Wellbeing: not just a "nice to have"


Ever since the pandemic hit, employee wellbeing has been something at the forefront of employer's concerns. Staff who feel that they are being supported within the workplace, and that any needs they have are being considered and, ideally, met will be happier and more productive. The bottom line is that employers will have to show that they are committed to employee wellbeing in order to attract and retain talent.

Looking after mental health

There is an increased awareness of mental ill health and the need to take steps to alleviate any impact that it has on employees in their working life.Acas has produced various pieces of guidance, 'Managing staff experiencing mental ill health', 'Dealing with stress in the workplace' and 'Promoting positive mental health in the workplace', which it's useful to be aware of and refer to. Interestingly, the CIPD's most recent Health and Wellbeing at Work survey (April 2022) identified taking early intervention to manage work-related stress as a key area which demanded immediate action.

It follows that managers should be alert to any changes in the usual behaviour of their employees, to any increased levels of sickness absence and to any change in the standard of their work.As soon as a manager is aware that an employee is experiencing mental ill health, steps should be taken to prevent it becoming more serious and support should be provided to help them.They should be encouraged to talk about any difficulties they are experiencing and consideration should be given to whether any additional support or adjustments to working practices are required.Any services provided by mental health first aiders or employee assistance programmes should be flagged.Consideration should also be given to the rest of the team if a work colleague is experiencing mental ill health; managers should be available to talk about concerns or worries that any team member may have.

Acas stresses that staff with good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work.There is still a stigma attached to poor mental health and organisations that promote positive mental health and educate their staff can help to tackle this. It's also a good idea to look at ways of alleviating the work-related causes of mental ill health, by reviewing workloads and demands, giving staff more control over their work, and encouraging staff to find a good work-life balance. 

Something else to consider is instituting wellness action plans (WAPs) for staff.Mind, the mental health charity, has put together a guide for line managers on WAPs which makes it clear that they are not necessarily just for those experiencing mental health problems, and can be useful for all employees to help identify how an individual's wellbeing can be proactively improved.

The Mind guidance contains tips on how managers can support staff wellbeing.It makes the point that how people are treated and managed on a day-to-day basis is central to their mental wellbeing and to how motivated and engaged they feel, so it's a good idea to ask staff what support they need.Developing an atmosphere of trust by regularly asking for feedback about levels of support, and weaving wellbeing into catch-ups can be ways of showing support, as well as being approachable and responsive, and proactively encouraging staff to monitor their workload, encouraging healthy working hours and a positive work/life balance.

Helping employees with the cost of living

The rising cost of living has been something that employers have been aware of now for some time.There are a number of different options that employers can consider, and which many are already adopting.These include providing subsidised meals at work and facilitating public transport loans, as well as using salary sacrifice schemes to offer childcare vouchers, cycle to work schemes and additional pension contributions.

Implementing a financial wellbeing policy so that staff know what help is available, or signposting them to saving money hacks are also useful ways of engaging with the challenges of the cost of living.

For more detail on what employers can do to assist their employees please refer to our recent bulletin, 'The cost of living crisis – what can employers do to support their staff?'.

Aiding wellbeing

Offering employees attractive benefits can be another way of aiding their wellbeing.Things to consider could include gym membership, sabbaticals, contribution towards work-related study and healthcare scheme benefits.The latter could include things such as health screening, contribution to glasses and dental care, flu jabs, setting up running or walking groups and introducing cycle to work schemes.

Something highlighted in the CIPD survey is the need to have effective strategies in place to support people with long-term health conditions, "particularly long Covid as a new and complex condition affecting a significant number of employees".Out of those surveyed by CIPD (804 organisations covering more than 4.3 million employees), nearly half had employees who have experienced long Covid in the last 12 months.It's clear that in managing employees, either with long Covid or other long-term health conditions, it's going to be essential to provide support, consider adjustments to enable employees to stay at work and also promote flexible working.

Be flexible!

Flexibility is something that employees are increasingly coming to regard as the norm.An important aspect of employee wellbeing is achieving a good work-life balance, and allowing staff to work flexibly is an easy way to promote their wellbeing.As the Acas guidance on hybrid working notes, it brings certain positives with it, namely increasing productivity and job satisfaction, attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce and improving trust and working relationships.It can also help reduce stress as employees will feel more in control of their working set-up, and can combine their work requirements with other responsibilities.

Introduce a wellbeing strategy

A sure way of developing, and delivering on, your commitment to your employees' wellbeing is via the introduction of a wellbeing strategy. 

The CIPD survey identified the top three benefits of employers increasing their focus on employee wellbeing: a healthier and more inclusive culture; better work-life balance; and better employee morale and engagement. As the CIPD points out health and wellbeing shouldn’t "have to be treated as an "add-on" or "nice-to-have" activity; employee wellbeing should be integrated throughout an organisation and be properly embedded in its culture rather than standing in isolation.

So how do you go about putting together a wellbeing strategy? An effective strategy should be tailored to your own individual organisational needs so there's no "one-size-fits-all" approach. You will have to think about what you're trying to improve and how you can measure this to see if your strategy is actually working. This could be increasing productivity, reducing the amount of time taken for illness, increasing staff retention or improving employee satisfaction. Having a clearly defined set of goals and outcomes will be essential.

Talking to staff will also be crucial to find out which wellbeing initiatives would be most attractive to them. There's no point going to great lengths to put things in place that won't be used in practice. 

Finally, it's not all down to the employer! Employees will also be responsible for looking after their own health and wellbeing. You should ensure that you make it clear how staff can access the support and benefits available to them under the wellbeing strategy. Communication will be key, and you should make sure that you ask for feedback from staff so that your approach to wellbeing being can evolve over time to accommodate the identified needs.


What's coming up in 2023?


Webinar: Trowers Tuesday – Union strikes and recognition


Webinar: Agility – maintaining workplace culture through agile working


Webinar: Trowers Tuesday – How to manage ex employees


Webinar: Trowers Tuesday – What's new in 2023?!


Trowers reappointed to FSCS Legal Panel