Chloe joined us in 2020, having graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication at the University of South Wales. Chloe assists in the design and content creation of new e-learning modules as well as the re-branding of existing courses.
For some who have struggled working from home, due to isolation or technical barriers, the return to the office cannot come soon enough. For others, who have discovered the lack of commute and more flexibility has resulted in increased productivity and a better work-life balance, the thought of returning fills them with dread.
Therefore, in these disrupted times, whether you have made the decision as a firm to continue working from home for the foreseeable future, will be returning to the office shortly or perhaps, some combination of the two, it may be more important than ever to truly understand your workforce and consider what you can be doing to improve their wellbeing.
Workload pressure has been identified as having a big impact on employee wellbeing. Other issues include job insecurity and concerns about skill level or technological capabilities. All of these can result in increased stress which often leads to problems sleeping, relaxing, and concentrating. It can also affect lifestyle, potentially leading to more unhealthy eating, less exercise and increased alcohol consumption.
Therefore, it is no wonder that evidence shows employee happiness and wellbeing can have a direct impact on productivity, performance, and staff retention. So, it is essential that firms prioritise wellness as part of a healthy working culture, not just for the benefit of their staff but also, for the long-term growth of the business.
Often, a business’s approach to well-being can be too work focussed, introducing small, usually gimmicky, gestures that have low uptake and can result in staff working longer hours to make up for the lost time. Firms needs to acknowledge that employees have individual lives outside the office and initiate open communication to find out what actions they can take to best maintain the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of their workforce. These discussions may also help to identify potential health ambassadors or ‘buddies’, who can act as a go to for staff to talk to if they are struggling, or simply if they have ideas for new wellness initiatives.
Something that has been brought to light by the easing and reinstating of lockdown, is the idea of truly flexible working. Whist many companies have had temporary flexible working policies in place and may be considering the permanent move to working from home, these changes often apply to the workforce as a whole and are restrained to regular working hours. Truly flexible working means putting faith in staff to decide where and when is most productive for them, potentially on a daily or weekly basis.
To manage flexible working and further facilitate communications, businesses may wish to schedule regular 1-2-1s between employees and management to allow them the opportunity to speak openly about their workload and highlight if they feel stressed or overwhelmed. This could also be a useful time to discuss staff knowledge and abilities and encourage them to identify any training opportunities that could allow them to complete their duties more easily.
In some workplaces, to support staff with both workplace and external issues, it may be helpful to allow time or even provide resources for employees to seek advice, guidance, employee support or counselling.
Additionally, recognising the varying needs of individuals, rather than offering specific, fixed benefits e.g. gym membership or discounts, employers may choose to provide a wellness bonus for employees to choose what is most beneficial them on a case-to-case basis.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing in the workplace – and what works for one organisation, might not for another – but open and honest communication between employers and staff is key to figuring out what works best. During such uncertain times, employee wellbeing cannot be overlooked. A workforce that feels stressed, unhappy or uncertain will not be a productive one, so have these conversations now and provide the appropriate support to your workforce where needed.
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