The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work. For many this may have meant being furloughed and away from the workplace for prolonged periods. For others it may have been months spent working from home with virtual meetings taking precedent over face-to-face communication and collaboration.
Whatever difficulties and challenges your business has been through in the last year, your employees have been through these too. And these are coupled with all of the additional personal anxiety, stress and concern linked to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. And whilst a focus on wellbeing in the workplace was starting to come through ahead of the pandemic, it is no longer something that businesses can shy away from.
Here we look at the differences between health and safety, the concept of wellbeing in the workplace and tips for embedding a focus on wellbeing into your workplace.
What is the difference between ‘Health and Safety’ and wellbeing?
Health and Safety
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers’ responsibilities around Health and Safety are about stopping you getting hurt at work or ill through work.
Employers must carry out a risk assessment of the workplace. From this they must determine how the identified risks can be managed and ensure that the right policies and procedures are in place, and adequate training given, to protect everyone from harm in the workplace.
Employers have a legal duty to maintain health and safety in the workplace under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The New Economics Foundation state that ‘The concept of well-being comprises two main elements: feeling good and functioning well.’
Wellbeing is therefore seen as a more holistic approach to creating not just a safe workplace but also a healthy and supported workforce. Wellbeing is becoming a bigger focus in the workplace as more is understood about the benefits of healthy workplaces, both for the individual and the business.
The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) list many benefits of investing in employee wellbeing, such as leading to:
- increased resilience
- better employee engagement
- reduced sickness absence
- higher performance and productivity
The CIPD report a rise in the number of reported mental health issues in the last 10 years. And this will likely be exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when looked at together, it isn’t hard to see why a focus on employee wellbeing is emerging.
How to ensure wellbeing throughout the working week
For many, home working is a new concept. It may have been something which employees did from time to time or on an adhoc basis. But for many over the last year it has been the primary working pattern. And whilst on the face of it home working offers flexibility and many benefits, research has also shown that those who have been working from home have been working longer hours. Living and working solely from the same environment makes it easy to pick up your work again in the evening, or to keep working a lot later than you would if you had to commute. This shines a light on the need for a focus on wellbeing for all employees.
Employee wellbeing shouldn’t be thought of as just in ‘one off’ events and offers. It needs to be embedded and a focus from Monday – Friday, or whatever form your working week takes.
Wellbeing ideas to consider include:
Encouraging lunch breaks and regular breaks throughout the day
Encourage employees to break for lunch, to take some time for themselves during the working day and to have a break from the screen or pressures of their workload.
Walks outside and fresh air
Employees should be encouraged to get outside when and wherever possible. From a walk during a lunch break, through to outdoor meetings or a walking meeting. Any way to get outside should be encouraged and if it can be coupled with some form of exercise this will be even more beneficial.
You can also promote walking or cycling to work schemes to inspire commuting which doesn’t involve the car or public transport wherever feasible.
A focus on wellbeing needs to be embedded into your workplace culture.
- Line managers need to be trained and empowered to support their staff, ensure workloads are manageable, and to give clear direction to employees if they are struggling.
- Have an open approach which means employees feel able to speak openly and seek help for their mental wellbeing if they require it
- Include mental health and wellbeing discussion within your induction programme
- Have senior leaders lead by example when it comes to focusing on wellbeing
- Focus on creating a workplace which enables employees to have a sensible work life balance
- Do your research and find solutions which work for your business. Wellbeing in the workplace won’t be a one size fits all approach. This document from Mind provides a wide range of discussion, information and ideas when it comes to promoting wellbeing in the workplace and is certainly worth a read if your business is currently reviewing your practices.
Other ideas for improving employee wellbeing
Whilst employee wellbeing should be an ongoing focus and embedded within your culture, you may also look to implement some more headline type initiatives. This may be particularly important at the moment when your workforce may be predominantly home based due to the ongoing COVID pandemic and possibly more likely to be feeling disconnected from colleagues and managers.
Some businesses are offering employees ‘wellbeing grants’ – a sum of money that can be spent on something that will improve their wellbeing.
Whilst not all businesses will be able to afford initiatives such as this, they can be seen as a good way to get employees thinking and focusing on their wellbeing and communicating that as an employer you see this as important within the context of their role.
We’ve heard through friends of many wellbeing initiatives being offered such as wellbeing days off, through to a gourmet dinner and a bottle of wine being delivered to employees by their places of work.
Something like this can be hugely beneficial to an employees’ sense of being valued and their motivation.
‘End early’ days
Giving your employees specific ‘end early’ days can be a good way to get people thinking about the number of hours that they work and reassure them that as an employer you do not want long working hours to become a habit.
Like so many businesses, we at Anthony Jones find ourselves adapting to different working situations so understand the challenges many employers and employees are currently facing. If you do want to discuss your business insurance needs or risk management strategies, then do get in touch with us in the usual ways.