Worldwide, the number of employees working longer hours has drastically increased, with factors such as hybrid working, remote working contributing, and ever-expanding ‘to-do’ lists rapidly rising.
In addition to working longer hours, studies show that we work harder than ever. Many of us say ‘yes’ to additional responsibilities with no extra bonuses and ‘no’ to downtime. We also feel we always need to be ‘switched on’ and constantly ‘doing.’
On top of this, studies by Ipsos show that we’re navigating personal worries and concerns, such as poverty, unemployment, crime, inflation, sickness, and political corruption.
The impact? In addition to enhancing our risk of short and long-term illnesses, we’re experiencing increased stress levels, burnout, and poor physical and mental well-being.
To support employees and their well-being, leaders and organisations are implementing a wide range of strategies to improve staff well-being in the workplace. But if you wonder how to improve staff well-being in the workplace, there are a few key things to consider.
Within this blog, we look at how we can support our people, what we can do to make well-being in the workplace a strategic priority, and prevention.
Factors That Impact Well-Being in The Workplace
Several factors impact well-being in the workplace. Below, we look at just a few.
Decreased happiness: How happy do you feel at work? How about your people? According to studies, more than one-third of employees in the United Kingdom feel unhappy at work. This is due to many factors, such as feeling overwhelmed.
Conflict among teams: Workplace relationships significantly influence the state of our well-being in the workplace. This is especially true when we consider that conflict among teams can lead to a lack of inclusion, reduced trust, poor management, lower satisfaction, and stress, to name a few things.
Increasing workloads: Would you be shocked if we told you that two-fifths of employees are experiencing increasing and unmanageable workloads? Covid-19, staff shortages, and recruitment and retention difficulties, amongst other factors, are all impairing our workplace well-being due to placing additional pressure and stress on us to complete more tasks that are sometimes outside of our scope.
Communication outside of working hours: How often do you contact your people outside of working hours? If regularly, it’s time to stop, as studies show a correlation between out-of-hours work communication and stress.
Organisational culture: A toxic culture that promotes overwork, competition, and blame can create an unhappy, stressed, and unmotivated workforce. But a positive and supportive culture that values work-life balance, open communication, and growth opportunities can contribute to employee well-being.
Compensation and benefits: Lack of compensation and benefits or unequal treatment can lead to dissatisfaction and demotivation. In contrast, fair pay, benefits, and privileges can improve employee well-being by reducing financial stress, increasing job satisfaction, and promoting loyalty.
We feel it’s important to note here that although we’re focusing on factors that impact well-being at work within the workplace rather than looking at external factors as well (those that take place at home), such as relationships, problems with childcare, and caring for sick family members, these factors can all transfer to the workplace. Likewise, factors impacting well-being at work, such as those above, of course, also influence our life away from work.
If an employee is experiencing a decrease in their well-being, it’s essential to understand the root cause. For example, an employee’s well-being may be affected if they are having trouble in their marriage. In the workplace, they may find it hard to concentrate on a task at hand, keep to themselves, and any additional stress at work will have a knock-on effect.
While organisations may not be able to prevent the root cause (when it comes to personal factors), they can work to understand and address how they reduce the exacerbation via workplace well-being strategies, as addressing both external and internal factors that impact well-being is necessary for creating a workplace that promotes employee health, happiness, and productivity.
Improving Well-being In The Workplace
Before we explore what we can do to improve well-being in the workplace, let’s look at what leaders and managers think we should be doing.
At the CIPD Festival of Work, leaders had the opportunity to share how they believed we could help people thrive in the workplace. Some of the Post-it notes shared included:
Incorporate well-being into the safety agenda.
Well-being needs to be led from the top and embedded into an organisation's culture.
More empathy and human managers.
Draw on neuroscience.
Pay attention to the little things that stress people out.
Create the space to achieve balance.
Personalise well-being support.
Ask how we can make our people’s lives better.
Managers need to role model, enforce, and lead individual well-being.
How We Can Work To Improve Well-Being
When it comes to improving well-being in the workplace, it’s important to understand that there’s no one size fit for all. Whether fulfilling a managerial role, a leadership role, or a graduate role, we’re all unique and have our own needs.
Similarly, what may cause one person to feel overwhelmed and impact their well-being may not be the same for another person.
Below, we share just a few thoughts surrounding how we can improve well-being at work.
Prevention Is Key
When it comes to increasing well-being in the workplace, it’s normal to turn your thoughts to offering lunchtime yoga, mindfulness sessions, and subscriptions to apps like Headspace. You may even encourage your people to take time off work. But the problem with this – and other strategies that aim to relieve stress and poor well-being – is that you’re not getting to the cause of the problem.
For example, although offering people time off may help reduce stress in the short term, it’s not a long-term solution.
Think about the last time you had a week off work. Before your leave, did you feel pressured to get everything done to cover your time off?
How about during your time off? Did you find yourself thinking about work?
And what about upon returning to work? Did you feel relaxed, calm, and ready to return? Or did you automatically think about everything you’d need to get through after a week off? If it’s the latter, imagine how people requiring time off work for stress may feel if nothing within the organisation changes. After their time away, they’d essentially be returning to the same environment that has caused them to require time off.
While mindfulness comes hand in hand with numerous benefits, we can’t only provide solutions like this to help our people navigate poor well-being and stress. This would be like temporarily taping over a crack in a glass but continuing to fill it with water. Eventually, the tape won’t be able to take the pressure of the load, and ultimately, the water will continue to seep through the crack.
Instead, we need to get to the bottom of the cause and learn how to prevent poor well-being throughout the organisation.
Encourage Open Communication
How often do you sit with your people on an individual and group basis and ask them how they really are?
If not often, encouraging open communication is an essential starting point when addressing well-being in the workplace.
When you talk to your people and encourage them to share how they’re feeling with you, you can begin to understand what’s going on for them, the causes of any stress, and what they need from you in the here and now. You can also begin to comprehend what may need to change within the organisation to prevent current and future employees from feeling the same way.
Remember, if your people confide in you, you must prioritise their happiness. Failing to do so can lead to a reduction in trust. Sadly, research shows that only 35% of organisations actually do this and make well-being a strategic priority.
Invest in External Support
External leadership coaching can be beneficial for any organisation hoping to prioritize well-being. It’s also suitable for leaders and managers experiencing periods of stress and burnout that are finding it challenging to navigate alone.
When it comes to coaching, those who specialise in stress, well-being, burnout, and resilience can offer a fresh perspective and help leaders consider the cause of their stress before identifying how to prevent stressors from impairing them in the future.
Working with coaches can also support leaders and organisations who know that employees are experiencing poor well-being but aren’t sure how to help their people or don’t understand their needs.
In addition to coaching, external support could look like employee assistance programmes.
Consider Well-Being Initiatives
Implementing well-being initiatives throughout the broader organisation is important in preventing poor well-being and navigating it. However, as Sarah Cunningham, Managing Director of the World Well-being, shares, many organisations aren’t connecting the dots when rolling out new initiatives.
With this in mind, have honest and open conversations with your people before introducing initiatives. Ask them what they need in terms of support and take the time to understand what they believe would help enhance their well-being at work.
Monitor Staff Well-Being
There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding stress, burnout, and poor well-being at work, so naturally, many employees remain hesitant to talk to their managers or leaders about any challenges they face. In fact, it’s thought that 30% of employees don’t feel they can speak to their managers about stress.
Considering this, there may be times when you have to monitor staff well-being. This could be through surveys, conversations, or working with leadership coaches who can offer additional perspectives you may have yet to consider.
Reflect on Your Well-Being
Let’s not forget that well-being starts at the top. Like many things in the workplace, people look to their leaders and managers and follow in their footsteps.
If, as a leader, we’re constantly working hard and not prioritising our well-being, our people are at risk of doing the same. But if we prioritise our well-being and learn when to say no, our people will too.
In other words, you need to walk the talk as much as you talk the talk.
From encouraging communication to monitoring staff well-being and focusing on prevention, we can begin to create workplaces that prioritize well-being and foster happiness at work.
To find out more, call us on 0800 345 7727 today.