How do you promote wellbeing at work?

There is an established link between the performance of your workforce and your employees' health and wellbeing

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

Healthy employees are absent less, and they’re in better shape to do their jobs well.

The CIPD has defined wellbeing as “a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish”. But how can HR influence employees’ health and wellbeing and reap the benefits? Besides your many options for managing employee healthcare, HR can also take a more holistic approach to promoting workplace wellness. You can start here.

Why promote health and wellbeing?

We’ve already talked about how healthier employees often perform better and take fewer sick days. There are other benefits too, including:

  • Greater staff motivation, flexibility, and retention - employees who feel looked after by their employer may be more committed to your organisation
  • Improved psychological wellbeing — which can result in a reduction in workplace stress and associated absence, as well as more positive feelings about work
  • Better customer outcomes — Healthier, happier staff are likely to offer better customer experiences

Avoiding a backlash

Be aware, though — research shows programmes must be perceived as genuine in their intent to support employee wellbeing. Staff might respond negatively if they feel HR is simply trying to get more work out of them (Simplyhealth 2014).

What does ‘wellbeing’ cover?

Wellbeing is a broad term. Within HR, it can cover an employee’s:

  • Physical wellbeing
  • Emotional and psychological health
  • Personal values, such as self-confidence and resilience
  • Attitudes to work, such as having a sense of purpose or job satisfaction
  • Personal development at work

All of these can affect employee performance, and any might be the focus of measures to promote health and wellbeing at work.

Creating an employee wellbeing programme

While only around 8% of UK organisations have a dedicated ‘wellbeing strategy’ in places, more than half have at least one wellbeing benefit in place — showing that wellbeing is a common goal for HR departments.

The extent of your wellbeing programme may depend on finances and management support, but it could include any of the following elements.

Promoting emotional wellbeing

Why is emotional wellbeing above physical? Because the most commonly offered wellbeing benefits are access to counselling and employee assistance programmes (CIPD 2015). It’s hardly surprising, given the rise in stress-related absence in recent years.

Other initiatives for improving employees’ emotional and psychological wellbeing can include:

  • Training in relaxation techniques, conflict resolution, anger management, or work-life balance
  • Corporate social responsibility activities such as community projects or volunteering

Promoting physical wellbeing

Physical health is still important too. Initiatives and benefits you can use to promote physical wellbeing include:

  • Exercise programmes such as outdoor activities, team sports, exercise groups or gym memberships
  • Improving workplace safety through training, safe equipment and safe practices
  • Healthier working environments, such as ergonomic work areas
  • Offering health benefits such as private healthcare

Wellbeing through personal and career development

When employee wellbeing is linked to job performance, it can also be boosted by improving job satisfaction and attitudes to work.

Initiatives might aim to enhance:

  • Career development through training, mentoring, coaching, or promotion opportunities
  • Personal development through activities to promote traits such as resilience, respect, team working, and assertiveness
  • Inclusiveness of employees from diverse cultures through equal opportunities or recognising different religious beliefs

Janine Lennon

Head of Payroll Services

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