There is a good reason for organisations to promote workplace well-being: it produces numerous benefits in and of itself. These include greater talent attraction and retention; reduced absenteeism; lower stress levels; and improved morale and engagement. With this in mind, we also know that talent attraction and retention are essential to improving productivity.
Corporations that focus on well-being can thus improve their profitability. For one, medical costs related to mental health and other illnesses that arise from sedentary lifestyles have increased considerably in recent years so these costs can affect a company’s bottom line.
Employees with lower stress levels are also more productive and motivated to deliver on organisational goals. Highly motivated and engaged employees exert effort and perform at their best. And so, ensuring their well-being at work is business-critical.
The role of leadership in instilling workplace well-being
Leadership plays a significant role in promoting well-being in the workplace because it establishes organisational goals, allocates resources, and signals essential values that employees should prioritise. Making well-being part of organisational culture can thus amplify its significance to employees and ensure processes and relationships align towards this goal.
Creating workplaces that embrace well-being does require investment. Leaders must ensure the appropriate allocation of resources to activities and processes related to wellness. When leaders make well-being an essential organisational agenda, it creates a cascading effect down the organisational structure, orienting people’s energy towards its implementation.
Reimagining the modern workspace
Incorporating design features and amenities that bolster wellness at work requires a shift from the traditional approach to workplace design. Organisations that wish to promote well-being by design must abandon the space-centric mentality of traditional office considerations and focus on the modern people-centric perspective.
Traditionally, organisations approached office design by making work processes and functional needs the centre of decision-making. However, a people-centric approach has become more necessary because workforce dynamics have changed dramatically. They blend work and personal life in the workplace, making a holistic approach to well-being indispensable.
This requires organisations to relinquish control over workspaces to employees, which means allowing people to choose how to work and arrange their environments. Some of the features of user-controlled workspaces include adjustable seating arrangements that allow people to stand or sit as they work.
Introducing nature elements in the workplace is another way to embed design features that support well-being. This is because people have a biological need to interact with nature. In fact, exposure to nature indoors has been shown to improve employees’ health and motivation. Reducing noise distractions by separating collaborative and individual workspaces and ensuring adequate natural lighting are other methods towards holistic wellness.
Another element that needs to be factored in is in taking on a ‘design thinking’ approach while looking at employee well-being programs and initiatives. For instance, holistic well-being looks at the physical, mental, emotional, and financial aspects of a person’s life circumstances.
Care needs to be taken to customise well-being offerings based on what works best for each employee. A good example would be to look at how a well-being program is structured in a healthcare organisation where nurses, doctors, and paramedics form the majority of the employee population. Considering their stress and burnout arising from the pandemic, initiatives that focus on their mental health, as well as overall fitness, can help bolster their well-being.
HR leaders on the forefront of well-being
HR leaders will need to focus on well-being now more than ever because of higher workplace stress and longer working hours causing burnout. They are responsible for cultivating a well-being strategy – the cornerstone of employees’ physical, mental, emotional, and even financial health, especially as their personal and professional lives overlap.
HR leaders will also play an instrumental role in fostering a culture of well-being for the broader team and the organisation at large, which will support overall performance.
There is enough justification for investing in employee well-being. It can improve their overall employee experience, boost engagement and retention, and create a positive impact on the overall organisational performance. It can also create more meaning at work, building a strong relationship between the individual and the organisation.
This article was first published in November 2021.