Employee wellbeing: the key to creating high-performance teams today

In the past, a workplace culture that supported and encouraged employee wellbeing may have been considered a nice to have, but today, it’s a must-have.

The average Briton spends 3,507 days at work in their lifetime, our findings also reveal that work is the most common source of stress in the UK. This means that if workplaces don’t work to facilitate and promote their employees’ wellbeing, it could have critical effects – not just for the individual, but for the organisation too.

There’s no doubt that employees are every organisation's best asset. When these employees and their wellbeing is invested in, both with time, money and support – engagement, motivation, productivity and satisfaction levels rise. When business leaders make wellbeing their priority, the business feels the benefits.

What exactly is employee wellbeing?

Wellbeing goes beyond physical health. It’s how someone feels about various aspects of their life – their personal life, health, relationships and their job. Good wellbeing is when someone feels in control of their happiness, health and their sense of purpose.

When you look at wellbeing from an employee perspective, it importantly includes how somones feels about their job and how they feel at work.

The elements that make up wellbeing include:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Stress management
  • Emotional wellbeing
  • Physical activity
  • Nutrition
  • Social wellbeing
  • Professional development

What in the workplace can influence staff wellbeing?

As employee’s spend most of their time working, the environment, operation and structure of an organisation can greatly impact the wellbeing of the employee’s within it.

The factors of a workplace which can directly impact wellbeing include:

  • Environment – Workplace temperature, office comfort and access to natural light
  • Physical – Activity, nutrition, lifestyle and hygiene
  • Social – Relationships with managers and colleagues, collaboration with others, communication, policies (fairness over pay and promotion decisions) and HR management
  • Psychological – Stress, opportunity to learn and develop, autonomy, purpose, goals and rest

But why is it in a company’s best interest to look after their employees’ wellbeing?

overwhelmed woman with lots of options infront of her

Our lives can be exhausting. On average, UK employees work 42.5 of the 168 hours in a week. We're advised to get 8 hours of sleep a night and we have to juggle families, personal lives, hobbies and social commitments in our free time. On top of this, we have targets to meet at work, financial pressures – the list is endless.

These factors make life hard sometimes, so we need the tools and supportive surroundings to take everything in our stride.

Companies have the responsibility to look after their employee’s wellbeing. A culture of wellbeing is a workplace culture that helps, encourages and supports employees to practice healthy behaviours in the office. A company with this type of culture is the key to successful and innovative organisations.

The benefits of workplace wellbeing for the company are numerous. You get increased staff satisfaction, team morale, productivity, sense of community and company loyalty, and reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.

It’s a win-win situation.

But as wellbeing is influenced by so many factors of life, creating a wellbeing strategy can be overwhelming for many business leaders.

Here we look at the ways to create a powerful employee wellbeing strategy in your organisation:

10 steps for a successful employee wellbeing strategy

1. Provide mental health training and support

Common mental health issues include stress, depression and anxiety and you must be able to support any members of staff who are suffering from these issues.

Create a company-wide mental health plan and ensure that it’s clearly communicated to everyone in the business. It’s also important to encourage open and positive communication around the topic of mental health to remove any stigma that may be attached to the topic.

Notably, your mental health plan must include manager training. All managers should be able to spot the first signs of any issues and provide the correct support. In addition, employees should have training on right education and to ensure they have the tools to cope, should they experience any of the symptoms.

Further, it would be beneficial to invest in an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). These are programmes designed to enable you to help your staff with any personal or workplace issues.

Since 2008 the use of EAPs has grown by 68%, in line with the growing awareness from employers of the importance of good health in their employees.

Almost all EAPs contain a counselling service of some form and may be provided in house or be supplied externally – largely depending on the size of your company and the most effective way to provide the benefits. You can find out more about EAPs and how they can support your employee’s wellbeing here.

2. Encourage colleagues to become friends

Colleagues laughing on a break at work

Some employers might think that employees being friends will mean more time chatting and less time working. This is far from the truth.

When you spend so much time at work, you see your co-workers more than your partner and families. So when you don’t make friends at work, the workplace can feel like a lonely place – it can even lead to your staff leaving your company.

Building bonds and friendships at work is vital for employees to feel supported, and those who work in a team with friends also work harder as they feel accountable to their teammates and friends.

In turn, this improves productivity, performance and enjoyment of work – which means that employees feel more satisfied overall.

To help encourage workplace friendships, there are a number of initiatives you can implement. You can help to create a friend at work from the very first day by introducing a buddy system for new starters or you can plan regular team social events to get the whole team together outside of work.

3. Offer health and wellbeing benefits

Anyone with a gym membership knows that looking after your physical health can be expensive. For some, it can be an unaffordable, additional cost – no matter how important staying active might be.

By offering your employee’s benefits that help to foster health and wellbeing, you make these facilities and services more accessible.

There are a range of health and wellbeing benefits that you can offer, including access to online gps, cycle to work schemes, discounted gym memberships or health insurance to ensure that your employees have access to the benefits that provide the most value for them and tackle their individual concerns.

4. Pass on financial wisdom to your staff

The second largest source of stress in the UK related to financial issues and Perkbox’s 2019 financial wellbeing survey revealed that over a quarter of adults feel stressed about money every single day.

The study found that almost 1 in 5 people describe their financial wellbeing as ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’, with the top contributing factors being ‘feeling unable to afford unexpected costs’ and ‘feeling behind financially compared to those around me’.

Knowledge and education can really make a positive difference to financial wellbeing and workplaces can facilitate this. By helping staff to understand budgeting, childcare costs and pensions, it can take the strain away from staff and give them the right tools to deal with their issues.

5. Create a culture of reward and recognition

Social wellbeing is a vital component within overall wellbeing, and feeling valued by employers for their efforts is a huge factor within this.

By creating a culture that focuses on recognising good work and placing positive communication as a priority in the workplace, it allows you as an employer to regularly let individuals know that they are appreciated for their efforts.

When social wellbeing needs are fulfilled, employees are more productive, so businesses will also benefit from creating a positive culture.

By using our reward and recognition platform, you can encourage everyone in the company to recognise each other, rather than solely relying on recognition from managers, in order to maximise the results. The platform also allows you to set friendly competitions between teams in order to improve motivation and morale, whilst also working towards company goals or targets.

6. Announce your first annual fitness challenge

employees lifting weights and exercising at work

As much as we know how important it is to stay active, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get out and move sometimes – particularly when you work long hours in an office.

But what’s better motivation than the pride of beating your colleagues to a certain goal?

Introducing workplace fitness challenges are a great way to work towards your company’s wellbeing goals. In a 2019 survey, we found that 45% of UK employees feel that they aren’t able to reach their fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day due to ‘not being able to walk alot at work’. Creating a company-wide competition to see who can reach 10,000 steps every day for a month could be a great place to start.

When everyone in the company or team is involved in the challenge, colleagues will motivate each other. If your company is office based, you can introduce ‘walking meetings’ or encourage everyone to get outside during lunchtimes to ensure that individuals are able to stay active during working hours.

Not only will challenges such as these improve physical health but by holding the competitions, you can award incentives for improved motivation. You’ll soon see your teams become more engaged and bonded as a result.

7. Establish a level of flexibility for a work-life balance

Professional obligations can often feel like they take precedence over personal obligations, simply due to their nature. But unfortunately, this can have an impact on wellbeing as a result.

A solution to this is to offer your employees flexibility in their work. If you place a focus on targets and results, rather than hours worked, you can give your employees the option to adjust their working hours slightly to what works best for them, or allow working from home one day a week.

By offering this flexibility and focusing on targets, you can show your employees that you trust them, while giving them the work-life balance necessary for wellbeing.

8. Assess your workplace environment and culture

Workplace culture and the environment itself is hugely influential on how you feel day-to-day, and until you conduct an assessment of your workplace – you could be missing factors that are influencing your employee’s wellbeing on a daily basis.

Imagine every stage of your employee’s day and what environment they experience during each part of the day, do your employees have the option of standing desks? Does the breakroom have enough activities or places to relax? Do your employees have enough access to natural light?

By optimising the space that you have, small changes can really improve your employees health and wellbeing.

Additionally, take a look at your workplace culture – are your work socials mainly based around alcohol? As fun as these might be for some, this could be triggering for other employees. Try to mix up the socials every so often to a teetotal activity to make sure your teams are bonding away from the bar too.

9. Make it known that sick employees should stay at home

sick employee at work

We’ve all been in the situation where someone with a stinking cold comes into work and before you know it, the whole office is erupting in coughs and sneezes.

In reality, this means that the illness stays around for longer and no one feels good during that time.

Instead, urge your employees to stay at home if they feel unwell. By communicating this, you remove any guilt that your employees might feel and give them time to fully recover.

10. Put a hold on micromanagement

A lack of job control and micromanagement can take a serious toll on your employees.

When employees feel their managers are constantly breathing down the back of their necks, it may actually have the opposite effect of what you’re intending.

Micromanagement leads to greater feelings of anxiety and depression at work, disengagement, lower motivation and decreased performance. Instead, managers should encourage employees to think proactively and take responsibility for how they hit their targets and goals. This will have the joint positive of improving employee wellbeing and giving managers more time to plan strategy and help with any blockers that their employees might face.

How to introduce your employee wellbeing strategy for maximum impact

These steps should provide you with the ideas you need to create a well-rounded, wellbeing programme. But how do you ensure its success? Well my friend, follow these tips:

employees giving feedback to someone infront of a whiteboard

  • Ask for feedback from employees before launch

You’re working to improve the lives of your employees – so who could be better to run your ideas past?

Present your ideas to your teams and see which areas of the strategy they feel most excited about and gain feedback on any areas of your plan they would like more support in.

The introduction to the initiatives pre-launch should lead to better participation rates when they do go live while also helping you to decide which elements to launch first for greater impact.

  • Stagger the introduction of your initiatives

If you introduce all of your initiatives at once, some may get lost in the excitement and go unappreciated.

Slowly launch each initiative over a period of time to ensure that each step is understood and utilised before moving onto the next. This will mean that your staff don’t get overwhelmed by too many things at once and none of your initiatives will get lost in the noise.

  • Explain the reasoning and benefits

A lunchtime yoga session at work might sound nice to some of your employees. Others might be worrying about their inbox, and how they could be using their time more “wisely”.

Now, would they still be thinking this if they knew that an hour of yoga could improve their health, reduce the effects of stress and improve their productivity for the rest of the afternoon?

Your employees will be much more interested about getting involved if you explain all of the benefits and how it could benefit both their wellbeing and their work performance. In turn, the business will experience greater benefits from your wellbeing programme too.

How strong is your wellbeing strategy?

Perkbox aims to improve employee wellbeing, both inside and outside of work. The more committed you are to caring for your employees, the more likely it is they will care for the company and put their best efforts into their work. 

Learn more about the Perkbox platform and see it in action.