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Employee Wellbeing

The idea of employee wellbeing has been steadily growing in popularity over time, however is employee wellbeing something new or just a re-labelling of traditional occupational health, absence management and good management practice?

Most businesses aim to be in a healthy state. It therefore makes sense that if their employees are in a good state of health and well-being, this must surely contribute to the company’s successful performance as healthy and fit employees are essential to ensuring a company remains efficient and profitable. Employee wellbeing is steadily rising up the business agenda as more employers recognise the business benefits and contribution that can be made by introducing workplace health and employee wellbeing policies.

Occupational health has begun to develop as a discipline with a focus of helping organisations to care for their employees. Occupational health support has been more readily available in the larger organisations where services have been traditionally focused on seeing employees when they were already sick. This emphasis on prevention rather than cure is slowly shifting with the result that employee wellbeing is improving among all those of working age rather than just those employees that are already sick.

Employee wellbeing does not exist on its own or in the workplace but within a social context. Recent years have seen individuals’ lives affected by social, lifestyle and employment changes but despite these shifts people still have the same basic physical and mental needs for social support, physical safety, health and a feeling they are able to cope with life. Increasingly, they are demanding that employers help them to achieve this, particularly as a large part of their lives are spent at work.

There are many varied definitions of employee wellbeing. The CIPD believes that employee wellbeing at work initiatives need to balance the needs of the employee with those of the organisation. They define it as:

Creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation.

Employee wellbeing is more than an avoidance of becoming physically sick. It represents a broader bio-psycho-social construct that includes physical, mental and social health. Well employees are physically and mentally able, willing to contribute in the workplace and likely to be more engaged at work. Other CIPD research shows employee engagement influences a range of variables, including employee turnover and absence.

The achievement of personal well-being involves a number of positive decisions regarding lifestyle. This is very different to stress avoidance with the negative connotation of being unable to cope and falling ill prior to any action being taken. In their ideal form, well-being initiatives are proactive and work to enable employees to achieve their full potential – physical, mental, social, intellectual and spiritual.

Well-being at work, therefore, is not merely about managing a physical and cultural environment with the limited aim of not causing harm to employees. It requires organisations to actively assist people to maximise their physical and mental health. The well-being approach also brings benefits for people at all levels inside and outside the workplace. It makes the workplace a more productive, attractive and responsible place to work.

Employee wellbeing runs the risk of being dismissed as a gimmick unless those involved in its introduction and promotion demonstrate the positive business benefits that it brings. To be effective, employee wellbeing needs to be part of a regular business dialogue and to be deeply embedded into an organisational culture. The well-being dialogue can be beneficial to employees’ health by making employees feel valued and by giving them an opportunity to use their experiences to improve their working environment.

Many organisations are trying to create a balance between maximising productivity and the risk that their employees may burn out, making costly errors or resigning. An understanding of a holistic approach that underlies well-being, and development of initiatives coordinated with other HR policies can offer an approach to achieve that balance.

Perhaps the most important factor in employee wellbeing is the relationships employees have with their immediate manager. Where there are strong relationships between managers and staff, levels of employee wellbeing are enhanced. A good manager will recognise the strengths, likes and dislikes of their team members and will be able to recognise when the volume or complexity of the work is too much for a particular team member. The more capable that line managers are in identifying the personal interests and concerns of the individual, the more likely they will be able to create a team where employee well-being becomes an integral part of getting the job done.

Employee wellbeing involves:

Having a sense of purpose, feelings of fulfilment and meaning
Possessing an active mind that is alert, open to new experiences, curious and creative
Having a network of relationships that are supportive and nurturing
Maintaining a healthy body by making healthy choices about diet, exercise and leisure
Developing an attitude of mind that enables the employee to have self-confidence, self-respect and to be emotionally resilient

About Author
About the author: David Moore is the Managing Director of Five Minute Angels Ltd, a leading provider of tailor-made corporate massage solutions at offices and events across the U.K. Website: http://www.5minuteangels.com

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