Workplace stress has a significant impact on employee wellbeing and, consequently, on productivity.
Employee wellbeing is an HR issue, because, without it, long-term issues can develop in the workplace, which ultimately undermines a business or organisation.
A key function of human resources is to provide a resilient people-management framework for the workplace. Increasingly, there is a recognition that employee wellbeing should be part of this framework.
What Makes Wellbeing Important?
Burnout is bad news for productivity. Work-life imbalances, increased workloads, staff shortages and unexpected changes can all contribute to stress that culminates in burnout.
Furthermore, even in times of rising unemployment, businesses must compete for the exceptional talent they need, and must also ensure they retain this talent once they have got it.
Therefore, as employers face the implications of a recession, and the difficulties of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, they must look to how they can maintain a healthy, happy workforce.
There are many factors that can affect employee wellbeing, and some of these may be personal factors that are out of the employer’s control
But there are plenty of factors that are within the employer’s control, mostly centred around job roles, job satisfaction and how people conduct their professional relationships.
What Does Employee Wellbeing Include?
Wellbeing is something that businesses and organisations can take practical steps to improve and ensure, with the input, support and expertise of HR.
Employee wellbeing is not restricted to issues around health and safety and taking the necessary steps to reduce the potential causes of injuries or health problems.
Wellbeing is far more wide-ranging. It addresses how individuals feel about various aspects of their working lives, and how they might improve their general health levels.
It is important to extend the principle of wellbeing beyond it being a tool to reduce absenteeism through ill-health.
It is an effective tool for optimising the workforce by improving physiological and mental health, but also job satisfaction and overall happiness at work.
Wellbeing, or the lack of it, can affect anyone in the workplace, including people in critical leadership roles.
It is, then, also a structural issue, because wellbeing can impede or enhance performance throughout an enterprise or organisation.
What is the Role of HR in Employee Wellbeing?
Employers can influence and change the workplace environment and job conditions of employees, with advice from HR.
Human resources can support employers by developing HR policies that promote fairness and transparency. In implementing these policies they can improve how employees experience work, and in so doing, benefit employers too.
They can also support wellness policies and programmes that address employee wellbeing specifically.
Wellness policies and programmes can be generated internally or with the help of outside providers. Examples of internal wellness policies and programmes may include:
- considering requests for career breaks
- encouraging employees to seek a good work-life balance
- providing healthcare benefits for employees
- promoting dignity in the workplace
- looking for ways to minimise work-related stress
- managing sickness and absence effectively
Encouraging good employee health, both physical and mental, is an area where specialist wellbeing companies may be sought to help administer schemes using apps or wearable technology.
Employee wellness policies and programmes, such as the ones mentioned above, can play a crucial part in both recruitment and retention of employees, and helping ensure a positive, productive workplace culture.
Adopting wellbeing schemes and programmes often means a change in company culture will be necessary. Cultural change is not always easy to achieve, or maintain, but much of the success of wellbeing initiatives depends on how completely everyone buys in to them.
This buy-in includes leadership and management too. Human Resources is in a unique position to promote this, helping to develop strategies and programmes that support wellbeing.
Why Wellbeing is Integral to Work
Wellbeing is not something separate to how a workplace functions, but an integral part of it. As such, wellbeing is as much dependent on an overall approach to people management as it is to specific programmes that focus on wellness.
The current climate for people management is a changing and challenging one. But some of the changes many employers have been forced to make have also been growing trends in wellness, including:
- Flexible working, and
- Working from home.
The more a workplace combines flexible and remote working, then the more essential its people management policies are, which is another reason why human resources expertise is playing a pivotal role as working cultures evolve and change.
Specialist, outsourced HR services can help businesses maximise their flexibility while keeping employees feeling positively engaged.