Employee wellness is at the forefront of everyone’s minds over the last year as Covid-19 has brought additional pressures of pandemic anxiety, remote working, home schooling and the blurring of lines between home and work. It’s time for employers to review the steps that are in place to support the wellness and mental health workers, not just through the pandemic but long-term. Deloitte (2020) found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year; a 16% rise since 2016. Employers who invest in the wellbeing of their employees will likely find that this results in greater engagement, loyalty and productivity amongst the workforce. On average, for every £1 spent on supporting their worker’s mental health, firms will get £5 back on their investment in terms of reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.
Remote working has placed more of an emphasis on being human than ever before – we’ve all witnessed cats meowing, children crying, doorbells ringing and what your colleague has in the oven for dinner. All humans are imperfect, emotional and inconsistent and being able to connect with our teams in these more natural ways enhances our communication and gives us a deeper understanding of the team we’re working within. Moving forward, employers may need to go further than just employee engagement, where there is often an assumption that employees will happily comply and engage with what the company is offering. A more human experience is starting to replace the employee experience as improving work life is becoming a huge priority for organisations. A survey by Gartner (2020) found that employers that support their employees’ lives overall will benefit from a 23% rise in the number of employees with better mental health, a 17% increase in those employees reporting better physical health and a 21% increase in the number of high performers. Supporting people to have more fulfilling lives undoubtedly aids in employee productivity, alongside physical and mental wellbeing.
Whilst working flexible hours isn’t a new concept, we can expect more employers to start offering this as an approach to contribute positively to employee health and wellbeing and support a more hybrid workforce. If the pandemic has taught us anything about working it’s that for most of us, we’re able to get down to it anywhere, at any time. Flexible hours will allow employees to balance their job with family needs, personal obligations and life responsibilities. Employees can work when they feel freshest, most accomplished and most productive. For employees returning to the office, flexible hours will allow them to avoid the stresses of rush hour, reducing the time it takes to commute and resulting in a more positive work-life balance. Some overlap of hours may of course be essential, but as an employer it is important to release some control; allow employees to bring their best and most-productive self to work and reap the benefits of this as an organisation. Employees will experience a sense of empowerment with an increased feeling of personal control over their schedule and work environment, naturally reducing any feelings of burnout and overload.
Wellness technology is also increasingly being adopted within organisations so that employers to monitor health risks, as well as to promote and reward their employees’ achievements. OK Positive is one application that’s being adopted by businesses to support employees – designed to reduce the effects of mental health issues in the workplace and to provide day-to-day mental health support to users, the aim is to create a more positive and productive workforce. Here, employees can log their daily mood, provide anonymous feedback to management and gain mental health tips and support. Headspace, a popular guided meditation and mindfulness app, also offers support to companies and their employees through stress management, sleep and self-care tools. Many employers are going even further by providing employees with wearable devices as part of a wellbeing programme, providing employees with incentives to exercise and engage in various health activities.
Even as the country finds balance again, employers should seek innovative ways to prioritise employee wellness initiatives to support mental and physical well-being. After all, how employees are feeling, on a mental and physical level, is a fundamental foundation for business growth, strength and sustainability - a business’s employees are its greatest assets.