What is Employee Wellbeing?
Many businesses define employee wellbeing on a physical level, for example providing healthy options in staff restaurants, health insurance or subsidised gym membership. But this is just part of the story.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development defines wellbeing as ‘creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation’.
To achieve this businesses need to go beyond the physical and look to psychological well-being in the workplace. This moves the organisation to look at the real needs of employees within their own working practices and includes practical solutions such as stress management, relaxation techniques, preventative and remedial therapies, etc.
Modern socially responsible organisations need to look at actively promoting physical, mental and emotional wellbeing day-to-day, not just reacting when ill-health occurs in individual members of staff. Research shows that employees with higher subjective well-being are more productive, creative, optimistic, resilient, better at selling and persuading, and, of course, are more fun to be around.
Developing the Business Case for Employee Wellbeing
It can sometimes be a challenge to define the business case for implementing a “soft” strategy such as an Employee Wellbeing Strategy. But there is a wealth of evidence available to support the development of a sound business case.
This section outlines some of the high level statistics and legal reasons for implementing a Wellbeing scheme. We can also help you to develop a bespoke business case if you need to strengthen a request for funding for Employee Wellbeing.
In its 2006 Business Case for the Management Standards for Stress, the HSE identified the six key sources of occupational stress as: Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change. Most of these stressors can be managed in “hard” (easily defined and documented) ways.
The management of “Support” (“the encouragement, sponsorship, and resources provided by the organization, line management, and colleagues”) is softer and less easy to define.
However, the benefits of getting it right are significant and include: better performance, reduced absenteeism and lower turnover intention. Poor levels of organisational support are linked to increased sickness absenteeism, in particular work-related stress.
How organisations can effectively “support” their staff is in part dependent upon the nature of their work. In the modern corporate world, support needs to centre on managing stress; relieving desk, car and computer-driven tension; and helping staff to establish a realistic worklife balance.
It is reported that:
- Up to 5 million people in the UK feel “very” or “extremely” stressed by their work.
- Work-related stress is the most common cause of long-term sickness leading to an estimated 9.8 million lost working days a year.
- Sickness absenteeism is estimated to cost an average 9% of payroll costs.
- Therefore providing organisational support that will help staff to manage stress within modern working conditions is critical. Furthermore the physical strain being put on modern employees is considerable.
Consider the following facts:
- It is estimated that we now spend an average of 8.5 hours a day in front of a screen.
- Up to 60% of computer users suffer from back and neck pain attributable to computer use.
- More than 20% of computer users suffer from stress and headaches directly related to their computer use.
These statistics represent desk-based workers using desktop PC’s and working regular hours. With most executives now using laptops, often hot desking or home-working, travelling long distances, sleeping in hotel beds and carrying out an average of 1.5 hours a day overtime, the statistics for these employees are in all probability considerably worse.
Modern flexible working conditions make it almost impossible for organisations to monitor individual stress levels, govern personal ergonomic workspace requirements and manage staff rest periods. Employee wellbeing support must therefore empower staff to self-management by offering easily accessible, practical and relevant preventative and remedial information and activities.
Employee Wellbeing programmes allow staff to see and feel organisational support, and experience both a tangible beneficial effect and an intangible “feel good factor”.
For the organisation, such programmes can offer a cost-effective way to motivate employees at a time when pay rises can be difficult to fund, and make long-term cost savings. Research shows that for every 80p spent on health promotion and intervention programmes, £4 can be saved.
Relevant Employee Wellbeing Programmes can also help employers to fulfil their duty of care to “monitor the workplace for stress” and “offer relevant advice and treatment services to staff”. Test cases in respect of this duty of care have established that:
- An employer can reasonably be expected to take steps which are likely to do some good.
- An employer who offers a confidential advice service, with referral to appropriate counselling or treatment services, is unlikely to be found in breach of duty.
Employee Wellbeing Programmes can offer a tangible demonstration of a company’s commitment to staff in the event of litigious action by an employee, whether or not that person has availed themselves of the service.