Well-being has been a hot topic this year with a plethora of research, articles and experts urging employers to invest in building healthy workforces. Glassdoor is the latest to jump on the bandwagon, with a new initiative designed to recognise companies who put well-being at the heart of everything they do.
Employers are being invited to sign up to the ‘Pledge to Thrive,’ to show they are taking steps to prioritise the welfare of their people. Next year, Glassdoor and its partner Thrive Global will publish a Thrive Index, based on employee’s assessments of how well their companies are doing.
The connection between thriving employees and a thriving business is well documented. Happy, healthy employees are more productive and engaged. They are less likely to go off sick and more likely to stay with their employer.
But putting it into practice is not as easy as it sounds. It’s not just about offering subsidised gym membership or providing fruit at the coffee station—however laudable that may be. It’s about making employee well-being an integral part of the company culture. The red thread that runs through the policies and processes the organisation has and the way people are managed on a day-to-day basis.
So, if companies want their employees to thrive, what are the key issues they need to consider?
The physical environment people work in is often not considered as part of the well-being equation. But our surroundings can make a huge difference to the way we feel about work.
If someone is sitting in a dark corner, in an office with poor ventilation or in an open-plan area that is so noisy they can’t concentrate, it can have a real impact on both their health and productivity.
Of course, companies are constrained to a degree by the premises they work from, but often small adjustments to heating, lighting or positioning of desks can make a big difference.
2. Company Culture
A healthy workplace is one where people know it is OK to speak up about work-related issues that are bothering them.
If an employee can’t cope with their workload, they will keep quiet to avoid seeming incapable and crumble under the pressure. If they feel that no-one is listening when they say they are being bullied or treated unfairly, the problem will fester and probably lead to them going off ill with stress.
People need to know that they will be heard and that communicating effectively will not be career limiting.
3. Work-life Balance
We all lead increasingly busy and complex lives. Most employees are juggling something alongside their work: whether it’s child care, elder care, a voluntary commitment or a personal passion.
If people feel their work-life balance is out of kilter, they will be more stressed, less productive and often resentful that work is taking over their lives. The technology to allow people to work flexibly is widely available, yet many organisations still struggle with the concept and are failing to see the wider business benefits it could bring.
Of course, there are some companies that need people to be present at set times, because of the nature of their work. But there are plenty of others who could take a more flexible approach to the way work is designed and organised.
4. A ‘Human’ Approach
Life throws us curveballs every now and then. If employees are going through a tough time because they are dealing with family illness, going through a relationship breakdown or struggling with debt, they need to know their manager will support them.
Yes, of course, work has to be done and performance standards have to be met. But sometimes, managers just need to throw the rulebook out and treat people with kindness and humanity. A temporary reduction in working hours, flexibility over start times or the ability to work from home are all small things that can make a big difference to people’s ability to cope and eventually bounce back.
The key is to create an environment where people know they can talk openly about issues they are facing and to make sure managers know where to signpost people for help.
5. Mental health
Well-being initiatives tend to focus on the physical, but employee’s mental health is equally important. One in four of us will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in our lives, with stress, anxiety and depression common issues that present themselves at work.
There is still a huge stigma around the whole issue of mental health, although understanding is increasing thanks to a number of high-profile campaigns. Organisations need to create an environment where it is okay to talk about mental health and where managers are equipped to recognise the signs and know how to react.
They also need to step back and take a look at whether the way they are organising work and managing people may inadvertently be leading to stress.