The OECD has estimated that 11% of employees around the world work 50+ hours per week . Employees spend around 50% of their waking hours in any given working day at work. It matters, therefore, that employees are reasonably content and productive and it is in any organisation’s interest that this is the case.
Employees are most productive when they have real passion for their work, they feel challenged and excited and know that their work is useful and beneficial. Employees who are happy at work have the right, positive frame of mind which enhances workplace performance. Employee wellbeing is clearly a key factor in determining an organisation’s long-term effectiveness.
Smart organisations know how important it is to have a positive, productive work environment. They know that work-life balance is important but also know that employees need to be supported to develop their coping skills to manage a busy and highly demanding work schedule.
Caring for employee wellbeing is now a priority for many organisations because they know that those employees who experience burnout and anxiety, who are constantly irritable and stressed will become less able to cope. Such symptoms can arise from excessive work schedules, unreasonable deadlines, job insecurity or an excessively competitive workplace environment.
Stressed or highly-anxious employees see their world differently because they can be over-burdened or even depressed. In the Irish language there is a saying; ‘Feiceann súil ghruama saol gruama’ which translates as ‘ a gloomy eye sees a gloomy world’. If job stress is impacting on the physical and mental health of employees their employers should be concerned. Employers have a duty of care to ensure, as far as practicable, a safe workplace environment for their employees.
This is why smart organisations and companies now prioritise workplace safety and prioritise wellbeing policies as a core element of their policies and procedures. They see investment in employee well-being as a smart investment strategy because the return on that investment soon becomes evident through enhanced employee productivity, greater team coherence and a significant reduction in workplace stress , all of which impacts positively on long-term talent retention.
So what can organisations do to promote employee quality of life , health and ability to work ? How can they promote healthy behaviours and work-based safety? How can they promote and support the physical,emotional,social and occupational well-being of their employees?
Many organisations have now initiated flexible working hours and remote working which is helpful to employees who have long or difficult commutes or family commitments. Workplace wellness programmes aim to promote healthy behaviours which enhance employees’ quality of life and ability to work. Having a safe and healthy work environment is in everyone’s interest.
Wellbeing programmes therefore seek to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours which in turn promotes workplace quality and employee ability to work productively. Wellbeing must be an integral part of any organisation’s developmental policies.
So what can organisations do from a practical perspective to promote well-being? The most imaginative initiatives come from employees so it is really important that there is real and tangible employee engagement in the development of workplace wellbeing strategies.
Many organisation have established wellness committees and many progressive organisations have wellness champions whose aim is to promote the best possible practices to support occupational well-being. Asking for ideas and listening to solutions can result in a surprising variety of novel initiatives.
Workplace well-being newsletters are a great way for promoting information and engaging employees. Employees come up with great ideas such as healthy office cookbooks and healthy office snacks. They may have “meatless days” and promote a ‘ Mindful Monday’. Many have brought guest speakers into the workplace to advise and support colleagues. They have organised healthy exercise and workout routines . These and other similar initiatives are facilitated and supported by management.
Progressive organisations have also facilitated ‘happy hours’ where organised walks and runs are available to employees. Providing gym discounts is also a common practice as is the organisation of on-site yoga or pilates classes. Improving canteen food to have a range of identified healthy options is another practical but important action which promotes well-being.
Smart employers now try to ensure that the physical design of the workplace is conducive to physical wellbeing and are designing workspaces to limit stress on the human body and thereby limit eye and back strain.
Organisations can find plenty of advice and support to assist them in developing or enhancing their well-being policies and strategies. For example, in Ireland a voluntary organisation, Mental Health Ireland, www.mentalhealthireland.ie has been in existence since 1966 and promotes positive mental health and wellbeing. The “healthy Ireland” initiative is a Government-led initiative in Ireland which seeks to promote physical and mental well-being(www.hse.ie).
In the UK there are now a range of supports to assist organisations,communities and individuals in promoting physical and mental well-being (www.gov.uk). Across Europe there are many types of advice hubs which provide mentoring and supports and to organisations wishing to develop and improve their well-being policies and strategies.
Another great support has been developed in Australia where Deloitte Australia has collaborated with Medibank to help companies understand, measure and improve the wellbeing of their organisations.The Wellbeing at Work Index (TM) is a comprehensive well-being index to measure well-being across four pillars-mind,body purpose and place. It is available in Australia to organisations with more than 100 employees and utilises the respective expertise of both Deloitte and Medibank.
Workplace well-being is now a professional imperative for all organisations, big and small, and is surely a worthwhile investment delivering real and tangible results for individuals, organisations and communities. In short,it is a no-brainer!