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Top tips for monitoring and improving employee wellbeing

Reading Time: 5 minutes

With the hectic events of the past few weeks, our series on workplace wellbeing must seem like an eternity ago. In case you missed it, we published a four-part series on physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing. While there are four distinct categories of personal wellbeing, a deficit in one can have a knock-on effect on the rest. So here are our employee wellbeing tips for bolstering staff happiness and wellness at your workplace:

  • Give staff time to recover from illnesses
  • Take proper measures to reduce physical strain
  • Organise social events to bolster workplace cohesion
  • Encourage people to be open about their mental health
  • Help staff access mental health services
  • Provide access to financial management resources
  • Let employees work remotely

Give staff time to recover from illnesses

While this is especially good advice given present times, it still applies even when there isn’t a viral outbreak stalking the land. Letting your employees take some time to get over their sickness is the quickest way for them to recover. But just as importantly, it keeps them from passing any infectious illnesses onto their coworkers.

That said, in some workplaces, getting staff to actually use their sick days is easier said than done. In 2018, a CIPD survey found that 86% of 1000 respondents had observed presenteeism (colleagues showing up to work while sick) in the workplace. Only a quarter of respondents who had observed presenteeism said their organisation had taken steps to discourage it. So now more than ever, it’s important for management to lead the way in encouraging staff to use sick leave when they need it.

Take proper measures to reduce physical strain

While health and safety guidelines and ergonomic office equipment have been around for decades, the fact remains that 498,000 UK workers suffered from musculoskeletal disorders in 2018-19. This accounts for 6.9 million working days lost.

This doesn’t just apply to office workers though. Of all UK industries, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing had the largest rates of musculoskeletal disorders. The best solution for physically demanding jobs is to ensure staff are trained according to best practice and encouraged to take regular breaks.

Organise social events to bolster workplace cohesion

It may not seem like a manager’s responsibility to make sure their employees are all best friends, but people with close work friends are far more likely to be highly engaged. Whether it’s a night out, a fun activity like paintball, or a regular gathering like a book club, this may even help some staff feel more satisfied about their work/life balance. Just make sure to keep these events purely optional or you might end up with the opposite effect to what you intended.

Encourage people to be open about their mental health

The dialogue around mental health was getting some much-needed focus before it was, quite understandably, upstaged by a major global pandemic. But with so many people self-isolating, and a large number of those continuing to work remotely, it’s important not to lose sight of our mental wellbeing. This can involve having to address embedded workplace culture, which is most effectively done from the top down. So as management, it’s important to lead by example.

As well as improving dialogue, you need to provide access. While this can include access to counselling and therapy services as an employee benefit, it’s also important that employees can access learning resources around mental health. For example, new employees could be given an info pack containing information about common mental disorders, wellness advice, as well as website and contact information for mental health services.

Help staff access mental health services

It’s all well and good telling people to be informed about mental health issues. But many people struggle to access these services due to waiting lists, or even lack of awareness. Giving employees access to things like private counselling can really make the difference in keeping their mental health from spiralling unchecked.

Obviously, not every business can afford a cushy mental health package. But there are still things smaller organisations can do to support the mental health of their employees. The NHS’s IAPT scheme (Improve Access to Psychological Therapies) allows people to self-refer for a variety of common mental disorders. Aside from providing access, employers should also take steps to be accommodating when employees set up appointments regarding their mental health. By allowing someone to work around their appointments, you remove a barrier to access that can often discourage people from seeking help.

Provide access to financial management resources

Poor financial wellbeing is a significant cause of stress for a lot of people. Financially stressed people are more likely to suffer from fatigue and heart problems. The sleep lost over financial concerns translates into lost productivity in their working lives, even when they aren’t living paycheque to paycheque. While some employees undoubtedly struggle due to low income, others simply don’t have access to the proper information and services to aid financial decision making.

According to CIPD, finance is the least promoted area of wellbeing in the workplace. Fortunately, they make several recommendations to address it:

·         Ensure your organisation has a fair and equitable pay system.

·         Provide access to resources such as debt counselling and financial advice.

·         Give clear communication in terms of staff rewards.

·         Provide options for retirement planning.

Let employees work remotely

Remote working, or telecommuting, has been enjoying something of a renaissance lately. And while it has been useful for stemming the spread of viral infection, that’s far from its only advantage. Even before coronavirus, remote work arrangements were in extremely high demand. They can make full-time work more feasible for people looking after small children or elderly relatives.

For many employees, working remotely can remove one of the most stressful and costly elements of work: the daily commute. It is anticipated that the average time saving alone amounts to anywhere between 8 and 22 days for most staff. This is just one reason perhaps then why remote staff on the average clock up more ‘working’ hours per week and report far higher levels of happiness than their office-based peers.

For more advice on remote work, check out our list of top tools and services.

But don’t forget about other flexible working options

With all the focus that’s been on remote work lately, it can be easy to overlook other options for working flexibly. Once seen as just a flashy benefit, flexibility options are increasingly being seen as par-the-course to potential applicants.

Condensed workweeks, like those implemented by the Plymouth-based law firm Portcullis Legals, appeal to some because an extra day off benefits their work/life balance enough to be worth an extra two hours on each day.

Make use of regular/weekly check-ins

Aside from helping managers to stimulate employee engagement, regular check-ins also help you monitor the wellbeing of your staff. In normal circumstances this might revolve more around their sense of value and belonging in the workplace, as well as any issues they might have settling in. 

But at the moment, employee check-ins are an extremely useful tool for monitoring mental wellbeing. With so many people working remotely from self-isolation, it’s important to make sure that employees are holding up as well as they can under the effects of cabin fever. Weekly10’s check-in features a high level of question customisation, and allows for effective two-way feedback between manager and employee to ensure you’re asking the right questions. 

Embrace positive changes to workplace culture

It can be difficult to implement real change in an entrenched workplace culture. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

But the world of work is changing quickly. Between hushed whispers of automation and the waves of ongoing research in the workplace, it’s quickly becoming apparent that a focus on wellbeing is the way forward. But like we said in our point on mental health, it’s up to management to make these changes stick. It isn’t enough to just make changes and expect everyone to fall in line. People in leadership roles must actively embrace these changes to encourage everyone else to follow suit.

Care to see how a weekly employee check-in can keep employee wellbeing front and centre of your workplace culture?

Research Associate