5 ways to support staff wellbeing

Recent statistics indicate that over one in three UK workers see burnout as an evitable part of their career. This, combined with the challenges imposed by remote working, the rising cost of living, and a new world of “living with COVID”, have made it more important than ever before when it comes to the strategies employers have in place to support the wellbeing of their staff.

Companies and HR teams have had to show an unprecedented ability to adapt to a shifting working landscape, and respond to these new challenges facing both them and their employees. According to research from McKinsey, 42% of global employees have experienced a decline in mental health since the onset of the pandemic, and though it has been two years since the first lockdown, there is no denying the profound effect it has had on individuals, workplaces and the wider community.

Conversations surrounding loneliness, isolation, and mental health have been bought to the forefront, with many larger businesses appointing dedicated wellbeing managers to monitor and improve the mental and physical health of their staff. It has become clear that managing employee wellbeing is not simply a box-ticking exercise, but requires effective strategies and initiatives from businesses. Here are five things employers and HR leaders can implement to support the wellbeing of their employees.

Mental Health First Aiders

We place an emphasis on physical health emergencies within the workplace, but this is less prevalent when it comes to the mental aspect of staff wellbeing. The introduction of Mental Health First Aiders is one key way companies can begin to proactively manage the mental health of their employees.

Though they are not trained psychologists or therapists, they act as a first point of contact for those suffering from mental health issues, and a catalyst for staff to engage and open up about these challenges.

Organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of mental health on their employees. Giving people the confidence to come forward and seek support benefits not only staff wellbeing, but ultimately their own finances too, with research from Deloitte indicating that for every £1 employers spend on mental health interventions, they can recoup £5 in reduced absence and staff turnover.

Model Behaviour

For staff wellbeing to be truly sustainable, it must involve the whole organisation, including senior leaders and managers. Leaders must act as role models within their companies by getting on board with the mental health agenda, and starting the process of a culture change within their organisation.

Managers and leaders who share that they are looking after themselves from a wellbeing perspective are more likely to see their teams mirror this behaviour, and in turn create a culture that encourages everyone to proactively manage their own wellbeing. With burnout and stress being ever-present concerns, promoting an environment of prevention can pay dividends in the long run.

Getting Teams Moving

The Royal Society for Public Health found that 46% of those working from home took less exercise. This lack of activity clearly poses health risks, but also negatively contributes to overall wellbeing. Exercise is a powerful way to reduce stress and boost mental health, requiring workers to step away from their computers even if it is for just a short while, and give themselves a breather from the stress and anxiety that can build up during the course of the workday.

Movement, however big or small has a profound effect on mental wellbeing, and organisations are increasingly recognising the need to provide more opportunities for exercise. Incentives and schemes such as discounts to local gyms mitigate the costs associated with membership while also providing a gentle nudge for employees who might not otherwise join.

Flexible Working

The effects of the pandemic combined with enforced remote working have undoubtedly cemented the need for a flexible approach to working. Companies have the opportunity to take a truly customised approach to the stressors employees faces, whether that is childcare, therapy appointments or other life events.

Giving staff a greater degree of control over their work schedules, such as start and finish times, can foster a better work-life balance and boost mental wellbeing. Being accommodating and flexible in this way does not mean lowering company standards, and in fact can help teams to thrive, while allowing companies to retain talent and increase morale.

Measure Initiatives

Promoting a culture of wellbeing is an investment in employees, and for this to be truly effective, there must be a way to appropriately measure the efficacy of wellbeing initiatives and the impact they are having on employees.

Allowing staff to give regular input and feedback is also invaluable for shaping new programs and initiatives, as well as steering the direction of existing ones. Conducting regular audits does not have to be complicated, but doing so will assist in identifying additional issues, establishing baselines to measure progress, and target new areas for improvement.