March 25, 2021
Rebecca East

OpenBlend answer: what is employee wellbeing?

Employee health and wellbeing are of paramount importance, both from the point of view of your people and your organisation. Almost 27 million working days were lost to work-related ill health in 2017/18 and that’s before you factor in the impact that the pandemic has had on employee health and wellbeing over the last 12 months. According to feedback gathered by Harvard Business Review in a survey of more than 1,500 respondents, across various sectors, roles, and seniority levels, in the autumn of 2020, 85% of respondents said their wellbeing had declined in 2020, with only 21% rating their wellbeing as ‘good’...

The average level of employee absence is 5.9 days per employee per year - not only does this have the knock-on effect of driving costs up, but overall productivity declines too. By contrast, when you focus on employee wellbeing and promote wellbeing and good health among your employees, it has the opposite effect of creating a much more positive workplace and a better-performing workforce. The CIPD, 2020 Health and wellbeing at work survey identified the top three benefits of employers increasing their focus on wellbeing as:

  • Creating better employee morale and engagement
  • Developing a healthier and more inclusive culture
  • Encouraging lower sickness absence

At OpenBlend, we believe a focus on employee health and wellbeing should be at the heart of the performance process. Ensuring check-ins are regular and incorporate conversations about wellbeing are vital to being able to understand and promote wellbeing across your organisation. And while an understanding of employee wellbeing involves health and exercise, workplace wellbeing isn’t just about your employee's physical health. It includes less discernible factors like a sense of belonging at work, fulfilment and clear career goals and direction. It’s about understanding your employees at an individual level and from a holistic point of view.

To help you evaluate your organisation’s approach, we have examined what defines employee wellbeing and how the current climate is affecting the health and wellbeing of your workforce. What can you do to create a more positive and productive team and ensure their wellbeing is paramount, even while working remotely? Read on to find out.

What does employee wellbeing really mean?

Wellbeing, or wellness, in itself refers to how someone feels about their life in relation to all the things it is made up of – their home life, their health (mental and physical), their job, their hobbies, their relationships. Do these things make them happy?

When you assess workplace wellbeing in a traditional sense, it was at one point limited to physical health, sickness and safety while at work. But with a big increase in the number of reported mental health issues – in 2019/20 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days were lost due to work-related ill health – it’s now well recognised that, in many cases, the main risks to people’s health at work are psychological. As such, the definition of employee wellbeing has evolved to incorporate everything that has an impact on an employee's ability to perform at their best.

On a macro level, when we talk about wellbeing, it is specifically targeted at how job roles, expectations, stress levels and the environment at work affect someone’s overall health and happiness. But on a micro level, it explores everything from an individual’s experience with mental health and their overall happiness and job satisfaction to their working relationships, personal development, peer support and even wellbeing in a financial sense.

All of these elements are essential to consider in order to create a full picture of your employee’s wellbeing – and now that only 21% of people feel that their wellbeing is ‘good’ – getting the full picture is more important than ever to manage performance and drive and maintain productivity.

Why is workplace wellbeing more important than ever before?

The COVID-19 pandemic has put concerns about health and wellbeing at the top of the priority list for the majority of employees. In January, we revealed how health and exercise topped the list of most important Blend elements for our users for the second year running. In fact, it saw a 14% increase between January 2020 to January 2021.

This is hardly surprising when you consider that exercise has been one of the only things people have been able to get out and enjoy over the last twelve months. Staying inside the same four walls 24/7 has been a struggle for many, especially when you consider that the home (which should be a place of relaxation) has now, in a lot of cases, been transformed into a schoolroom and an office too.

According to research by Nuffield Health, figures reveal 80% of Brits feel that working from home has negatively impacted their mental health. This encompasses worries about getting ill with the virus, either for themselves or vulnerable family members; concerns over income or job loss; and the loneliness that has come from months of social isolation. The inability to find a work-life balance and switch off at the end of the day is also affecting people’s mental wellbeing. In addition, 30% of respondents reported that they were finding it hard to separate their home and their work lives.

What’s more, in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) finally made reference to burnout within its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. And as Harvard Business Review points out, this acknowledgment of burnout by the WHO, and the language used to describe it as a syndrome – paying particular attention to the use of the word ‘managed’ – demonstrates that poor wellbeing at work, is more than just an employee problem; it’s a business problem that requires an organisational solution.

In order to support the wellbeing of your employees at all times – especially the tougher ones – you need to understand the things that are impacting their happiness and their ability to cope with stress the most.

What impacts the wellbeing of your employees while working remotely?

In addition to the external factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic discussed above, we have found that there are several key barriers to employee wellbeing when your teams are remote and working from home.

Lack of recognition

Working from home is hectic for everyone, especially if you are working with reduced numbers. There’s lots to do and what feels like no time to do it in. As a result, ‘non-essential’ conversations, which include things like feedback, praise, and recognition, are falling by the wayside.

Faceless conversations and isolation

Emails are quick and messaging platforms like Slack are even quicker, but they remove the human element from every interaction. Social distancing and isolation have led to increased feelings of loneliness within every community, let alone the workplace.

Impaired teamwork and instances of conflict that lead to a lack of motivation

It can be very frustrating and stressful when teamwork does not go smoothly. The problems outlined in #2 can contribute to a lack of effective communication and collaboration on projects that ultimately cause conflict. And where conflicts are reported it often results in individuals feeling stressed, leading to a drop in commitment or motivation.

Burnout

While remote, it is very easy for the barriers between work and personal time to dissolve. Remote employees are largely reporting that they are working longer hours and rarely taking their required breaks... This lack of a distinction between home and work life can lead to high stress levels and experiences of burnout, if not resolved.

How can you improve wellbeing in your workplace?

Taking all of the above into consideration, here are our suggestions for how you can promote and improve employee wellbeing and start to think about ‘health and happiness’ initiatives, even while your team is working from home:

Actively promote flexible working

This is especially important at the moment when parents are trying to juggle family responsibilities, and even homeschool reluctant children, alongside work demands. Implementing flexible working will reduce stress and anxiety among your employees and let them know you understand that, right now, times are tough.

Train managers within your organisation on the importance of employee wellbeing

Managers who are trained and coached to have the right sorts of conversations will ensure that measures to improve workforce wellbeing will trickle right down to the bottom of your organisation. You want to know you can count on them to assign fair workloads, provide clear objectives, and deliver feedback.

Don’t overload your employees, set goals and track results in the right way

Further to #3, don’t give your workers too much to do. Yes, output and KPIs are still important, but the order of this time is work smart. WFH has left a lot of workers feeling like they must always be ready to respond more quickly from their computers, which is adding extra stress to their already stressful lives. Make sure expectations are set and that you are tracking progress and the management of set tasks and responsibilities, effectively.

Conversation

Set up regular one-to-ones. Get these scheduled in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. And if these are already in place, have you checked in to see whether they are frequent enough to deal with the challenges that may be impacting on their wellbeing? By setting up (and sticking to) regular one-toones, you can keep a close eye on what’s changed, how they feel, how productivity has increased (or decreased) and what needs to happen next. For your employees, the very nature of feeling like they are moving forwards is a morale boost.

Stay in touch

And not just about work, either. Prior to the pandemic, the office was where people spent the majority of their week and, as well as being their place of work, it was often their social hub as well. Don’t lose sight of this. Facilitate team-building experiences and social interaction that goes above and beyond a weekly team call.

Performance

Be sure to factor in workplace wellbeing when you are implementing employee performance management initiatives and undertaking performance reviews. Ask the right questions during performance check-ins and really listen to the answers to gain valuable insights into how your employees feel. This is the best way to enhance workplace wellbeing and see employee productivity skyrocket because the changes you implement will have come straight from your team.

How to evaluate and understand employee wellbeing using OpenBlend

To better understand wellbeing across your organisation, you need a performance management platform that gets to the heart of the task at hand. Conversations about mental and physical wellbeing require structure and accountability that elevates them from a simple ‘chat’ to an open, honest one-to-one. We know that it is vital to productivity, which is why it must always be part of performance conversations. Using OpenBlend you can find out what motivates and drives your employees on an individual level.

Our three simple questions on employee wellbeing, along with simple visuals, bring structure to otherwise tricky conversations, making them easy and solution focussed. And our platform is ideal to help you learn and effect change because it powers conversations that focus on everything that impacts an individual’s productivity, namely wellbeing, as well as weekly priorities, performance goals, key Blend drivers and feedback.

For example, if you know that health and exercise are important to a large number of your employees, or that making a difference at work is as important as money – how are you incorporating these elements into your wellbeing strategy? Making sure your employees feel listened to and valued is the first step to increasing employee engagement and workplace productivity.

Initiatives surrounding employee wellbeing need to be tailored to business and employee needs. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to creating an effective strategy; its approach should be based on those of its employees and the organisation in question.

Trust us. Our people-centric approach has helped global brands and organisations including avios, M&C Saatchi, and Lacoste boost workplace wellbeing. How can it help you improve yours? Give us a call today on 01628 613040 or book a demo online to find out.

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