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Getting employee wellbeing right

Author: Matthew Law, Corporate Consultant, Connor Broadley

For the majority of people, working life over the past year or so has changed dramatically, thrusting employee wellbeing into the spotlight more than ever before.

Companies across all sectors are reflecting on how they looked after their employees’ wellbeing previously, what learnings can be taken away from lockdown, and what this means for the future.

So why is employee wellbeing so important?

It is important to look after employees not only from a moral perspective but also from a ‘bottom line’ and productivity perspective. In pre-pandemic 2019 an average of 38 working days were lost, per employee, to physical issues, poor mental health and presenteeism*. Worryingly it is younger workers who are particularly vulnerable, with 55% of 18-25-year olds admitting to coming into work whilst feeling they are unable to perform at their peak productivity*. These statistics have been amplified by the pandemic and enforced home working. Working from home, employees are taking less breaks and fewer sick days, affecting wellbeing and productivity.

*Mercer -2020

How do we assess employee wellbeing?

At Connor Broadley we traditionally assess employee wellbeing through three ‘pillars’ of wellbeing: physical, mental and financial. In the simplest form this asks the questions: ‘Am I healthy?’, ‘Am I happy?’ and ‘Am I financially secure?’.

The balancing act

It is key to understand that all employees will have different starting points on their wellbeing journey and there will be different weightings to consider in the overall balance. The overlap will occur across the pillars, for instance increasing physical wellbeing is intrinsically linked to more positive mental wellbeing. Whilst conversely a domino effect can occur. For example, financial issues (such as unmanageable debt) can lead to stress and anxiety, impacting mental health and poor sleep, manifesting into a physical health issue. As such it is vital to ensure all pillars are considered.

What can employers do?

There is an array of options available for employers in all three areas. But importantly employers need to evaluate what are the right benefits for their people. Some of the services available to help form part of a strategy are:

Physical – virtual GP’s, private healthcare, health cash plans, nutrition consultations, wellbeing funds, gym memberships

Mental – wellbeing mobile apps, mental health first aid training, resilience training, employee assistance programs (EAP’s), mindfulness courses, access to private therapy/counselling

Financial – workplace savings outside of mandatory pension schemes such as ISA’s and share save schemes, financial education seminars, One-to-one financial planning clinics

For the effectiveness of these services to be ensured, communication within the company is crucial. Without effective communication of benefits/support services available to employees, take up will be affected and as such the strategy will not have its desired impact.

One of the key learnings from lockdown: social wellbeing

Whilst we rightly talk about the three traditional pillars of wellbeing, one key takeaway from lockdown is that there is a fourth pillar that has proved vitally important, social wellbeing. Whether it be a collaboration with colleagues on a work project or an impromptu chat in the kitchen, people have missed out on essential social stimulation that promotes our overall wellbeing. Although virtual team socials and challenges (such as steps competitions) can help to fill the void during the lockdown, there are additional strategies that can foster this fourth pillar.  For example, taking an hour out of work time for a social event demonstrates to employees that you are prioritising their social wellbeing with an equal weighting. Also increasing informal wellbeing check-ins with employees. As we move out of lockdown ensuring that social wellbeing remains a priority will be valuable.

To implement a successful benefits strategy that contributes to employee wellbeing, all four pillars, physical, mental, financial and social must be taken into account, and it is essential that underlying all of this is an effective communication strategy to promote all the great things that are available to employees.

At Connor Broadley Benefits Consulting our job is to help companies implement effective benefits strategies for their employees. Whether you want to check if your current strategy is still fit for purpose or you are starting from scratch and want to understand the first steps to put in place, just drop us an email at TeamBC@connorbroadley.co.uk and we will be happy to have a chat.