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Improving wellness in the workplace

7 Oct 2019 By Ben LeRoy

As work becomes more flexible, it’s essential employers enhance their wellbeing offering, argues Ben LeRoy

With employers starting to shift their focus from the traditional 9-to-5 office-based working arrangements to more flexible alternatives, the line between home and work can often become blurred. Remote and home-working allows us 24/7 access to our emails anywhere and at any time, so the ability to disconnect from our work can become increasingly challenging. With ‘techno stress’ on the rise, employers need to improve their wellbeing offering. 

Understanding

As an employer, your priority is to ensure your teams are able to be the best version of themselves. No one wants to worry about work or feeling unsupported by colleagues. In a report by Salesforce, it was revealed that employees who feel their voices are heard are almost five times more likely to be empowered to perform their best work. 

At Macildowie we take a blended approach to capturing feedback and measuring the experience of our own employees. These methods include engagement surveys from which our executive leadership team review data and build the results into strategic planning, as well as face-to-face feedback. We believe these opportunities to share with the executive leadership team make for a transparent and honest working environment, encouraging an open-door policy for all employees to take advantage of. After all, these are the team members that have the power to change things for the better. 

We also encourage focus groups for different cohorts of employees, helping to provide us valuable qualitative data that can be used in our development programmes. Hosted by our head of talent, these focus groups centre around new starters and hone in on various points in their Macildowie career to ensure they are receiving the best possible support at these important stages – from six months on to their first year at the firm, these sessions talk about any positives or pain-points they’d like to share.

Honing your EAP

According to the Centre for Mental Health, stress and poor mental health cost UK businesses an estimated £34.9bn a year through reduced productivity, high turnover and sickness absence – the equivalent of £1,300 for every employee in the UK workforce. And in the long-run, individuals taking between four and six months off to recover from mental health problems can leave a business trailing behind its competitors, as well as creating an unhappy workforce left picking up the slack.

Even with these extraordinary figures, many businesses are still failing to provide adequate support for their staff. These numbers highlight the importance of creating and maintaining a strong employee assistance programme (EAP). Access to confidential counselling and advice on a range of work and personal issues should be a core component of any HR strategy, yet so few have this in place. 

We believe employees are the cornerstone of any business and, without them, a business has no assets – and an EAP offering is a way of letting employees know you care. This investment will show your team you value their health and wellbeing, as well as the added benefit to the company of staff taking less time off to make trips to the doctor. Talking to an independent health expert can also provide a safe space for employees to share their worries away from the employer, without fearing discrimination or bias.

People and place

Wellbeing must permeate every aspect of an organisation. Factors such as healthy food options in the cafeteria, available natural light and spacious workstations all have a real impact on employee wellbeing, behaviour and productivity. 

Positive steps are being taken and, over the last five years, businesses have begun to hone in on the relationship between people and place. According to the CIPD, 70 per cent of employers in the UK have improved their physical environments to encourage healthy behaviours since 2017, demonstrating that businesses are taking notice. 

Moving away from infamous cubicle offices, more businesses are adopting co-working spaces with ‘break out’ areas designed to encourage communication between teams and help promote positive working relationships. Not only this, but an open office keeps lines of communication open, which is particularly helpful for breaking down barriers between higher-ranking team members. Do also consider the option of private spaces for team members who prefer a quieter place to work with minimal distractions and noise.

It is becoming trickier to establish a line between our work and personal life – particularly in this digital age – but there are steps that business owners, HR managers and senior leadership teams can take. A company’s workforce is its most vital asset, and finding ways to boost the morale and overall wellbeing of that team is crucial to businesses’ future longevity.

Ben LeRoy is HR manager at recruitment consultancy Macildowie

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