Why wellbeing should be promoted in the workplace
Mention wellbeing and people often associate it with intangible benefits, but did you know when companies invest in wellbeing schemes it's been proven to boost productivity and performance?
In the last few years, the wellness trend has taken over, but wellbeing is about more than mindfulness, superfoods, and #livingyourbestlife. Your sense of wellbeing is about how you feel in all of the areas of your life and about how those areas interact.
Maintaining positive relationships, feeling connected and being physically healthy and financially secure all contribute to our wellbeing – and as such our sense of it is in constant flux. Sustaining a positive sense of wellbeing is a constant balancing act, but doing so allows us to ensure that the challenges we face don’t overwhelm our capacity to handle them.
At work, our feelings of wellbeing are influenced by day-to-day experiences with colleagues and management, how purposeful we feel and the work that we do. Challenges are inevitable, but you can ensure that you replenish the resources: physical, social, emotional and physiological.
Women have to work particularly hard at investing in their own wellbeing, in part because women are often the primary care-givers and as such face a complex set of challenges. Women also place greater emphasis on the need to manage stress than men, yet feel more inadequate in doing so.
According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, only 52% of men say it is very/extremely important to manage stress compared with 68% of women - and 63% of men say they’re doing enough to manage their stress, compared to 51% of women. This means that women have to work harder at achieving and sustaining a sense of wellbeing in order to thrive.
As women may want more support in managing stress, women’s leadership programmes can be particularly helpful and have a significant impact on the wellbeing and performance of the whole team. A less-stressed leader will be able to foster a positive attitude and presence to improve team morale. They will also be more likely to create team activities that support productivity and wellbeing.
Women have to work particularly hard at investing in their own wellbeing, in part because women are often the primary care-givers and as such face a complex set of challenges
Resources invested in the wellbeing of female leaders are then also an investment in the team; a leader with a strong sense of wellbeing is far more likely to delegate work efficiently and take time to offer explanations and train juniors on new skills.
‘Self-care’ leads to ‘other-care’
Talking about self-care can be perceived as selfish (and laced with a dose of unhelpful guilt), but the inverse is true; increased self-care (looking after yourself) leads to increased other-care (looking after your team) and has widespread benefits for the organisation.
A study from London Business School in 2015 showed organisations with high levels of employee wellbeing have outperformed the stock market by around 2-3% per year over a 25 year period. FTSE 100 companies demonstrating best practice in employee health and wellbeing show a higher than average shareholder return – 61% instead of 51%.
Wellbeing is a strategic business issue
As Dr Paul Litchfield, Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing points out, people care about wellbeing: “Organisations can ignore that if they want and get second-rate people, but our businesses will absolutely crash and burn.”
Individuals are experiencing more strain than ever before – increased demands, 24/7 connectivity, burn-out, anxiety – and the data shows that the situation is getting worse.
Organisations with high levels of employee wellbeing have outperformed the stock market by around 2-3% per year over a 25 year period.
According to BHSF research, in any given year, one in four employees take time off work because of stress or personal issues. Fifty eight percent of people have gone to work despite suffering from health or stress issues, but a distracted, anxious workforce isn’t good for business either.
Presenteeism, where employees work but are under-productive due to poor emotional wellbeing, costs the UK economy £15bn annually. Those concerned for their job security or performance perception might be able to mask the problem for a while, but inevitably it will affect their performance, and they will start taking days off. And if the problem goes unchecked, they will take long-term sick leave.
The IPPR estimated annual cost of sick pay to employers is £9 billion. Active employees then shoulder extra work, increasing the pressure on them and triggering an organisation-wide downward spiral.
Retaining talent is cheaper than sourcing it. It costs an average of £6,125 to fill an employee vacancy (recruitment, selection, temporary cover, redundancy payments, training and induction).
Leaders must champion wellbeing
Leadership has a crucial role in focusing on resilience and wellbeing thus facilitating sustained performance. Organisations can’t legislate improved wellbeing, but they can give leaders the tools.
As one of our coachees pointed out: "Management support is absolutely crucial. It impacts your confidence, your performance and ultimately your ability to pursue a career with the organisation".
Over a third of trainees say their line manager’s behaviour has impeded their progression and impacted their wellbeing.
Leaders who model self-care are proactive about other-care with their teams...
Leaders who model self-care are proactive about other-care with their teams and direct in the way they talk about the link between wellbeing and performance.
Best-in-class teams and leaders encourage check-ins about wellbeing, one-to-one meetings and buddy systems. These leaders demonstrate vulnerability rather than stoicism and in doing so create a sustainable culture of inclusion.
Competitive busyness and glamourising behaviours like working late is counterproductive. If actions that promote wellbeing are rewarded (and any stigma attached to having wellbeing issues are removed) then trust and rapport between team members is built.
Common sense dictates that a collaborative team with a sense of purpose will be more effective than one competing internally.
We already expect our leaders to have well developed skills in team management, emotional intelligence and strategic thinking. This should include a concern for their employees’ wellbeing, for entirely rational business reasons.
Organisations promoting health and wellbeing are seen as 3.5 times more likely to be creative and innovative. Thus the return on management time invested is huge: greater engagement, increased performance, a diverse talent pool, reduced absenteeism and burnout.
Those organisations that continue to underestimate the importance of wellbeing will inevitably end up with employees phoning it in or just showing up and surviving.
Rob is a senior HR professional with 25 years commercial experience encompassing Human Resource Management, Learning & Development and Marketing for international global blue chip organisations.
Rob began his career in the Lloyds of London Reinsurance market where he worked in both underwriting and broking roles before moving into...