The age of treating employees with a one-size-fits-all approach is well and truly at an end. Since the turn of the century, workplaces across the world have adopted policies which make the health and wellbeing of their employees a priority.
With something as delicate as health and happiness, it’s hard to know where to start. This can be even more challenging if you operate in a digital workplace, where your team might not always be immediately visible.
In virtual working environments, it’s far easier for dissatisfaction to slowly become a major factor without business owners or managers noticing. In this guide, we’ll explore what employers can do to ensure they maintain good levels of wellbeing for all of their team, regardless of their role.
What is wellbeing in the workplace?
The concept of wellbeing isn’t an easy one to define - there are many parts to the puzzle. Whilst, we all have different needs and desires in a role, ultimately, it’s a general feeling of contentment and happiness in what you do which will provide you with this sought-after feeling.
In truth, a lot of things play a part in whether or not someone feels happy at work. . Some of the most important contributing factors are:
Wanting to keep learning is part of being human. We often look for opportunities to expand our existing abilities, to make us the best version of ourselves that we can be. Whether it be career development or just expanding our emotional horizons, this is another huge factor that needs to be taken into account.
The company culture
A business is only ever as good as its culture – at least from an internal perspective. You can have all the perks in the world, and offer a fantastic salary, but if the culture is wrong people will quickly become dissatisfied. This needs to start at the top and bleed through down to the base of the organisation.
A good work-life balance
Having a six-figure salary is fantastic – but if you don’t have the time to make the most of that in your social life, is it really worth it? People are beginning to make this balance between work and play more of a priority when looking for employment. A good business needs to be able to balance both.
Ultimately, money makes the world go round. While some people may be willing to compromise a little in order to better enjoy their life, they still need the security of knowing they’re sufficiently compensated to live comfortably. That extends to the future, with pensions also high on the priority list.
Whether it be physical or mental, people want to feel like they are safe, cared for and protected. This should come as no surprise. People won’t always prioritise their safety and health in favour of a job that while lucratively beneficial, could have a negative impact on their wider life. That’s why it’s so important to create a culture where health is the top priority.
A social connection
A closeness, even friendship, with those we work alongside is another massive contributing factor when it comes to our sense of professional wellbeing. Feeling like you’re part of a team not only gives you the inspiration to give it your all for your colleagues, but also provides a real sense of belonging.
Wellbeing at work statistics
Workplace wellbeing isn’t something people put on the backburner anymore – it’s at the forefront of most employer’s minds. That’s represented by the numbers, which show a clear transition away from traditional employment methods, in favour of a people-first mentality.
Our own Benefits Benchmarking report reveals that companies across the world (including the UK, US, and Germany) have all moved towards a policy of putting their employees' needs first. With employee wellbeing now becoming a priority, rather than an afterthought, a variety of new measures are being introduced across the world.
A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) would go on to emphasise just how much of a change in attitudes there has been over the past 5 years alone. They found a huge step-up of wellbeing initiatives provided by employers, across a number of key areas:
Further insight from our Benefits Benchmarking report revealed that some of the most favoured wellbeing additions for employees included:
It was also found that as many as 39% of these businesses were looking to increase their benefit budget by anywhere from 11-25%. What’s more, there had also been a strong shift in the number of people working remotely, with the numbers showing 58% of employees were working from home at least partly every month.
When it came to how often workers would ply their trade remotely, the survey found:
The need to prioritise the wellbeing of employees is perhaps best highlighted by data issued by Champions Health. They found that the pandemic which brought the world to a standstill had had a major impact on employee overall mental health levels.
Some of the most telling stats showed:
of employees felt some level of stress at work during this period
of those said the stress levels were moderate to high
of people experienced at least mild levels of anxiety
found they had trouble relaxing in general
had experienced mild symptoms of depression
said they had moderate to severe symptoms
Now more than ever, employees are turning to employers to get the support and attention they need. It’s perhaps no surprise many companies are implementing innovative new wellbeing policy strategies to keep their employees in a good head space.
Supporting employee wellbeing
Being an employer can be challenging. You have to manage keeping your team happy, while still producing the results needed to see your business thrive. Now that you might not see your team in person as often, if ever, it’s even more difficult to identify where people need support.
To maintain a healthy working environment, it’s important to familiarise yourself with some of the most vital factors of employee wellbeing. Keep all of these in mind when creating any plan of action.
Understanding what people want
Crafting a policy which works for your entire workforce is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. You need to get a detailed understanding of what people want as a whole, and try to introduce policies which work for the entire company. Sit down one-on-one with everyone or collect thoughts and feedback through company-wide surveys to find out what they would like to see introduced.
Aligning goals with company values
When introducing new policies, they need to tie-in with what you’re looking to achieve as a business. Aligning your goals to your values is important, otherwise you could find yourself in a position where the two don’t match-up. A lack of cohesion on a cultural level could be a killer for workplace wellbeing. Starting at your company values is a really great starting point for deciding what wellbeing initiatives should be implemented.
Addressing all aspects of both professional and personal life
It’s vital to remember that your team has an entire world outside of their job. And while you should always expect them to be committed to their role, it’s impractical and unfair to expect them to sacrifice their personal life to accommodate that. Make sure your policies take both spheres into account, especially in the new age of working from home, the line between personal and professional life have been blurred.
Equality and inclusion
A successful wellbeing program should at its core be equal and inclusive - there should be something for everyone no matter the demographic. This means taking things like disability, race and gender into account. It might be worth creating a tailored committee or department to ensure the needs of everyone are discussed, addressed and met.
Once you have a broad idea of what your wellbeing strategy will look like, it’s important to also outline your communications strategy to make sure your people know what is available as and when they need it. Particularly for internationally distributed teams, accessibility is a critical factor to consider.
Mental health care and support
As a business, you have a duty of care to those who work for you. That extends not just to physical health, but mental wellbeing as well. Mental health is something which a lot of employers have been taking more seriously in recent years. Ensuring that the workplace is a safe space is also a large contributing factor breaking down the toxic taboos around mental health.
Everyone has mental health. Here are some initiatives you can put in place to ensure employees get the support they need:
Mental health days
Introducing a policy of mental health days to give your workforce the chance to take the time they need to manage anything they might be struggling with - that could be taking a break from a stressful period at work, or dealing with any difficulties happening at home to depression.
Make sure to actively approach and talk to your team. can be done via a regularly scheduled monthly call or in-person meeting. Make sure to check up on things like how employees are feeling (in and out of work), Building a workplace culture where people are in a safe space to feel comfortable to speak and where subjects such as mental health are not taboo is really important.
Look for signs
Sometimes people will be understandably hesitant to come forward with mental health concerns. As such, it makes sense to observe how people are doing, and call them aside if you’re worried. Things to watch for include:
- A notable change in habits, work output or personality
- A much higher or lower amount of sickness leave being taken
- Tiredness, notable anxiety and a withdrawal from social chats
- Sudden changes in the standards of work produced
It’s really important to frame any discussions you have with someone who’s struggling as a safe environment to open up rather than a telling off. Mental health concerns are on the increase with many experiencing some form of digital working burnout, so it’s more important than ever that employers spots the signs.
Provide professional help
If you feel an employee is in a vulnerable position where they need more support than you’re able to provide, do not hesitate to turn to a professional for help. Whether this is part of a health insurance programme you operate, an EAP, or simply by financing a qualified therapist or counsellor, it could have a hugely positive impact on your employee’s situation.
Sometimes people will be understandably hesitant to come forward with mental health concerns.
Assistive technology to support employees
In the age of the digital workplace, there are now a much wider range of options to best meet the needs of employees with a disability. The creation of assistive technologies has meant that businesses can offer their workforce adaptive ways to perform to the best of their abilities, allowing them to carry out their job without worrying about barriers to work. Here are just some of the incredible tools you can provide:
Screen readers and magnifiers
Those with visual impairments can benefit from software which either reads what appears on a screen out loud, or magnifies it to a size which is far simpler to process.
For those who are visually impaired or physically disabled, it’s now possible to carry out a variety of tasks with the help of technology controlled by voice command. The tech allows someone to speak to a device and type, browse, scroll and send emails with nothing more than a spoken direction.
These are useful for any employer, but can be particularly beneficial for those with a mild physical disability or joint problems. The keyboards are designed to minimise strain and discomfort, and can be adapted to match the exact needs of the user.
If using a mouse proves to be a challenge, there are a variety of accessible alternatives which make handling much simpler. Some of the best options right now include:
- A joystick mouse (similar to an Atari controller)
- Touchpads (like those on a laptop)
- Headmouse (placed on someone’s head or glasses)
- Footmouse (controlled by the use of someone’s feet)
Introducing any assistive technologies will not only benefit those using them, but also highlight to the rest of your workforce that you are happy to accommodate specific requirements to support anyone to do their job well. This can have a galvanising wider impact which benefits everyone.
In the age of the digital workplace, there are now a much wider range of options to best meet the needs of employees with a disability.
Training opportunities for employees
No matter how long someone has been in a particular role, there’s always the opportunity to learn more and improve on the skills you already have. As such, it’s vitally important you provide workers with the chance to expand and grow. This reminds an employee that their input is valuable, they’re seen as an asset, and there’s always the chance for growth and advancement. This is key to their overall wellbeing.
One of the best ways to do this is by introducing a tailored training program. here’s a basic step-by-step guide:
Step 1 – establish goals
Find out what it is your employees want to get out of their training course. We’ve already discussed how goals need to be orientated around individual needs, so try to make this step versatile, and able to be tailored to each individual's wider aims.
Step 2 – create a structure
Whether it’s a step-by-step system, a series of a couple of training events or weekly classes, it’s important to come up with a structure for the programme. Again, it would be good here to provide a variety of options, in order for employees to choose the one which best suits them.
Step 3 – create training content or find programs
Once the structure is in place, it’s time to work with the trainee to find courses that will benefit them. If possible, you could also create in-house training tools. This is particularly beneficial if the growth they’re pursuing is related to the processes of your business, rather than wider industry factors.
Step 4 – track training performance
Having a clear way to assess whether the training actually worked is also really important. This isn’t to test your team, but rather to see if the system you have in place is actually producing the desired results. If it isn’t it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
Creating a good team spirit
An employee who feels like they’re part of a team or wider movement is far more likely to feel a sense of satisfaction in their role. But how do you create a positive team spirit without it feeling forced or artificial?
Regular social events
Organising monthly or even bi-weekly social events is a great way to bring the team together and bond. This is especially important if you’re a remote company, who doesn't get the chance to hang out in person too often. don’t be afraid to also arrange virtual events or Zoom meets in smaller groups which will give your team a chance to bond.
Assign wellbeing champions
Having dedicated employees whose role it is to organise, instruct and support the company in all things cultural is a great way to ensure your team stays in a good frame of mind. Having a person or team in this kind of position means there’s accountability for ensuring your business is doing what they can to help and accommodate employees.
Everyone should have a say in whatever it is you decide to do as a company. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone gets things their own way, but they should at least have a platform to voice their thoughts and be listened to. It’s impossible to please all the people, all the time. But by letting them be heard, most employees are less likely to be frustrated if things don’t pan out how they wanted.
Open and honest feedback
Make sure to also give people the opportunity to provide positive, constructive feedback to the wider team. Transparency is really important in a digital workforce, where it’s perhaps easier to sugarcoat issues through a computer screen than it would be in a more hands-on setting.
Organising monthly or even bi-weekly social events is a great way to bring the team together and bond.
Having a good work-life balance is one of the most important factors in having a happy workforce. And with so many people now working from home, this has become a trickier task for employers. Let’s now assess what can be done to make this form of work that little bit easier for your team
Financial support when working from home
Working from your own home means footing the cost of aspects like an increased electricity bill, higher water usage and any other expenses which occur as a result of being at home all day, every day. Luckily, there are ways an employer can reach out and help financially support their workforce.
Offer practical support
It would be wrong to become a financial crux to lean on, but finding a middle ground as a helping hand in a crisis is something totally different. Make sure to let your team know that the company will do whatever they can to help if unforeseen circumstances leave them with major money troubles. The specifics of this help can be discussed on an individual basis if such a reality ever presents itself.
Provide financial guidance
Investing in professional help may also be a good idea. Bringing in a financial expert to coach your team is a great way to ensure they’re getting the help they need to stay protected. They’ll be able to specialise in a number of areas, providing tailored advice across a variety of financial queries and concerns.
Facilitate a good home office setup.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the perfect space to work in. Whether they lack actual room, or things like a desk or chair, it’s important you help your team create an office that works for them. This can be achieved with the introduction of a (capped) work-from-home budget which can also be used to contribute to higher utility bills.
It would be wrong to become a financial crux to lean on, but finding a middle ground as a helping hand in a crisis is something totally different.
Working from home considerations
If you do find a large number of your team working from home rather than a coworking space, there are a variety of ways you can step in and make things more manageable for them. Some of the best ways to support the wellbeing of remote workers includes:
Remind your people to take their annual leave
Make sure to highlight the importance of rest and relaxation for workers at home. They might feel confused, or even guilty, for taking breaks in their own home. In reality, it’s no different to being in the office and having a quick 10-minute catch-up with a colleague in the kitchen. We all need mental breaks to give our brains the chance to refresh.
Have regular catch-ups
Make sure to regularly chat with members of your direct team, and ensure other team leads do the same. It’s important to keep abreast of what your workforce is struggling with, and if there are steps you can take to improve their situation.
Run virtual exercise sessions
Bringing the team together for weekly yoga or aerobic sessions is a good way to keep in touch, while also providing them with an outlet to stay healthy. Try to keep these sessions light and at beginner level in order to encourage all types of skill levels to attend.
Conflict management in the workplace
With the team dotted across the country (or even globally), it might be trickier to manage conflicts than if everyone was in one centralised location. Face-to-face sit-downs might not be possible, which means you’ll have to implement solutions via long-distance means.
Here’s some advice for any businesses wanting to address the issue of conflict resolution when working remotely:
Get both sides of the story
It’s vital you hear both sides out before sitting down for a virtual meeting. This will give you the chance to put yourself in the position of both parties, allowing you to better understand what they’re feeling and how it might be resolved. This is particularly useful if you’re someone who has high levels of empathy.
Regardless of your relationship with both parties, you need to adopt a position of neutrality throughout. You can’t be seen to be showing any kind of favouritism just because you have a slightly better relationship with one person.
As you’re using software which might make it more difficult to gage your emotions and reactions, be sure to communicate clearly. . You don’t want to leave room for misinterpretation with something as delicate as conflict resolution.
Regardless of your relationship with both parties, you need to adopt a position of neutrality throughout.
Companies who provide a good work-life balance
If you’re really struggling to know where to start with your own work-life balance, why not take inspiration from what some organisations are already doing? Here are some great examples to follow if you’re looking to give your team more freedom, flexibility and reward at work.
The7stars are a London-based media agency is frequently touted as one of the most progressive companies to work for in the UK. They offer unlimited holiday allowance for all staff, no fixed working hours, and weekly yoga and mindfulness sessions. They don’t believe in timesheets, with employees encouraged to do the hours they need to in order to get their work done.
Multinational beverage company Diageo is doing a lot right when it comes to employee care. With a pension plan, healthcare and flexible working hours, it’s not hard to see why people love to work there. What’s more, they also make a point of championing diversity in the workplace. Five members of their 11-person board are women, making them a part of the 30% Club.
Unilever operates globally, selling a wide range of stock, from ice cream to sanitary products. It’s their maternity leave policy which really helps them stand out from the crowd. They offer 40 weeks, as well as 90 days paid adoptive leave. Childcare support is also offered by their London branch, as well as a creche facility to leave younger kids during the day.
Part of wellbeing is working for an organisation which an employee feels proud, passionate and fortunate to be a part of. One of the best ways to achieve that is by transforming your business into a safe haven, and a place in which people feel genuinely happy to work for. In this section, we’ll explore what a company can do to raise the spirits of their workforce.
Benefit and reward policies
Feeling appreciated for the work we do is a must for most employees. And in a digital workplace, it’s more important than ever to remind your team that they matter to you. What’s more, at a time when personal and professional lives are being inadvertently blurred together, companies need to take strides to ensure there’s a clear balance between the two worlds.
Possibly the most challenging aspect of a digital workplace is understanding how happy your employees are. It’s easy to accidentally overlook the amazing achievements of your team, leaving them feeling unrewarded, unseen and, most importantly of all, unhappy.
That’s why more and more companies are making a point of introducing policies which give their workforce the perks they deserve. A happier, healthier workforce is an investment that returns in dividends (a more productive team, greater retention, attracts the best talent, and ultimately a better quality of life).
Here are just some of the ways you can re-prioritise your business objectives and rewards policies in order to ensure your team are content in their role:
Make benefits the norm
Rather than as a treat or something that needs to be earned, making benefits the standard for your business is guaranteed to strike a chord with existing and prospective future employees. It’s important to remember that when it comes to what might benefit a person’s life, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Try to really vary what you’re offering. Whether that’s fitness classes for those who are more active, or discounts on shopping.
Recognise long-term commitment
If someone has been with the company for a long time, make a point to shout about it and recognise the commitment they’ve made to the company. Regardless of their role, if they’ve been with you for a long time the chances are they’re an efficient, skilled and loyal worker. Rewarding them not only makes the individual feel appreciated, but shows others that long-term dedication is worth it for them.
Create an internal celebration system
Set up a system which gives employees a platform to celebrate the success of others in their team (or even the wider company). Praise doesn’t always have to come from the top down. Let people shout about those above, beneath or on the same level as themselves. This internal cheering system will help to cultivate a fantastic company culture, where workers feel respected and appreciated by their peers. It gives them a feeling of belonging and keeps a worker committed to a company.
Give rewards as part of ongoing recognition
Make the handing out of rewards a regular part of a continuous recognition program. This can be in the form of a quarterly bonus, an “employee of the month”-style award, or whatever other avenue you feel makes sense for your business model.
Implement flexible reward options
Their birthday off, free gym memberships, more social activities – do you really know what your employees want? Embracing a flexible approach, where employees have some choice over which benefits they receive, can increase the satisfaction. Also be sure to make these rewards accessible. That means instead of offering a generic chain membership, you find something which your employee can actually use in their local area.
Ensure everyone has an equal opportunity
Rewards and benefits shouldn’t be something you earn after a certain period of time, or because of the role you’re in. Giving everyone a level platform enhances someone’s notion of purpose at a company, straight from the get-go. Showing your employees they matter, whether they’re a senior member or a junior, highlights your commitment to making a real and meaningful impact in their everyday working lives.
A happier, healthier workforce is an investment that returns in dividends
Stress management support
The working world certainly has its fair share of stressful scenarios. Learning how to combat and manage issues you face can be challenging – so responsibility lies with employers to ensure adequate procedures and the support are put in place to combat it.
Introduce flexible hours
Giving your team the chance to work around hours which suit them will greatly reduce the amount of stress they feel. It could be that their lifestyle makes it incredibly difficult to work efficiently between the conventional hours of 9-to-5. Or it might be that they’re really productive for 4 or 5 hours a day, but feel rundown if they’re forced to work for eight.
Communicate the different support options
Make sure your team knows they are fully supported when it comes to any issues they’re facing. Even if there are no actionable steps you can immediately take, having the knowledge that they’re not under fire will go a long way to relieving stress at what could be a troubling time. Some common forms of support option include:
- An internal coaching system
- A HR department
- Counselling through your health insurance
- Therapy (without the need for a referral)
Introduce an anonymous online submissions system
This option can be incredibly useful for wider team complaints. Nobody wants to be the person to step up and speak on behalf of the company about issues they’re having. An anonymous box gives the team the chance to let you know how they’re feeling, without the brunt of the ‘blame’ being placed on one person’s shoulders. There are online services which exist for this very reason, offering people the chance to secretly suggest positive changes they’d like to see.