Wellbeing is a hot-topic right now, not only amongst individuals, but also within the business world.
To understand why so many organisations are jumping on the bandwagon, we must first understand the meaning of the term “wellbeing”, and the benefits for businesses.
What Is Wellbeing?
The Oxford Dictionary defines wellbeing as “general health and happiness.” Put simply, wellbeing is an umbrella term to describe wellness across all areas of health, including both mental and physical wellbeing.
A whole range of factors can contribute to an individual’s feeling of wellness, including a nutritional diet, regular exercise, financial stability, a sense of belonging, a good self-esteem and a supportive social network.
Why Is Wellbeing Important For My Business?
Why is wellbeing not only crucial to an individual’s health, but also of immense importance to a business?
Put simply, wellness in the workplace elevates health and happiness. It’s easy to see how this allows employees to be the best version of themselves. Indeed, health and productivity go hand-in-hand: the better the staff feel, the more productive their work habits will be.
You’ve probably heard of workplace wellbeing being referred to as wellness “culture”. This is because wellbeing not only improves the lives of individuals, but also transforms the whole workplace into a hub for prosperity. On a macro level, health and productivity in the workplace become easy, and above all, normal.
“On a macro level, health and productivity in the workplace become easy, and above all, normal.”
Workplace wellness isn’t just about enhancing a workplace culture, it’s also about preventing a multitude of drawbacks. Choosing to neglect workplace wellbeing can cause a domino effect, as one consequence leads to another.
Studies have conjured evidence demonstrating the extent of these effects. Perhaps the most obvious consequence for employers is the cost of work-related injury and illness, which was estimated to cost Australian employers $10.2 billion in 2005-2006 alone. In terms of sick leave, findings show unhealthy workers take up to 9 times more sick leave than healthy workers.
“Choosing to neglect workplace wellbeing can cause a domino effect, as one consequence leads to another.”
Poor physical health is by no means the only concern: mental wellbeing is of huge importance, with stress being one of the biggest issues (it is the number one reason for workplace absenteeism).
Even when an employee is present in the office, poor mental wellbeing will most certainly cause additional issues, including decreased productivity and engagement. In fact, it is estimated that reduced staff performance is 2 to 7 times more expensive than absenteeism.
As employees are the cornerstone of any business, their health is crucial. Not only does good workplace wellbeing avoid the aforementioned costs, but it simply makes the business a better place to be. Overall, the business is headed for an outstanding reputation, amongst employees and the public alike.
How Can I Improve My Business's Workplace Wellbeing?
Even when the value of workplace wellbeing is appreciated, the idea of improving all employee’s wellness can be overwhelming. How can a business change every employee’s health and lifestyle habits? It’s easy to see why undertaking such a project may feel daunting, which is precisely why workplace wellbeing must be approached systematically.
It’s about breaking the wellness strategy into smaller sections, making your plan easier to implement.
At first glance, employees’ dietary habits may appear beyond the employer’s responsibility. Contrary to this, there are certain facilities that the organisation could (and even should) be supplying.
The Australian Workplace Amenities and Work Environment Compliance Code states “employees need to have access to hygienic facilities for preparing and eating meals”. This should include a fridge, a sink and/or dishwasher, coffee and tea facilities, a toaster and a microwave. These provisions encourage, or at least allow employees to bring their own meals to the office.
Supplying healthy drinks and snacks is another way to encourage healthy habits. Employers may consider supplying water jugs for desks, as well as herbal teas and non-dairy milk options. Employers could also consider stocking the office vending machines with healthier alternatives such as cereal and muesli bars.
Getting staff more active can be as simple as creating opportunities for exercise and encouraging involvement.
Business leaders may even consider organising their own lunchtime activities, such as a game of soccer or creating a walking group. In order to support these lunchtime activities, organisations may consider installing staff showers.
“Getting staff to become more active can be as simple as creating opportunities for exercise and encouraging the whole team to get involved.”
In this era of health-consciousness, businesses should never feel alone in their mission to improve their worker’s health.
Indeed, many bodies have created initiatives which can be utilised by businesses. Some creditable schemes include the Australian National Preventive Health Agency initiative “Shape Up Australia” or the Ride2Work scheme. These bodies also provide motivational material which can be used to inform staff of the benefits in being physically active.
Other bodies, such as the Heart Foundation, provide information which can both inform employees on why physical activity is important, and the various ways of implementing it into daily life (including habits around work).
The concept of “workplace wellbeing” may conjure images of a lunchtime jog or a healthy breakfast. While we are quick to recognise the importance of physical wellbeing, the idea of mental health in the workplace often takes a backseat. This is concerning, as studies show 1 in 6 Australian workers will experience a mental illness, costing the Australian economy over $12 billion per year.
Depending on the industry, the threats to mental wellness include stress, job insecurity or a lack of work-life balance. On the upside, most mental issues are manageable, if not preventable. Implementing a mental wellbeing management plan will be fundamental to identifying and controlling mental health risks.
“Eliminating stigma around mental health is the crucial first step.”
Eliminating stigma around mental health is the crucial first step. For this reason, awareness, acceptance and support are paramount.
When it comes to mental wellbeing, you may have noticed that mindfulness has attracted a lot of attention. It’s not only individuals who are experiencing the benefits, but businesses are also getting onboard. Indeed, mindfulness at work has become a proven solution to counteract stress and reinvigorate staff.
Actions speak louder than words, so make sure to support your strategy with a practical program. Struggling to make a start? Check out the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for some inspiration.
Although it can be daunting, fostering a workplace culture of wellness is essential to every business’ future. Like planting a tree, the seeds grow for a sustainable future, where employees thrive in their careers and can be their best selves.