Employee wellbeing - Has your organisation undervalued its importance?
The business case for wellbeing is undeniably strong: when your people thrive, your organisation excels.
What is employee wellbeing?
Employee wellbeing concerns the comfort, health, and happiness of your staff. It includes not only physical health factors, but mental, financial, and social too. Employee wellbeing can be influenced by co-workers, access to resources, feeling appreciated (or not), work environment, responsibilities, finances, and more. It is also affected by issues outside work such as home life, housing, and family.
Supporting employee wellbeing is not only important to the individual, it is crucial to the ongoing success of your organisation as a whole.
In a competitive recruitment market, where there are more jobs available than qualified people to fill them, a strong employee wellbeing strategy is a major selling point in attracting the best candidates to your organisation.
The benefits of employee wellbeing
The benefits of employee wellbeing to the individual are clear: feeling happy, healthy, and appreciated. (Wellbeing is defined by the UK Department of Health as feeling good and functioning well.)
But employee wellbeing benefits your organisation too, with a positive impact on the business and a measurable effect on its bottom line.
Improving employee wellbeing reduces absence and its associated costs.
Days off work due to illness cost UK employers a staggering £43 billion in 2021, and that’s before the cost of associated admin, overtime, or replacement worker fees.
Organisations with a high level of employee wellbeing are more productive, with a full staff of keen, healthy, and fully trained employees, and less reliance on inexperienced and expensive outsourced agency workers.
When it comes to mental health problems in particular, all organisations have the opportunity to be proactive in minimising their impact. If you can bolster morale, and tackle causes of stress at the earliest opportunity, you have the best possible chance of avoiding escalating mental health issues.
GoodShape data shows that more than half of workers who take two or more mental health-related absences will subsequently go on to leave their jobs. Early intervention can disrupt and prevent such burgeoning issues, so you are more likely to retain a hardworking and experienced member of staff, rather than arranging multiple periods of cover and ultimately having to recruit and train a new employee.
Employee wellbeing benefits productivity and profit
Employee wellbeing and performance are inextricably linked: happy and motivated employees achieve more than those who are ill, distracted, stressed, or burned out. In fact, Oxford University's Saïd Business School examined the connection between happiness and productivity and found that workers are 13% more productive when happy(1).
According to Forbes, there are also proven links between wellbeing in the workplace and heightened stock performance and profitability(2): they report a “significant, strong positive correlation between employees' satisfaction with their company and employee productivity and customer loyalty, and a strong negative correlation with staff turnover.”
However, when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, Deloitte data suggests that only 2 in 5 employees are working at peak performance(3).
It makes good business sense to redress this imbalance and keep your staff and therefore your company in good shape. Investing in wellbeing support doesn’t need to be costly, yet it will pay dividends in a number of ways; Deloitte found that for every £1 an organisation invests in mental health support it will get £5 back in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism, and staff turnover(4).
Supporting employee wellbeing builds employee value proposition and employer brand.
When we commissioned Ipsos to survey more than 700 line managers and HR professionals, 91% said wellbeing programmes in the workplace are important in attracting and retaining talent.
From a business point of view, a caring and considerate culture builds the employee value proposition and will be reflected in the way your staff feel about your organisation and how they represent it to others.
When it comes to recruiting and retaining the best talent, positive ‘employee PR’ is a major factor. Choosing a company to work for is not only about bonuses and pay rises, it’s about the organisation’s values and how it deals with staff on a day-to-day basis. According to CIPHR, two-thirds of employees value work-life balance more than their pay and employee benefits combined, and two-fifths of employees rank a healthy work environment within the top five most valuable aspects of a job(5).
It’s obvious that company culture is playing an increasingly important role in the decision-making process for candidates, and those organisations that can offer meaningful work and high employee engagement will leave the competition in their wake when it comes to attracting the best people.
At GoodShape, we engage with more than 70% of our clients’ employees within a year, compared with fewer than 11% for traditional ‘go-to’ support services such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs)(6).
A service like ours is a perfect way to demonstrate to your employees that you value their health and care for their wellbeing, while unobtrusively understanding the issues (and root causes) affecting them, so you can provide the best-targeted, most effective support to make things better. (Also, by means of instant referral, we can help to maximise uptake of those underused EAPs!)
Workplace wellbeing reduces risk to individuals and organisations
Not only do wellbeing initiatives help attract and retain employees (51% of employees say mental health culture impacts their decision to join or stay with a company)(7) they also protect and support employees through challenging periods.
With GoodShape, for example, employees have access to professional medical advice and support 24/7. Having this confidential clinical service available outside traditional office hours means people can access it as soon as they need it: no minor detail when you consider that over a third of ‘code red’ life-threatening calls are received outside of normal office hours.
A 24hr service ensures early intervention and swift referrals are possible, resulting in quicker access to help and support before troubles worsen.
With better employee wellbeing, virtually every department of an organisation benefits. Which is why wellbeing should be ‘owned’ by the whole leadership team, not just HR.
Financially, high levels of employee wellbeing increase productivity and minimise absence cost, while more motivated staff create business growth. Having happier and more responsive staff in customer-facing roles aids customer acquisition and retention. Operationally, processes are more likely to be right first time with better levels of compliance and less admin time when you don’t have to rely heavily on temporary/agency staff. And when it comes to HR, higher levels of wellbeing bring better employee engagement, lower staff turnover, fewer employment tribunals, and less time and money spent on admin and recruitment.
The components of employee wellbeing
Wellbeing is multifaceted and can mean different things to different people. The CIPD identifies seven inter-related ‘domains’ or components of employee wellbeing(8):
- Good work
- Values / principles
- Collective / social
- Personal growth
- Good lifestyle choices
- Financial wellbeing
How to improve employee wellbeing
In the wake of the COVID pandemic, we identified a concerning trend for organisations to roll-back employee support initiatives that HR and line managers still consider ‘much needed’ by their staff. We believe, in many cases, this is due to business leaders not being able to see tangible business benefits for their investment.
Currently, for example, only 20% of organisations use KPIs to measure and report on the impact of workplace mental health strategies, according to the CCLA Corporate Mental Health 2021 Pilot Benchmark Report(9). So, to achieve ongoing buy-in from your Board, it’s crucial to measure the ongoing effectiveness of your wellbeing interventions.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for how to improve employee wellbeing; it depends on your individual organisation and the unique needs of your workforce. Accurately measuring the issues affecting your people may even reveal varying challenges across the different divisions of your organisation.
As a starting point, the ‘domains’ of wellbeing can be critically examined to see if your organisation could be doing more to create a well-rounded, supportive company culture. We’ve highlighted just a few things to consider under each area, but it is by no means an exhaustive list.
It’s important to note that big improvements in employee wellbeing don’t necessarily need big investment.
Small changes can have far-reaching impact.
Do you have professional health support and advice available, like GoodShape’s 24/7 clinical service?
What about occupational health support, employee assistance programmes and health insurance?
Do you measure how often support services such as EAPs are used and if they could be improved or better tailored to suit your staff?
Do you provide regular safety training?
How do you approach stress management? Have you considered mental health first aiders for your organisation?
Do you measure and analyse staff absence to identify and address its root causes?
(GoodShape can help here. We identify trends of illness or injury in your workforce to single out the main issues affecting employees, so you can act on them).
How does your workplace recognise and reward achievement?
Are work areas comfortable and ergonomically designed?
This often-overlooked detail can make a huge difference to employee wellbeing.
For example: GoodShape worked with a transport company where data showed numerous bus drivers needing time off due to similar musculoskeletal issues.
Instead of a knee-jerk response, such as immediately implementing expensive physio support, the drivers were consulted, and it was revealed that they all had a similar shift pattern: taking over from other drivers. In order to stick to the timetable, they were not adjusting their seat setups properly, leading to long shifts in compromised driving positions. The simple solution was to alter shift patterns to allow slightly more time at changeover, and musculoskeletal issues decreased accordingly.
Do you monitor workload levels? A good work/life balance is vital to the health and happiness of every individual.
How much flexibility is available? It may sound counterintuitive, but some companies find that offering flexible working and benefits like mental health days can actually reduce absence overall. Employees who know they have the option of taking a ‘duvet day’ when they need it are less likely to feel overwhelmed and burned out, which can lead to much longer stress-related absences.
Values / principles
How do employees view the leadership of your organisation? Make sure your mission and objectives are clear. Transparency builds trust.
Are your ethical standards well known? Can employees feel pride and dignity in your Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments?
How do you show employees your organisation values equality, diversity, and inclusion?
Collective / social
How much opportunity is there for open communication and suggestions for improvement? People need to feel listened to, and know that their input is considered, whether or not it is practicable to ultimately act upon.
Encourage genuine dialogue and positive relationships with peers and managers, and nurture a culture where people can bring their ‘whole self’ to work without fear of being ostracised.
What are the opportunities for career development and personal growth? Do you offer mentoring, coaching, and performance management?
In what ways are employees encouraged to be creative?
Does your organisation promote healthy eating and physical activity? Sports teams, charity challenges or even just lunchtime walks?
The recent cost-of-living crisis and resultant industrial action across multiple sectors has brought into sharp focus the impact that finance has on workers’ wellbeing. Our study of 2,000 UK employees, conducted by YouGov, found that over half (57%) say that worrying about finances negatively impacts their ability to do their job. Similarly, 57% say that they would worry about the financial implications of taking time off work sick.
The financial climate, of course, affects businesses too, and wage rises may not always be a viable solution to employees’ financial concerns. But there is value in being fair and transparent with employees about your pay and benefit policies.
You may also consider more innovative ways to support staff financially. The Money and Pensions Service reports that 45% of adults in the UK don’t feel confident managing their money and around 11% have less than £100 in personal savings(11).
Our data highlighted such pressures while working with a national retail group, who were seeing a high rate of mental health-related absence in certain departments. Consulting with staff, they found that money worries were the root cause, and so replaced their under-engaged EAP with financial counselling and low-interest loans, with repayments taken directly from employees’ salaries.
Signing up with a benefits and discounts provider is another way to relieve the pressure of employees’ financial wellbeing concerns.
The business case for making wellbeing integral to organisational planning
Employee wellbeing and performance go hand in hand, so it’s important that your employee wellbeing strategy permeates the entire fabric of your organisation.
The benefits and the risks associated with wellbeing affect every aspect of your business, and every department should take some level of ownership. While wellbeing may traditionally have been seen as a ‘soft measure’ headed up by HR, it has now been inextricably linked to productivity, efficiency, and profitability – meaning leaders across the Board need to give employee wellbeing the attention it deserves rather than treating it as an ‘add on’.
Not only is supporting the health and happiness of any individual the right thing to do, the business case for wellbeing is undeniably clear.
Aside from making the organisation more productive and attractive to both employees and customers, an effective wellbeing strategy also results in major cost savings. Deloitte, for example, found that the value in investment for mental health support included a 5:1 financial return(10).
A data-based approach to employee wellbeing
Accurate measurement is crucial when it comes to effecting an impactful employee wellbeing strategy.
First, there’s the measurement involved in identifying the true issues that are affecting your people. No two organisations face the same challenges, which is why there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to wellbeing issues – and why there is such a diverse range of reasons that organisations have partnered with GoodShape over the years.
Secondly, when you understand what issues you’re aiming to improve, you need an accurate means of measuring the impact of your interventions. You may not succeed at first, but your data is powerful for informing how to change tack, and demonstrate to your Board that investment is being targeted based on strong evidence.
Finally, it’s important to realise that supporting employee wellbeing is an ongoing process. Having real-time access to wellbeing data enables you to react to the unexpected (a pandemic, a bird flu outbreak, a cost-of-living crisis), while proactively planning for trends that ebb and flow over time. A sophisticated system such as GoodShape’s can even help you to forecast how and where wellbeing trends are likely to manifest in future.
If you don’t use GoodShape, though, there are a variety of datasets you may already have at your disposal to help you measure and monitor employee wellbeing, and target areas for improvement. For example:
- absence data (not only lost working days, but reasons)
- wellbeing survey responses (engagement and happiness scores)
- staff attrition rates and time-to-hire metrics
- demographic and diversity data
- KPIs and operations metrics
With GoodShape, however, you can rest assured that your employee wellbeing package has clinical support at its heart, with our team of registered nurses available 24/7 to provide your people with professional medical support when its needed most.
Not only do you know that you’re getting the truest, real-time data on issues affecting your workforce, but that support and referrals are being actioned without delay – helping you to make smarter strategic decisions, and ensuring your people and business remain in good shape.
(1) ‘Happy workers are 13% more productive’, University of Oxford, 24th October 2019. (https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-10-24-happy-workers-are-13-more-productive)
(2) ‘Wellbeing positively impacts firm performance’, Forbes, 9th June 2020. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/colleenreilly/2020/06/09/wellbeing-positively-impacts-firm-performance/?sh=382abdb7cc93)
(3) ‘At a tipping point? Workplace mental health and wellbeing’, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions, March 2017. (https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/public-sector/deloitte-uk-workplace-mental-health-n-wellbeing.pdf)
(4, 10) ‘Mental health and employers: The case for investment – pandemic and beyond’, Deloitte, March 2022. (https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/poor-mental-health-costs-uk-employers-up-to-pound-56-billion-a-year.html)
(5) ‘Revealed: The most important aspects of a job’, CIPHR, May 2022. (https://www.ciphr.com/the-most-important-aspects-of-a-job/)
(6) ‘Financial return on EAPs 2020: How does your organisation compare?’, Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), October 2020. (https://www.eapa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/20-0014-EAPA-UK-ROI-Report-2020-Web.pdf)
(7) ‘Three-quarters of employees’ careers impacted by mental health, report finds’, People Management, 30 June 2022. (https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/article/1791738/three-quarters-employees-careers-impacted-mental-health-report-finds)
(8) ‘Wellbeing at work. Understand the links between work, health and wellbeing, and the role of stakeholders in adopting an organisational approach to employee wellbeing’, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 18th November 2022. (https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/factsheet#gref)
(9) ‘CCLA Corporate Mental Health 2021 Pilot Benchmark Report’, CCLA Investment Management Limited, 2021. (https://www.ccla.co.uk/documents/pilot-benchmark-report/download?inline)
(11) ‘Financial Wellbeing Survey 2021’, Money and Pensions Service, 2021. (https://www.maps.org.uk/2021/11/10/24-million-uk-adults-dont-feel-confident-managing-their-money-talk-money-week-is-here-to-help/)
Doing nothing could cost you everything. Support your employees today.
Reduce absenteeism and make your current support programmes more effective with a wellbeing platform that works. Book your consultation with GoodShape to review your current strategy and create a roadmap for better employee wellbeing.