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Why is wellbeing important in the workplace?

What is wellbeing at work?

Employee wellbeing goes far beyond just minimising health issues and health-related absences. The World Health Organisation consider wellbeing at work “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing” – so it encompasses all areas of working life. Promoting wellbeing at work can help create a positive working environment by minimising stress levels, improving employee satisfaction and engagement, and ultimately helping your employees thrive at work. We believe a happy and healthy workforce is essential in building a successful business. Putting the steps in to support this can be hard work but ultimately rewarding, and not all employers can afford the high costs of private medical insurance.

Our recent survey of 2,007 employees across the nation revealed that in the past two years alone, over two thirds have experienced a health issue, long-term condition, or disability. So, the reality is that for an average business, a significant proportion of your workforce are likely to be impacted by some sort of health issue.

Unfortunately, the stigma, which was evident in our survey around mental and physical health issues at work, means that employees don’t always feel comfortable enough to disclose their health and wellbeing issues. We aim to help you understand the reasons behind their hesitance and offer advice on how to help your business stay well.

What health issues are your employees experiencing?

Mental Health and wellbeing at work

Poor mental health was the most widely stated issue - which isn’t too surprising given the well-documented impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on people’s mental health.

[Read our report ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Mental Health’ which explores the range of ways in which the pandemic has affected the nation’s mental health and wellbeing]

Physical wellbeing at work

But it’s not only mental health and wellbeing at work that could be affecting your workers – with several employees having recently experienced a range of physical issues, including high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes, highlighting that physical wellbeing at work is equally as important.

Promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace

Putting measures in place such as wellbeing in the workplace initiatives to support your employees benefits your business as much as it helps them. If health issues are proactively managed with the right support in place, they’re usually less likely to escalate and employees are better able to do their jobs productively. Moreover, if employees aren’t getting the support they need to stay fit and healthy, it’s possible they’ll require more frequent and prolonged absences. Or, they may even feel they need to leave the business. 1 in 10 employees we surveyed had previously left a job due to a health condition.

What stops employees from asking for help

Health is not always a comfortable topic for people to be open about at work. Over a third (36%) have lied to employers about taking time off for health-related appointments. And a large majority (41%) wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to their managers about any health issues at all.

Despite positive steps to combat the stigma around mental health in the UK, such as Government initiatives, charity events and a range of campaigns, our survey still highlights the widespread stigma that remains in the workplace. Two of the key reasons why employees won’t talk about their general health at work are fear of their team members questioning their ability to do their jobs (3 in 10 people) and fear of losing their jobs (27%). 

Why lack of transparency is a problem

Experiencing a health issue can be challenging enough, without the added pressure of worrying about job security, hiding reasons for absences, and feeling you can’t be honest with your colleagues. This can all add undue stress onto an already challenging situation – negatively impacting productivity levels at work and potentially employees’ mental health. 

Plus, it’s near impossible to provide meaningful support that’ll keep employees healthy, if you don’t know who is struggling and what it is that they’re dealing with.

In order to make staff feel able to open up, it’s important to reassure them how much you do care, and how valuable they are to your business. Let them know that experiencing health issues is a normal part of life, and that supporting their wellbeing is a priority for you.

Health and wellbeing at work ideas

Here are some ideas for wellbeing at work you can use to build a supportive work environment and encourage employees to talk:

Open and normalise the conversation by showing employees health issues and conditions are nothing to be ashamed of, and a normal part of everyday life.

Using internal company newsletters, email campaigns and intranet posts are just some ways in which you can encourage a conversation around health and wellbeing. You could consider a weekly focus, and home in on less-spoken-about and more taboo health issues like the menopause. Facts and quizzes are a great way of getting employees talking, as well as educating them on issues that they or one of their colleagues may be experiencing. Providing some hints, tips and advice – and pointing employees in the right direction for support – can be invaluable too. Particularly for those who feel embarrassed or uncomfortable disclosing their problems and asking for help directly. 

Rewards and recognition can help employees feel more reassured and secure about their job; and show them they’re valued

Particularly when people are working remotely or may have had long stints out of work during the pandemic. For many, this will have impacted their confidence. Recognising measurable achievements as well as good work ethic and commitment can really help employees feel like a valued member of the company.

Provide a corporate health and wellbeing programme and encourage your staff to use it

Offering a tangible health benefit such as a Corporate Health and Wellbeing Programme can let employees know that their health is a priority to you. Services such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines that can be accessed any time, from anywhere, are a great way to show employees that you support their wellbeing all the time, not just when they’re at work. Knowing that your company has invested in healthcare support, and encourages employees to use it, sends a message that seeking support for health issues is normal and accepted.

Create some wellbeing activities for the workplace

Lunchtime workout classes, a jogging club, or a morning walking group are all great ideas to get employees moving and encourage team bonding too. However, not everybody enjoys exercising in group environments – especially with their colleagues at work. And given that workplace wellbeing is as much about social wellbeing as it is about physical, why not introduce some weekly or monthly clubs based on other interests and hobbies. For example, a reading club, a cooking or recipe swapping club, or a card games group.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. Benenden Health offers businesses an affordable, high quality, private healthcare and wellbeing product which includes round the clock care with 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines. Plus, access to services including physiotherapy, private diagnosis and treatment. All at an affordable price of £11.90 per employee per month. Find out more about our services here.