Supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace is in the spotlight more than ever, and understandably so. Not only is there the impact of the pandemic to consider but, according to the Mental Health Foundation, one in seven of us experiences mental health problems at work.
Promoting good health doesn’t just benefit the workforce. Given almost 13% of all sickness absence can be attributed to mental health conditions and poor mental health costs UK businesses £45bn a year, companies who invest in wellbeing stand to gain too.
It’s no secret that employees are more productive and focused when they’re happy and well. Mental Health Foundation research also suggests investment in better workplace mental wellbeing support actually saves UK businesses up to £8bn a year. Deloitte found that for every £1 spent on mental health interventions for staff, businesses get back £5 in reduced turnover and absenteeism.
It goes without saying that the physical health of staff needs to be considered too, whether at home or in the office. A proactive approach to health and safety, including desk assessments and health-focused benefits, like contributory private healthcare and cycle to work initiatives, can also boost morale and make staff feel cared for. And fostering a good work-life balance helps avoid burnout, especially in our digital “always-on” age as businesses move to more flexible post-pandemic working arrangements.
It’s worth knowing that companies who invest in employee engagement and wellbeing outperform others. And it shouldn’t feel like a daunting or lofty prospect; there are easy tried-and-tested strategies that can foster a healthy working environment and promote wellbeing at work.
Engage staff in their own wellbeing
It’s essential to develop a company culture of communication, openness and engagement, so employees feel heard, supported and valued. While these fundamentals are non-negotiable, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the detail. Unless your wellbeing efforts chime with the culture of the organisation, they can come across as disjointed and inauthentic. So listen to staff.
At Thrive, employees complete a simple weekly employee voice survey from the Happiness Index as well as an annual survey. Six-monthly personal development plans have been simplified in consultation with staff and we also have an anonymous suggestion box. It all adds up to staff being, and feeling, heard in company decisions that affect them.
Allow champions to lead wellbeing
Even better than developing a wellbeing programme based on employee ideas and feedback, is allowing staff to lead on it.
Create wellbeing champions and give them the autonomy and budget to deliver what their colleagues want. At Thrive, this has led to several initiatives, including lunchtime yoga, bake-offs, mental health awareness sessions, mindfulness training and charity volunteering days.
We even have a scheme that allows staff to order a book that brings them joy then pass it on to a colleague when they’ve finished. Surprise wellness gifts, like sleep kits and scented candles, are sent to employees throughout the year to ensure they feel cared for and, after consultation, biscuit Fridays in the office have been replaced by healthier fruit Mondays.
Positive working relationships and social activities
Yoga, mindfulness and other wellness sessions also allow staff to make time for positive activities as part of their workday. Throw in social events to further nurture a sense of positivity and team bonding. Thrive’s monthly book club and regular virtual pub quizzes have helped staff feel less disconnected from colleagues and the wider company during the pandemic.
Employee of the month may sound old school, but we’ve found that involving everyone in celebrating achievements at our monthly all-company meetings incentivises staff and builds a culture of praise. This seems especially true when you don’t limit the monthly winner to one – and there’s a celebratory bottle of prosecco involved.
We also spotlight different members of staff and take it in turns to present in monthly meetings, to share recognition, promote different streams of work and encourage a cohesive team culture.
Encourage learning and developmentResearch from mental health charity Mind found that a learning culture helps employees feel valued and supported. And staff who feel confident and well-equipped to do their job are more productive and committed. Learning something new can keep up interest levels too.
Even if you can’t invest in often expensive external training, skill-sharing workshops can foster career development and encourage team building. Different teams can take it in turns to train other departments. Thrive’s sessions include design classes, writing workshops, SEO training and Excel spreadsheet coaching. The added bonus of using staff to lead sessions is that it also builds their confidence and sense of worth.
Nearly half of British companies have implemented a wellbeing strategy for their employees, and another half are planning to in the next year. This has implications not only for workforce happiness and productivity but recruitment and retention too.
Whatever initiatives you consider, embedding employee engagement and making wellness part of the conversation are key to ensuring your staff feel valued, confident and committed.