There have been copious studies into the link between employee wellbeing, both inside and outside of work, and improved workplace performance. The overarching trend is undeniable: where employees wellbeing is positively influenced by their employer the productivity, profitability and quality tend to improve. So, what, as Business Owners, Leaders and HR professionals, should we be doing from a wellbeing perspective to get the most out of our employees?
There are many different factors which influence wellbeing on a personal level and there is certainly no one-size fits all approach. That said, there are certain key factors which are likely to have the greatest impact:
Where possible, some level of discretion in how an employee performs their duties can go a long way to improving performance. In turn, those employees feel valued and trusted, thus having a positive impact on the employer / employee relationship. That is not to say that the rules go out of the window. In most cases, there will still be processes to be followed and core hours to be worked, but where an element of autonomy can be introduced without affecting service then it should be considered.
This all starts from an effective induction programme and builds from there. Job descriptions, clear terms and conditions, a well drafted handbook and an appraisal process all contribute to an employee being clear on what is expected of them. As an added bonus, having these practices in place will also assist when going through disciplinary and performance management processes. They will also be important in the defence of any resulting Employment Tribunal claims.
Adding variety to an employee’s working day / week is likely to help keep them engaged and interested in the task at hand. An engaged employee is less likely to make mistakes and more likely to work hard.
This can be particularly important in the cases of homeworkers or those whose job roles require them to work outside of a team environment. Where an employee feels ostracised, they are more likely to be come disengaged and unhappy and without that contact, as an employer, you are less likely to notice.
By offering training, developing the skills of your workforce and increasing variety in the tasks they perform, employees are more likely to see a future at your company. Most people want to progress, some have set career path in mind, and feeling like they are working towards that goal and that you, as an employer, are facilitating that journey will almost certainly bolster the positive relationship between employer and employee.
A workplace which is perceived to be fair is another important step to ensuring employee wellbeing and engagement, not only in how they see themselves as being treated but also in the treatment of their co-workers. Bullying and favouritism are deadly to the perception of fairness and should be tackled by utilising the formal procedures in place such as grievance, disciplinary and, where appropriate, mediation. In demonstrating fairness in the workplace, transparency in decision making is important, but employers must be cautioned against revealing too much, especially when it comes to personal and/or information relating to their employees. Similarly, consistency in treatment is a cornerstone of fairness…but employers must be careful when dealing with employees who may require reasonable adjustments to be made.
People value security, whether that be a sense of physical security such as having confidence in their employers’ approach to health and safety, or job security such as having a clear career path. Establishing a sense of security amongst the workforce is often aided by good communication and transparency.
A supportive environment at work is crucial to employee wellbeing. Making sure your managers are trained to recognise when an employee is struggling or unhappy is crucial. Where they cannot provide the necessary support themselves then it helps if they can at least signpost employees accordingly, such as to a third party Employee Assistance Programme. The growing popularity of workplace Mental Health First Aiders is another great example of how support can be put in place for employees.
Some employers also like to think outside of the box when looking at promoting employee wellbeing. Our friends at Metrostress are no strangers to helping businesses with stress management through a myriad of activities such as massage, reflexology, yoga and Pilates. Metrostress Director, Bill Dove says:
“It is not about simply ticking a box. We have turned down work from large companies who insisted that the services be paid for by the employees and undertaken during their short lunch breaks or, worse still, at their desks. The point is to allow the employee a break from their role, to let them relax and be truly revitalised. In return for a 15-minute break, the company gets an engaged and re-energised employee who feels valued. The result? Improved productivity and quality…and even reductions in sickness absence.”
In conclusion, when a company puts these things into practice and promotes employee wellbeing, it makes for a contented and engaged workforce. In turn, this will likely result in a decrease in complaints and misconduct, i.e. fewer grievances and disciplinaries, on top of the aforementioned improvements to productivity and quality. Done right, you will be looking at a win-win situation.
Cheryl Moolenschot, Litigation Consultant