Why wellbeing in the workplace is so important

Businesses that truly champion mental health and staff wellbeing will be able to attract and retain talent, which will benefit both individuals and the organisation, says Karen McIntyre

How important is wellbeing in the workplace? Across the economy, businesses have had to contend with a plethora of challenges this past year, not least the financial pressures of lockdown. However, a countrywide skill and staffing crisis continues to face organisations. 

For businesses looking to attract and retain the best talent in a more competitive recruitment market, company culture is crucial. This begins with championing mental health and putting worker wellbeing not only at the centre of a strategy for recovery but also of plans for long-term growth. 

Retention, retention, retention 

For businesses that truly champion mental health and staff wellbeing, it can pay dividends not only in terms of attracting and retaining staff but getting the best out of people – benefitting both individuals and the business that supports them. 

In fact, two-fifths (39 per cent) of employees across the economy have cited a decline in their mental health as a result of their employer not supporting their wellbeing during the pandemic, leading 30 per cent of respondents to search for a new job and a quarter to become less productive. Meanwhile, across the UK as a whole, poor mental health costs employers up to £45 billion per year.

For businesses, the consequences of this are becoming concerningly clear. Ultimately, all good staffing strategies are underpinned by robust efforts to develop and retain existing team members, with two thirds of hospitality businesses reporting having made conscious efforts to cultivate a good working culture as part of their retention planning post-pandemic.

Moreover, being able to speak to this within the recruitment process offers a powerful footing for attracting new staff and, in this regard, the hospitality sector offers a valuable microcosm for the wider business ecosystem.

Providing the right support 

Promisingly, three-quarters of hospitality businesses report having stepped up their levels of communication with colleagues as part of efforts to retain staff. However, although communication is key, it must pay more than just lip service. 

While the importance of staff wellbeing is a sector-agnostic issue, there is also no denying it has been felt especially acutely in hospitality. Indeed, pre-pandemic, one in five hospitality workers suffered from severe work-related mental health issues, which the pressures of the pandemic could well have exacerbated further.

For both recruitment and retention to be successful, businesses need to offer the right kinds of support to their teams – including attractive CPD opportunities and wellbeing programmes. At Burgh Island, for instance, we have launched training to upskill staff around sector-critical issues like energy efficiency and embraced lockdown as an opportunity to build a real sense of camaraderie and family amongst our team, inviting staff to live in the guest accommodation on the island. 

From mental health first aid to on-site counselling access, putting effective support systems in place will be fundamental for businesses looking to stand out in a more saturated market of prospective employers, truly take care of their team and deliver the best outcome for their business. 

Flexibility is key 

Alongside good mental health support sits flexibility. While hospitality workers are no strangers to unconventional shift patterns that defy the standard nine-to-five, employers should ensure that flexible ways of working are readily available to team members looking to accommodate childcare, wellbeing needs or personal commitments. Strikingly, 34 per cent of workers say the choice of flexible work patterns would improve mental health, while 41 per cent say it would allow for better work-life balance.

Moving forward, robust, and attractive policies around flexibility could be right at the heart of efforts to attract and retain talent. Indeed, according to research by caterer.com, 40 per cent of hotel employers reported an increase over the past three years in the number of staff requesting the right to work flexibly.

With its 24-hour operations, hospitality has been at the forefront of embracing flexible working practices ranging from part-time and banked hours to time off in lieu, term working, flexitime and annualised hours – and much can be learnt from the sector. This is particularly the case in light of the UK government’s consultation on flexible working, launched last month, which could provide employees with the right to request flexible working from day one of their tenure. 

How important is wellbeing in the workplace? 

As we’ve learnt at Burgh Island Hotel, people are at the heart of what we do. Ultimately, not only is a company culture built around flexibility, mental health support and staff development good for people’s wellbeing, it is good for business – minimising costs, retaining staff, and helping to attract the best talent any sector has to offer. 

Karen McIntyre is director of HR at expert hotelier Inntelligence