Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace – The Fundamentals
It is often difficult to know where to start when it comes to supporting the health and wellbeing in the workplace. You team’s wellness needs are multifaceted and can range from more obvious factors such as physical, mental and environmental health, through to less blatant factors like intellectual, financial and social wellbeing.
However, the good news is that it is often best to start with the basics. Once you have a strong foundation of wellbeing, you are then well positioned to begin introducing more strategic wellbeing programs and initiatives.
It is also important to remember that the ‘workplace’ expands beyond the walls of head office and health and wellbeing initiatives should always consider remote workers where possible, particularly given the changing landscape of workplaces in the current climate.
Many companies have a knee-jerk reaction of believing that the best way to support their team’s physical fitness is through discounted gym memberships and fruit bowls. While these are great perks, there are many things you can introduce that are more cost-effective and foster a stronger and more sustainable culture of movement and physical wellness.
For example, consider whether your workplace design and dynamic encourage movement – would installing bike racks motivate employees to cycle to work? Can you introduce walking meetings around your building or at a local park to give employees the opportunity to get fresh air, a nice dose of Vitamin D and spend time in nature? While this may seem simple, it can have a really positive impact on both physical and mental health.
When it comes to nutrition, it is, of course, always beneficial to offer healthy options when providing catering. However, have you also thought about whether your workplace has the necessary equipment for your team to prepare healthy meals at work?
Mental and emotional health
As organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting their employees’ mental health, we are seeing some great programs and resources being introduced across workplaces. Whether it be making Employee Assistance Programs available or signposting relevant websites, phone numbers and apps to support employees in times of need, there is no shortage of ways that workplaces can get proactive in this space.
However, these initiatives are only one small piece of the picture and arguably, one of the most impactful ways that modern organisations can support their teams’ mental health is through open and authentic communication. Leaders who talk frankly about mental health help to remove any associated stigma within their workplace and help to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable to discuss any concerns and reach out for help when necessary.
It is also worth noting that it is important to lead by example when it comes to encouraging a mentally healthy workforce. Leaders who demonstrate behaviours such as taking regular breaks, prioritising self-care and setting boundaries between work and home life give their teams permission to do the same.
Over and above the necessary workplace health and safety policies that are legally required within workplaces, there are many ways that organisations can provide a health and safe environment for employees, whether at head office or the home office. For example, when was the last time you asked your team whether they feel they have the necessary tools and space to perform their role? Or even more fundamentally, does your team have access to natural light and fresh water while at work?
Also, now more than ever, it is paramount that employees feel their organisations are taking adequate steps with general hygiene and social distancing measures. Staying up to date with recommendations and actively communicating these measures will build trust and ensure you are not putting your team at risk.
Intellectual health relates to your team members’ motivation, fulfilment and desire for continuous learning and development. Courses and training such an online webinars and conferences are great ways to meet these needs, particularly when you don’t have a certain skillset within your workforce.
However, you should also consider the value of sharing knowledge within and across teams. Lunch and learn sessions are a fantastic and cost-effective way to empower your team members to share their experience and foster a culture of knowledge sharing.
While it may not be an obvious priority for organisations, an employee’s financial health can have serious implications on their happiness and productivity at work, and consequently, the business bottom line. Financial stress is a very real concern for many individuals and organisations are often well-positioned to provide support and guidance.
A great place to start is to survey your employees to get a better understanding of their key financial concerns, rather than implementing generic high-level strategies. Based on this feedback, you can introduce relevant initiatives such as encouraging voluntary superannuation payments, sharing free financial planning tools from reputable sources, or allowing employees to work flexibly to reduce travel and childcare costs.
Ultimately, your team are social beings and the more they can connect with their colleagues and create meaningful working relationships, the more functional and happier they will be. This is not to say that you need to rush off and organise a ‘team building’ day. In fact, regular opportunities for social interaction and connection will have a more lasting impact on the social health of your organisation.
This can include scheduled ‘check-ins’, whether in person or over video meeting, where you take the time to ask your team members how they are and give them the time and space to feel heard. You can also encourage employees to share personal and professional highlights and challenges during team meetings to encourage conversation and connection.