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What Is Employee Well-being?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines well-being as the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Let’s look at a few specific aspects of well-being at work.
Well-being includes one’s family, personal, spiritual, work and community life. Though these areas may seem independent, what happens in one area impacts another, ultimately impacting one’s mood, behavior and attitude. Although you cannot directly address all arenas, awareness that all of them impact your employee and their ability to work is important.
Quality and Safety of Work Environment
The work environment in which employees spend their time can either support or hinder employees’ motivation, productivity, and interactions with both internal and external customers. Factors to consider include:
- Physical environment. Are your facilities well-kept, safe and clean, and does your company make obvious efforts to keep workers safe? Is there plenty of light? Are break rooms large enough and attractive enough to provide relaxing breaks?
- Emotional environment. Do people feel welcome and supported at your company? Do you have clear processes to prevent and respond to harassment, violence and discrimination? Are you and your managers trained in spotting stress, offering support, and conflict resolution? Do you offer an Employee Assistance Program?
Organizational climate is the manifestation of employee attitudes towards your organization; it is how your work environment influences their performance.
Your organizational climate determines whether your employees feel satisfied or not. Employees want to know that their work matters, that their voices are heard, and that they are contributing to a commonly held goal.
Here are a few ways you can support a healthy organizational climate:
- Surveys. Conduct surveys to gauge how well your organization’s environment supports your employees. In addition, surveys allow you to measure how your employees perceive your organization’s operations and support.
- Conflict management. Offer better support to enable managers to handle situations more effectively.
- Individual autonomy. Employees who are free to make their own choices about how they go about their responsibilities are happier, more committed, more productive, and more loyal than those who don’t.
- Coaching and mentoring. Provide feedback, advice, coaching and mentoring to support your employees’ career goals.
- Modeling wellbeing. HR professional Ben Eden says that “if HR and the rest of the executive team can model well-being, the rest of the company will follow, because they have an example and they also have permission.”
The Importance of Focusing on Well-being
Organizations that focus on employee well-being experience:
- Higher employee productivity. A 2016 Willis Towers Watson’s Staying at Work Survey found that 100% percent of employers surveyed stated that health improvements were important to productivity within their organization.
- Increased retention. The same study also found that employee stress was the number reason why employees choose to leave their organization.
- Reduced absenteeism. Contributing to employee wellness means they come to work more often.
- Increased employee engagement. A wellness program and policies that support it make it clear to your employees that they are valued.
- Reduced work-related stress. Work-related stress impacts your organization’s overall productivity, turnover, worker’s compensation claims, and number of medical claims.
In short, healthy employees mean more profit and a more stable organization.
How to Build a Well-being Program
By now, you can see that research supports your intuitive understanding that supporting your employees’ well-being is essential. Below are just a few ways that your organization can improve your employees’ well-being. You don’t have to do everything at once: assessing needs and creating a documented Wellness Program to be implemented over time is a great start. Here are some areas of wellness you may want to focus on.
1. Comfortable Work Environment
Many organizations do not realize how important working environments are. As we discussed above, people tend to be happier and more productive when they feel supported by their environment. Your wellness program may include:
- Finding sources of more natural light. Natural light increases exposure to vitamin D, improving mood and energy levels. There are many ways to do this, from facility renovation to using technology.
- Add plants/check air quality. A World Green Building Council study found that indoor plants release oxygen into the air, absorbs carbon dioxide, and boosts ventilation. Improved air quality increases staff productivity by 11%!
2. Work-Life Balance
Employees juggle heavy workloads, manage relationships and family responsibilities, (hopefully) participate in outside activities, and live in a world filled with conflict and crisis. Below are a few ways in which you can support a better work-life balance for your employees.
- Flexible and remote work. Employees want and need more flexibility in their schedules. Look for ways to offer remote work and/or schedules that support needs outside work.
- Focus on outcomes, not hours. Where possible, stop counting hours and track results. Praise performance regardless of hours worked.
- Encourage breaks. It is tempting for employees to push through projects or compress their work hours, but it is important for them to take breaks. Why? Their performance suffers. Be sure to discuss the benefits of taking breaks, such as improved mood and reduced stress. And most importantly, lead by example: leadership should encourage and model taking breaks and vacations.
- Respond to current events. When global or local crises occur, acknowledge the increased stress everyone is under and take action to provide appropriate support.
- Ask your employees what they want. The best way to implement a work-life balance program is to simply ask your employees how they struggle for balance and how you can help.
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Wendy is a HR professional with over 10 years of HR experience in education and health care, both in the private and non-profit sector. She is the owner of KHRServices, a full service HR management agency. She is also SHRM and HRCI certified, serves as a HRCI Ambassador, and voted 2021 Most Inclusive HR Influencer.
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