Happy Workplace, Happy Mind: Wellbeing at Work
The rise of tech startups such as Google and Facebook, mean we have seen increased emphasis among employers on workplace wellbeing and employee welfare. This is not just an effort by employers to attract top talent in an increasingly competitive job market. Instead, it reflects a growing awareness of the relationship between workplace wellbeing and the company’s overall productivity. In this regard, workplace wellbeing has a trickle-down, or perhaps more accurately, ‘trickle-up’ effect on the productivity and thus profitability of businesses.
What is workplace wellbeing?
Workplace wellbeing, or employee welfare, is a catch-all phrase that covers both the physical and mental health of employees. Due to how broad the term is, it can cover initiatives aimed at physical health, such as the provision of healthy food options to employees or fitness classes, as well as training and other working practices to help employees deal with stress and achieve a better work life balance.
Conditions facing employees
A recent poll by Aviva Health found that 70% of businesses need their employees to work harder than ever before. Two-thirds of employees said they work over their required hours at least once a week. Additionally, around half have also reported they work late at least twice a week in addition to working through their lunch. Employees are replying to emails late into the evening meaning they often coming into work stressed and overtired.
The potential costs?
The direct link between mental health and physical well-being causes employees who suffer from stress and tiredness to be more likely to have health-related absences during the year. Absenteeism can have a massive impact on workplace productivity, costing the UK economy £18bn in 2017.
Businesses also suffer from “presenteeism”, which refers to employees who attend work while suffering from a sickness. Research indicates such employees significantly underperform, slow their recovery, and potentially spread sickness. A study by Aviva Health found that presenteeism cuts productivity by as much as a third.
High stress-levels and overtiredness amongst employees also significantly impact workplace relations, often leading to high staff attrition rates.
The benefits of improving employee wellbeing
Businesses implementing employee wellbeing programmes will immediately benefit from decreases in absenteeism. Similarly, decreases in stress and tiredness translate to increases in productivity and creativity amongst employees. Where wellbeing initiatives are combined with team building components such as fitness classes or volunteering, relations between employees will also improve.
The Google effect
Google has one of the longest established and most impressive employee wellness programs. Their campuses offering a wide array of wellness services including onsite healthcare, physical therapy, massages, and fitness facilities. Google also provides a number of restaurants and cafés catering for a range of dietary and nutritional requirements. On top of this, employees are also given access to flexible working arrangements, generous vacation time and volunteering opportunities.
What we can note about Google’s strategy is that employee wellbeing is approached holistically. It includes both onsite facilities as well as initiatives aimed at improving work-life balance. For this reason, Google has received several awards for its company culture and consistently ranks highly for overall employee satisfaction.