The way you engage with employee 'wellbeing' impacts everything
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) argues that organisations need to strengthen the ability of line managers to promote employee wellbeing*, in particular by developing supportive management practices and leadership styles.
Wellbeing at work is not just a matter of not causing harm to employees; it requires organisations to actively assist and enable people to maximise their physical and mental health. The resulting wellbeing brings benefits for people at all levels inside and outside the workplace. Moreover, it makes the workplace a more productive and attractive place to work, with higher levels of engagement and retention.
You could talk to most managers and you wouldn’t get any argument. However, there’s not much in the way of consistent and comprehensive action on the part of many employers. While there is some evidence of forward-thinking practice, there remains an implementation gap.
A new definition of wellbeing at work
True wellbeing in the workplace isn’t simply shorthand for ‘work-life balance’. It’s also about leadership and management strategy and the capabilities managers need to lead, develop and support people. It requires people who work together to be able to communicate effectively and pleasantly with each other, and to have integrity; for people to be self-aware and have emotional intelligence.
Yet how much workplace training is offered in these vital skills? Internal communications are the poor cousin of external communications, but that thread of excellent communication must run right through your organisation if it’s going to impact your clients.
The way we respond and speak to each other matters. It’s not going to happen by telepathy. Organisations must train for it. Leaders must demonstrate it. It’s a matter of corporate culture - and culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Walking the talk
In a healthy and ethical organisation, involvement and empowerment are central - people are encouraged to take ownership and responsibility by being involved in decision-making, and are given relevant information. Continuous improvements are made to the way the health of the organisation is managed and developed. This means career development, coaching and mentoring. It means conflict and change are handled well, with respect and stakeholder engagement, where difference is valued; there is support available to enable people to grow and find the best way to improve their own performance.
Traditionally, articulating the business case for managing people’s health and wellbeing has focused on quantifying the overall annual median cost of absence per employee (£554 in 2015). However, this figure doesn’t capture the full impact of employee absence, such as lost productivity, impaired customer service and lower employee morale, as these less tangible (but no less real) effects are very difficult to quantify. In these terms, a ‘business case’ will be persuasive only if it is relevant and based on the unique needs and desired outcomes for the employer in question.
However, there is another perspective apart from legal compliance on why employers should take action to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce, aside from the mutually beneficial impact it could have for employees and the business, which is that it’s the right thing to do. The World Health Organization refers to creating a healthy workplace framework aside from the ‘hard, cold facts of economics and money’, and links the argument to business ethics, integrity, and the moral imperative.
This doesn’t mean just doing good things and being nice to people - it means constantly evaluating initiatives and trying new things to create your own unique environment where employees flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and your organisation.
It’s just the right thing to do.
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