October 27, 2020
Remote work has rapidly changed routines and practices. It’s important that HR keeps track of employee wellbeing - and cultivates a healthier company culture.
The pandemic led most companies to move rapidly to work-from-home. Outside of work, employees are facing a new way of life, with different caring responsibilities and schedules. This has an impact on employee wellbeing.
According to Gallup, Americans were more likely to think social distancing will harm their mental health than their physical or financial security.
It is really important that companies focus on employee wellbeing in light of this. Employees who are mentally and physically healthy perform better in the long-term.
In this blogpost, we will explore what employee wellbeing is, how to improve it, and how HR can keep track of it.
Employee wellbeing is the way in which an employee’s experiences at an organization affect their overall health and happiness.
Tom Rath in Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements sets out five key aspects that influence our wellbeing. These are:
Career Wellbeing — meaning you derive from work, sense of purpose
Social Wellbeing — supportive and loving friendships and relationships
Financial Wellbeing — feeling financially secure
Physical Wellbeing — having the energy and health for your daily routine and goals
Community Wellbeing — how connected you feel to the community in which you live
HR leaders need to consider how our work lives influence these areas. A culture of over-competitiveness or gossip hinders healthy social wellbeing.
Work we find meaningful, while maintaining healthy work-life balance - is key to all the wellbeing areas.
With the move to work-from-home, we have all had to adapt rapidly - which requires resilience. Companies with healthy cultures likely fared better through this sea change.
Wellbeing reaps benefits for an organization – improving employee retention and business outcomes. Like plants with sunlight, water and oxygen – we require certain conditions for us to grow and perform at our best. A psychological safety climate brings creativity.
Some more benefits of wellbeing
Improve physical and mental health of employees
Better working relationships
More sustainable – as employees are resilient through challenges
Improve retention rate
Reduce healthcare costs
It all starts with culture. There are so many great programs, products and resources on the market for wellbeing, and the evidence suggests small and medium sized companies are buying in!
But no matter how extensive your wellbeing program - if your company culture undervalues and exhausts employees – they really are just a sticking plaster.
Below are some wellbeing ideas for HR with this is mind.
Self-care isn’t just bubble baths and cucumber face masks- although these things can help! Essentially, self-care is anything that you do with the intention of caring for your physical, emotional or mental wellbeing.
Setting boundaries is a form of self-care – for example, turning off notifications outside of working hours. Ensuring we enjoy our full break hour.
Communication can also promote self-care. Simply reminding employees to look after themselves can actually reduce workplace stress – sometimes all we need is permission!
Make use of apps for remote-work, for example Fabulous and Calm offer both free and Business versions, with support for developing healthy habits, sleep and mindfulness.
Ideas for a culture of self-care:
Consider extending break hours for exercise or other self-care activities
Communicate with empathy
Establish healthy boundaries – e.g. keeping work relationships professional, avoiding office gossip, out-of-office message
Use holiday days when you need to
Wellness program with exercise classes/ mindfulness sessions
Lunch and learns
Vocalize support for self-care initiatives
Start conversations about mental health and employee burnout
Wellbeing isn’t just about how we take care of ourselves (which is very important!) but also how we take care of each other.
Social wellbeing is one of the pillars of wellbeing. How do we create a culture of community?
Employee resource groups can be great for creating supportive communities for diverse teams.
Remember that inclusive cultures are also well-being cultures. Vandana Juneja, VP of Global Growth Markets at Catalyst, says that inclusive communication requires us to ‘suspend judgment’ and ‘demonstrate vulnerability’.
This is also crucial to conversations about mental health. Initiatives can start small. Small support groups on mental health are effective, as participants get to know each other personally.
The challenges of work-from-home sometimes require a sense of humor. We make ourselves a little bit vulnerable every time we video call from home – and this can be very powerful for building community. Managers can reflect on the challenges they’ve faced openly.
Positive psychology does not mean forcing a smile. According to Kourtney E. Ackerman, it is a scientific approach to thoughts, habits and emotions, ‘with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses’.
Identifying our strengths can help us work in a way that benefits our wellbeing. Taking a strengths’ test tells us where ours strengths lie – so we can feel more positive about ourselves and focus on tasks that play to these aptitudes.
HR can make use of these strengths when creating personal development plans with employees.
Find your flow
Positive psychologists argue that 'flow', total immersion in a work or creative activity, gives us a sense of accomplishment and meaning. Research shows this improves overall wellbeing and lowers stress levels.
In particular, we experience flow during tasks that match our skill level (rather than being too easy or too challenging).
HR might consider employee self-evaluations – which invite them to think about a time when they experienced ‘flow’.
This rewarding, absorbing work drives employee engagement. Even if employees can’t experience this at work, encourage them to pursue hobbies or volunteering opportunities outside of work.
Hopefully we've shown how important employee wellbeing is, and a few steps to improve it.
Creating a strategy is the first step - but then you have to measure its effectiveness.
While HR can sometimes see the benefits of their wellness program or wellbeing strategy intuitively - Sharon Florentine points out that gathering survey results allows you to convince C-Level executives of the 'correlation between well-being and better outcomes'.
Gather information through employee wellbeing surveys. Download the Employee Wellbeing Survey from PeopleGoal's App Store. This invites employees to rate their wellbeing in terms of work-life balance, mental health and future plans. You can customize it to align with your company's values.
Move between overall wellbeing at work and specific touch-points. Sometimes employees don't question unhealthy work patterns - and believe burn-out and chronic stress are a normal part of working life. Ask questions that provide insights into what working at your company is like, rather than only asking for opinions, - this gives you a more objective perspective.
Examples of questions for an employee wellbeing survey
'This month, a manager or peer has recognized my work in a meaningful way' (rate from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree)
'I am aware of the employee wellness program and know how to sign up for activities' (rate from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree)
'I have heard managers talk about the importance of well-being in the past 6 months' (rate from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree)
'I feel hopeful about the future' (rate from Never to Always)
'I am able to set boundaries between my home life and work life without repercussions' (rate from Never to Always)
'I have time in my routine while working from home for self-care' (rate from Never to Always)
Always provide information in surveys of where employees can access support for their mental health and well-being.
Surveys allow you to track employee wellbeing even through the challenges of remote work. They keep your wellbeing strategy grounded in the facts - what is working and what needs to be improved.
PeopleGoal can help you create meaningful change in your organization. Why not book a demo today to find out how we can support your employee wellbeing efforts?
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Using humor in the workplace can be hugely beneficial for your employees