As we approach the end of 2017, many business leaders will be evaluating the performance of their companies over the year, and considering what changes to implement in 2018.
One of the big business issues of 2017 has been workplace wellness, including mental health. In recent years this has been enshrined in regulation, which has significantly evolved from the general health and safety legislation of the early 1970s to current laws which are concerned with employee wellbeing and mental health.
Employers now have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work, which includes minimising the risk of stress-related illness or injury. With greater political interest, public awareness and transparency around the importance of wellbeing in the office, more and more employers are reviewing their wellness practices.
Workplace wellness can have tangible business benefits. Generating a culture of wellness not only makes for a healthier, happier workforce, but one which – according to Forbes – is more productive.
The Health Executive claims that in 2016/17, 25.7m working days were lost to work related ill health. Reducing even a fraction of absences will positively impact an individual company’s productivity, and the UK’s productivity as a whole.
Implementing a culture of workplace wellness can help to attract top talent. For millennials, it is less a “nice to have”, and more of “must have”. Major employers understand this. From top tech companies to major investment banks, for example, we have seen surging investment into wellness programmes.
Goldman Sachs, for example, has had a head of wellness for nearly a decade and runs mindfulness seminars. Having attracted talent, an inherent wellness culture can also help to retain it. Research from MetLife, the global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programmes, suggests that 59 per cent of employees say that health and wellness benefits are important for increasing loyalty to their employer. However, employee wellness cannot be achieved through token gestures.
In order to make a genuine and sustained difference to your employees’ wellbeing, practices should be placed at the heart of the company culture; it must be real, not rhetoric. Below, I share four simple tips for business owners to implement a sustainable culture of wellness.
Encourage your employees to step away from their desks
By providing a range of break-out and communal areas, ranging from kitchens to informal meeting areas, or positively endorsing working remotely or “hot desking” from different areas in the office, employers can encourage employees to spend essential, but still productive, time away from their desks.
At Office Space in Town, we provide the highest possible percentage of communal areas, including client lounges, in house bars and cafes and breakout spaces. We actively encourage employees to see the office not only as a workplace but also somewhere they can relax and enjoy downtime.
Encourage physical fitness
Encouraging physical exercise is simple to implement but can have a profound impact on the wellness of a workforce. Where no onsite-gym is available, employers can offer subsidised gym memberships or bicycle payment plans. FitBit’s uses its own wrist tracker technology to inspire competition within the office: there are rewards for the most active staff members.
Some of the longest work absences in 2016/17 related to work related musculoskeletal disorders. Regular ergonomic assessments of employees’ desk/ chair arrangements can reduce this.
We look to promote physical wellness at all our serviced offices. As well as providing onsite gyms where possible, we offer our employees weekly MobFit high intensity interval classes, and provide underground bike sheds to encourage cycling to work.
Address mental wellness head on
Whilst 60 per cent of board members and senior managers believe their organisation supports people with mental health issues, only 11 per cent discussed a mental health problem with their line manager according to a report by Deloitte.
Putting in place a clear policy around supporting mental health in your work place, including a supportive, open and transparent culture with clear lines of communication facilitating individuals to discuss their concerns would be a good first step.
Celebrate the little things
Mental wellbeing is closely associated with a sense of being valued, particularly in the workplace. Even the smallest of gestures can inspire a disproportionately positive sense of being appreciated.
Cakes and cards on birthdays or recognition for good work such as on the spot bonuses, bottles or wine of bunches all contribute to an employee’s sense or being valued. As a family-run company, we cultivate as sense amongst our employees of being part of the “Office Space in Town family”.
We celebrate birthdays, Christmas, and employee anniversaries, and aim to keep our family in mind in everything we do. In turn we are rewarded with hard work and low staff turnover. CEOs and business leaders know that the most important source of company excellence is our people. It’s our responsibility as business owners to invest in the health and wellbeing of our employees, and the benefits will be clear.