Employee wellbeing and mental health is the top topic nowadays. But countless companies get employee wellbeing wrong and employee churn in return. In this article, we show you how to get that right.

What is employee wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing is a term used to describe the physical, financial, career and mental well-being of employees. It encompasses factors such as job satisfaction, job security, work-life balance, healthy workplace relationships, stress levels, and overall happiness in the workplace. Maintaining a healthy level of employee wellbeing is important for both employees and employers, as it can lead to improved productivity, creativity, and morale. Research also found that employees have lower rates of absenteeism and are less likely to leave their job.

According to Gallup, the five Essential Elements of Well-Being are career wellbeing, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing and community wellbeing. These can be summed up into four areas:

1. Physical wellbeing

2. Financial wellbeing

3. Mental, emotional and social wellbeing

4. Career and professional wellbeing

There are a number of ways to promote employee wellbeing in the workplace, such as providing resources for stress management, offering flexible work arrangements, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, providing access to mental health support or offering workplace wellness programmes. We will talk about the relevance of financial and mental support later in this article.

(Fig. 1: Mental health search term from Jan 2004 - Nov 2022, Google Trends)

In the past, employee wellbeing was often seen as a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. However, there is now growing recognition of the importance of employee wellbeing in the modern workplace. The Corona pandemic has made mental health a central topic in companies. Also the American Psychological Association (APA) confirms that demand.

How did the corona pandemic affect mental health and employee wellbeing in the workplace?

The corona pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health and employee wellbeing in the workplace. Many employees are struggling with anxiety and stress due to the pandemic, and this is having a negative impact on their work performance. The software company Oracle found out that 85% of people say their mental health issues at work negatively affect their home life. Many employees are also concerned about their personal safety and the safety of their loved ones, which is also causing stress and anxiety. Especially women were affected, as a study found out about the employee psychological wellbeing during the pandemic in Germany:

Our study shows that women's psychological health is more strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than men's psychological health. Future research needs to investigate whether this is due to the pandemic reinforcing traditional gender roles or due to other reasons. If governments and policymakers want to design interventions for softening the psychological consequences of the pandemic, they need to target women specifically.

Employers should take steps to support their employees during this time of crisis. They can provide employees with information about the pandemic, offer flexible work arrangements, and allow employees to work from home if necessary. Providing employees with access to mental health services and information is of major importance.
If you are an employer, it is important to be aware of the impact the pandemic and the after-effect is having on your employees. Take steps to support them in this difficult time.
If you are an employee, don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you are struggling. There are many free resources available to help you during this difficult time.

What is the criticism about employee wellbeing?

There is criticism that employee wellbeing is another way for employers to shirk their responsibilities to their workers. By implementing programmes and policies that are ostensibly designed to improve the wellbeing of employees, employers can duck their statutory obligations and also avoid potential legal challenges. Additionally, there is criticism that many employer-led wellbeing initiatives are little more than a cynical ploy to cut costs by reducing staff turnover and sickness absence.
However, most voices argue that employee wellbeing can have positive benefits for both employers and employees alike.

What are possible problems with employee wellbeing?

One issue with employee wellbeing is that there is a disconnect between what employees want and what employers are providing. Employees want holistic and preventative approaches to wellbeing, while employers are largely offering reactive and episodic interventions. This mismatch can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction on the part of employees and can ultimately impact productivity and business outcomes.

There are a number of factors that contribute to this disconnect, but one of the most significant is the way in which employers view employee wellbeing. For many employers, employee wellbeing is seen as a compliance issue or a cost to be managed. This narrow focus means that employers are not considering the wider benefits that improved employee wellbeing can bring, such as reduced absenteeism, lower staff turnover, and increased productivity.

When it comes to addressing the disconnect between what employees want and what employers are providing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a number of steps that employers can take to start making progress. These include taking a more strategic approach to employee wellbeing, engaging employees in the design and delivery of wellbeing programmes, and investing in comprehensive data and analytics to inform decision-making.

What is the most often mistake companies make in employee well-being?

Simply put, the number one mistake companies make when it comes to employee wellbeing is not creating a culture that supports it. Without buy-in from management and employees, initiatives will fail.

So, why is culture important? Culture is important because it sets the tone for how employees are expected to behave. A supportive culture will encourage employees to take care of themselves both physically and mentally, while a hostile or unsupportive culture can have negative consequences for employee health and productivity. In the end, as a company, you want to give your employee an unconditional and strong sense of belonging.

How to create a culture of belonging in the workplace?

There are a number of ways that employers can create a culture of belonging in the workplace. One way is to encourage employees to get to know one another. This is especially done by hosting social events, or by providing opportunities for employees to chat, collaborate and to mingle informally. Additionally, employers can promote a sense of community by sharing stories about the successes of individual employees. When employees feel like they belong to a supportive community, it most likely leads to increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

How can meaningful moments of vulnerability support employee well-being?

One way that meaningful moments of vulnerability can support employee wellbeing is by providing employees with an opportunity to feel seen and heard. When employees feel that they can openly share their thoughts and feelings without judgement, it can create a sense of connection and community within the workplace. This can in turn lead to increased feelings of trust and support, which can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing. Additionally, when employers create an environment where employees feel comfortable being vulnerable, it can also help to foster a culture of open communication and collaboration. In turn, this can improve workflows and help to prevent workplace conflict.

What other steps companies can take to create a supportive culture?

  • Encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, including time for lunch and breaks for physical activity.
  • Promote work-life balance by offering flexible work hours and policies that allow employees to take time off when needed.
  • Offer wellness programs that provide resources and support for employees to maintain their health and wellbeing.
  • Provide access to mental health resources such as counselling and stress management tools.
  • Encourage open communication about mental health and wellbeing issues. Employees must feel comfortable discussing their mental health and seeking help when needed.

Don’t forget financial wellbeing

Financial wellbeing is just as important as the other elements of wellbeing. In fact, it's often the foundation that supports our physical, mental, emotional, social and professional wellbeing. When we're financially stable, we have more control over our lives and can make choices that support our overall wellbeing. Financial stability allows us to feel safe and secure in our lives, both now and in the future.

How can companies and managers help their employees with financial wellbeing?

There are many ways that companies and managers can help their employees with financial wellbeing. Here are a few key ideas:

1. Offer resources and information: Provide employees with information on financial topics such as budgeting, saving, and investing. This can help them to make informed decisions about their finances.

2. Encourage responsible spending: Help employees to understand the importance of spending wisely and within their means. Teach them how to differentiate between needs and wants, and how to find good deals on necessary items.

3. Promote savings: Encourage employees to save for both short-term and long-term goals. Show them how to set aside money each month, and make it easy for them to do so by providing a workplace savings plan.

4. Offer debt relief options: Help employees who are struggling with debt find solutions that work for them. This could include providing information on debt relief programs or offering advice from a financial expert.

5. Promote healthy credit habits: Teach employees about the importance of having a good credit score and how to maintain healthy credit habits. This includes things like paying bills on time, not opening too many lines of credit, and maintaining a low credit utilisation ratio.

When companies and managers take these steps, they are helping their employees to achieve financial wellbeing. By providing resources, encouragement, and support, they are helping employees to feel more in control of their finances and better able to achieve their goals.

How important is the role of managers when it comes to employee well-being?

The role of managers when it comes to employee wellbeing is critical. Highly critical. They can promote a positive work environment by setting an example for their employees, providing support, and encouraging healthy behaviours. They can also help to identify and address any issues that may be causing employees stress or unhappiness.

Due to bad management on the flip side, some employees suffer from poor mental health, job insecurity, and excessive workloads. This often leads to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates, the opposite effect of employee wellbeing.
And managers have the tendency to overestimate themselves – or as CNBC found out – about 88% of executives think they’ve made excellent leadership decisions during Covid—only 53% of workers agree.
This is even so bad, that 68% of people would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work, as Oracle found out.

These issues are costly for businesses, and they can be avoided by taking steps to improve employee wellbeing. Again, managers play a vital role in this, so they must be aware of the importance of employee wellbeing and how they can help to improve it. And it’s especially the up-and-coming generation Z, who are looking for and respecting managers, who are aware and capable of being a role model.

(Fig X: Why Supporting the Mental Health of Younger Workers Starts with Organisational Culture, Accenture)

How managers can do to promote employee wellbeing

If you’re a manager, there are a few things you can do to promote employee wellbeing:

Set an example: Employees will take their cues from you, so it’s important to set a good example when it comes to wellbeing. Make sure you take breaks, eat healthy meals, and get enough exercise. You should also try to avoid working excessive hours or taking on too much work.

Provide support: Employees may need help to cope with stress or other issues. Be available to listen to their concerns and provide support when needed. You can also sign them up for an employee assistance program (EAP) if your company offers one.

Encourage healthy behaviours: Help your employees to adopt healthy behaviours by promoting wellness initiatives at work. For example, you could encourage them to take part in a fitness challenge or offer discounts on healthy food options.

Identify and address issues: If you notice that an employee is struggling, try to identify the cause of the problem. It could be something as simple as a heavy workload or a lack of support from their team. Once you’ve identified the issue, you can take steps to address it and help the employee to get back on track.

By taking these steps, you can make a positive impact on your employees’ wellbeing. This will benefit both them and your business, so it’s well worth the effort.

Reading the signs

It is important for managers to be aware of the signs of stress in their employees so that they can address any issues early on. Some common signs of stress include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling irritable or snappy
  • Sleeping badly or having nightmares
  • Losing interest in things that used to give pleasure
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Drinking more alcohol than usual
  • Withdrawing from friends and social activities

If you are concerned about an employee’s wellbeing, it is important to have a conversation with them. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it is important to show that you care and are willing to help. If an employee is struggling to cope, they may need some time off work or some additional support from their manager.
Because it is often the managers’ responsibility to implement employee wellbeing initiatives, such as health and wellness programs. However, they cannot do it alone – they need the support of senior management and the commitment of everyone in the organisation. Employees also have a role to play in their own wellbeing, and should take advantage of any opportunities that are available to them.

The key to employee well-being: Culture, managers and financial well-being

Employee wellbeing is a complex issue that can be mainly improved by taking steps to create a positive work culture, having supportive and responsible managers, and ensuring employees have financial security. Managers play a vital role in creating and maintaining a healthy workplace culture, so it is important for them to be aware of the importance of employee wellbeing and how they can help to improve it. They are also responsible for setting an example, providing support and encouragement, and identifying and addressing any issues.

Money worries can be as well a major source of stress for employees, so it’s important to make sure they are financially secure. This can be done by offering financial education and counselling, as well as providing benefits such as income protection and health insurance. Employees also have a responsibility to take care of their own (financial) wellbeing and should make use of any opportunities and information that are available to them.

The way an organisation is run – its values, policies and procedures – plays a big role in determining whether employees are happy and healthy. A positive organisational culture will promote employee wellbeing, while a negative one will have the opposite effect.
If organisations keep these three vital factors in mind – culture, managers and financial wellbeing – they will be well on their way to creating a lasting, healthy, supportive and productive workforce.

Contact us now