In a world of technology and constant communication, our working lives have never been busier. While many of us love that ‘on the go’ culture and the ability to access our emails at the touch of a button, we’re also seeing higher levels of stress. Research from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that around 175 million days a year are lost to sickness, with mental health issues a growing concern. To combat this, companies across the UK are incorporating wellness into their HR strategies and benefits packages, to ensure more positive outcomes for their employees. While employers can’t control winter flu season or more serious illnesses, they can create an environment that fosters good health, happiness, and improved productivity.
Better mental health
Nearly 40% of workplace incapacity benefits are due to common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. While these problems are complex and difficult to control, an HR strategy that prioritises wellness can put ‘backstops’ in place that encourage people to identify problems early, and get help. Wellness policies can also introduce processes to prevent exacerbation of mental health issues. In addition to promoting wellness through team activities, and away days, some companies have introduced anti-bullying measures, in-house counsellors and regular education sessions on prioritising and destigmatising mental health challenges.
Improved physical health
There’s a strong link between mental and physical health, so any policies to support employees with their emotional wellness should also focus on the physical. A study on UK workplace productivity shows that healthier employees are less likely to take time off sick, meaning it benefits companies as well as individuals. Opportunities to get involved with team sports, fun runs, obstacle courses and other activities not only give people a chance to exercise, but it also makes them feel like they’re part of a team.
Health is a huge part of happiness, but there are other factors to consider when you’re establishing a wellness programme. Studies show business sales can rise by 37% when your employees are happy, so it’s hugely beneficial if you can achieve a happy workforce. We know that simple things like a light, airy office with natural plant life can boost people’s moods, and enhance performance. But to truly ensure you’re considering your employees’ happiness in your wellness strategy, it’s important to include them during the development process. Staff surveys are a good starting point, but you could also reach out to prospective employees about their needs, as well as providing regular feedback sessions for those working at the organisation.
Once you’ve established what makes your employees tick, it’s time to incorporate this into an action plan. A personalised benefits system is one way to make sure your employees feel like valued individuals. For some people, a happy and healthy work-life balance might include extended holidays or opportunities to volunteer. For others, it might mean additional support with childcare or health insurance. At the moment up to 50% of employers aren’t meeting the needs of a multi-generational workforce, so it’s vital you consider everyone when developing a wellness HR strategy and ensure it can be personalised to each individual.
More than 99% of the workforce would like to have flexible working hours, and consider this an important part of wellness in the office. All HR strategies should be considering ways to accommodate flexible working so that employees can run their schedules in a way that works best for them. In addition to ensuring that people can spend time with sick children, visit the GP or go to the dentist, flexible working reduces stress around deadlines as it gives people the opportunity to work in their own time.