of which affect productivity and overall staff morale. It further mitigates the risk of “presenteeism” and “quiet quitting”. A proactive approach by employers reduces the risks of complaints and legal claims such as discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal from employees, which are costly both in terms of time and money.
What are businesses doing to improve employee wellbeing?
Fostering and promoting wellbeing can be achieved through simple steps with minimal costs for employers. Clear and effective communication and a culture of openness is key in ensuring staff engagement. It is invaluable to have managers and business leaders who are available to, and listen to employees whether through an open-door policy, regular one-to-ones or more staff forums. Similarly, the importance of flexibility cannot be underestimated. Enforced remote working during the pandemic proved that it can be effective and efficient, and with many organisations having invested heavily in the technology to improve the ability of staff to work remotely, organisations should not be suspicious of those who wish to retain some element of flexibility in their working life. Trusting and permitting staff to flex their working patterns so that they can fit in other activities, be that taking a relative to a medical appointment, attending a school concert, going to the gym or taking the dog for a walk can result in significant benefits in terms of employee satisfaction, morale and engagement at no cost to the employer.
Coaching, mentoring, leadership training and a clear career development plan is also another easy way to improve engagement and ensure employees feel valued. Supporting and promoting community and charitable events whether through sponsorship, volunteering, or even simply acknowledgement is worthwhile. Similarly, recognition of contributions made by employees both in the workplace and outside fosters a positive culture, boosting morale, participation and engagement.
Policies and initiatives which support their employees effectively demonstrate the importance an employer places on wellbeing and assisting staff to be fulfilled, well-rounded, healthier and happier. They can be easy and quick to implement but reap disproportionate rewards.
How can we help?
We assist employers to prepare and implement wellbeing policies and staff benefits. We are experienced in helping organisations to realise innovative schemes and to update existing policies to take into account changing priorities. We offer a pragmatic approach devising such policies, sense checking for potential pitfalls and legal risks at every stage. We also can support organisations as they put such policies into practice, assisting them successfully to balance the needs and goals of the business with the specific circumstances and needs of employees and mitigating the risk of complaints and legal claims. Finally, in the event of a complaint, we can provide end-to-end support including devising an appropriate strategy taking into account the level of risk, potential costs and the desired outcomes of all concerned.
For more information about our employment law team, please click here.
Employee wellbeing series
Other articles in the series so far:
2. Menopause in the workplace by Tejmin Kishun and Lizzie Field