Employee Wellbeing: Strategy, Advice, and Examples
"Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. It's as simple as that. Healthy, engaged employees are your top competitive advantage." Richard Branson.
Work is the biggest cause of stress, with at least one in six workers experiencing mental health problems, according to Mind. So, it's no surprise that the number of workers experiencing burnout was at a record level in 2022.
That means it has never been more important to prioritise your employees' health and workplace wellbeing. In this guide, you'll discover the basics of creating an effective employee wellbeing strategy and the benefits of looking after your employees.
It's packed full of advice and examples of how to create and implement a caring company culture that improves the employee experience and fosters a supportive environment of health and happiness.
What is an employee wellbeing strategy?
A workplace wellbeing strategy is a programme that champions best practices for healthier and happier employees throughout an organisation.
Although employers have a 'fundamental duty of care for the health, safety, and welfare of their workers', the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that half of organisations don't have a formal wellbeing strategy.
To ensure it covers the key aspects of wellbeing, the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) recommends an effective employee wellbeing strategy should take a holistic approach and cover:
- ● Health: including physical health, physical safety, and mental wellbeing
- ● Good work: including an open and inclusive culture and positive work-life balance
- ● Values/principles: including leadership, ethical standards, and inclusion and diversity
- ● Collective/social: including giving employees a voice and positive peer relationships
- ● Personal growth: including opportunities for career development and lifelong learning
- ● Good lifestyle choices: including promoting physical health and healthy eating
- ● Financial wellbeing: including fair pay and benefits, and employee financial support.
What are the benefits of an effective employee wellbeing strategy?
Increasing your focus on the wellbeing of employees can lead to numerous benefits for your workforce and your business. The CIPD's 2022 Health and Wellbeing at Work survey found that employers who prioritise employee wellbeing experience:
- ● A healthier and more inclusive culture
- ● A better work-life balance for all staff
- ● Better employee morale and engagement.
What’s more, “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability” according to Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox.
Further research by Gartner found that creating a positive employee experience can lead to employees being:
- ● 60% more likely to stay with the company
- ● 69% more likely to be high performers
- ● 52% more likely to go above and beyond their daily responsibilities.
With the cost of replacing a departing member of staff averaging out at £30,614, this can lead to a significant saving. Plus, reducing employee turnover can help to improve company culture, as it reduces employees questioning why people are leaving or fearing if their jobs are safe.
How to focus on employee wellbeing
To help you establish a successful employee wellbeing programme, here are some effective wellbeing initiatives for embedding a workplace environment brimming with health and happiness.
Create a positive work culture
"Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse." Simon Sinek.
A negative corporate culture can negatively impact employee wellbeing, satisfaction, and motivation. That's why more than half of employees would choose to stay with a company that paid less than a competitor if it had a more positive work culture.
Whether it's promoting inclusivity, flexible working, or a good work-life balance, a positive approach to workplace wellbeing will result in a work culture that boosts retention and encourages new talent.
Get everyone involved with your employee wellbeing strategy
According to the CIPD, to gain real benefit 'wellbeing must be integrated throughout the organisation, embedded in its culture, its leadership, and its people management.'
That means, setting your employee wellbeing strategy should come from the top. Everyone from business leaders and senior management, to people professionals and line managers, should promote your wellbeing practices and act as role models.
This is particularly important as research has shown that 26% of employees blame management style for work-related stress. So, managers should understand their vital role in steering your organisation's employee wellbeing agenda.
To help ensure everyone is engaged, enlist wellbeing champions to champion your wellbeing initiatives and give employees someone to turn to as and when they need support.
Focus on employee’s physical health
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of increasing physical activity. Exercise can boost mental health in the following ways:
- ● Promoting happier moods and better sleep
- ● Managing stress and reducing the risk of depression.
Outdoor exercise, in particular, can be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression, according to Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind.
So, encourage your employees to get active with initiatives such as walking meetings (which can also boost social wellbeing) or by hosting group exercise classes either in the office or online for remote workers.
Plus, the following salary sacrifice schemes can give your employees access to physical wellbeing benefits that they otherwise might not be able to afford:
- ● MyGymDiscounts: Help your employees take control of their health and fitness with up to 25% off memberships at over 3,000 gyms, leisure centres, health clubs, fitness studios, and boot camps across the UK
- ● Cyclescheme: Encourage healthier commutes with between 25 and 39% off the price of a new bike and accessories. No less than 82% of Cyclescheme participants said that they felt less stressed after cycle commuting.
Another option is to introduce an employee health and wellbeing allowance. This monthly stipend empowers your workforce to choose the best wellbeing activity for them. After all, everyone is different.
Provide healthy snacks
Providing healthy snacks isn't just giving your workforce what they want, it can also boost:
- ● Productivity: by kickstarting both attention span and brain power
- ● Energy: by providing the vitamins and nutrients to fuel activities
- ● Mood: by making your employees feel valued and appreciated.
Ask employees what they want
Importantly, to build an effective employee wellbeing strategy you must listen to your employees. Julie Bevacqua, Rise CRO, says "In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people."
Everyone is different. There is a spectrum of mental health issues, so giving your employees a voice will empower you to tailor your wellbeing practices to the unique needs of your workforce.
Whether it's via social interactions, such as video conference calls and regular one-to-ones, or anonymous employee surveys, checking in with your staff will also help bolster morale by making them feel valued, heard and engaged in business decisions.
Take the time to thank your staff
Recognising your employees' continued efforts can go a long way to boosting their wellbeing. The simple act of saying 'thank you' can create a happier mindset, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure.
Offer employees flexible working
Offering flexible policies such as flextime, four-day work weeks, nine-day fortnights, half-day Fridays, and hybrid working is a great way to promote a healthier work-life balance.
In the age of the Big Resignation, job flexibility is no longer a nice-to-have, it's expected. Plus, introducing flexible working arrangements has been shown to:
- ● Produce higher levels of engagement
- ● Encourage employee loyalty
- ● Reduce staff turnover by 87%.
Provide mental health support
With the main causes of long-term absences including mental ill health and stress, many organisations are increasingly choosing to focus their wellbeing activity on supporting mental health and addressing workplace stress.
To do so effectively, companies should consider enlisting mental health first aiders, providing access to specialist support, and introducing employee assistance programmes so that mental wellbeing becomes a part of their everyday culture.
It's also important to ensure that organisations support employees throughout their time with the company, from onboarding to exit, as their situation, risks, and needs will constantly change.
Invest in your employees' development
There is a direct link between offering employees opportunities to advance their careers and job satisfaction. As a result, those who have access to training and development opportunities are more productive, have a greater purpose, and are more likely to stay at a company longer.
A workplace culture of learning could include:
- ● In-person and online training
- ● Qualification opportunities
- ● Mentoring programmes
- ● Coaching sessions
- ● Performance development plans.
Focus on employee financial health
Earlier, we discussed the CIPD's seven interrelated aspects of wellbeing. One of them is 'financial wellbeing', which includes providing employees with a flexible benefits scheme and financial support; never more needed than during the current cost of living crisis.
Organisations can achieve this goal by offering employees the following salary sacrifice schemes:
- ● Childcare vouchers: care-4, the UK's leading electronic childcare voucher scheme, helps employees save up to £933 per year on the cost of childcare through National Insurance and income tax savings
- ● Cashback scheme: bYond gives employees cashback every time they shop. They can earn up to 15% cashback with over 85 UK high street brands. 56% of employees feel more valued at work because of their bYond card
- ● Savings on technology: Techscheme lets employees save up to 12% on over 5,000 tech items and appliances (for them or their loved ones). This includes smartphones, laptops, and items that are already discounted
- ● Discount scheme: Extras Discounts helps employees save up to 15% on the cost of physical and digital gift cards from over 100 brands such as Costa Coffee, H&M, Spotify, Halfords, Pizza Express, and Selfridges & Co.