4 essential employee wellbeing initiatives for a healthy workplace

What’s employee wellbeing? 

Simply put, it’s how a job impacts an employee’s health and happiness. With the average employee spending 36.4 hours a week  at work, it’s no small stretch to realise the impact work has on our welfare. 

Covid blurred the boundaries between work and home lives – and employee wellbeing was thrown into sharp relief as a result. In a post-2020 world, it’s no longer a nice to have, it’s a necessity for businesses looking to get ahead of their competition. 

In this blog post we’ll find out why, before diving into the four pillars of employee wellbeing. We’ll then explore employee wellbeing in the workplace initiatives you can put in place today. Implement positive workplace initiatives, and you’ll say hello to happier, healthier employees – and benefits like improved productivity, increased retention and engagement, to name a few. 

Sounds good? Let’s get into it:

What are employee wellbeing initiatives?

Employee wellbeing initiatives can be a perk, a routine, behaviour or tool introduced by a company to improve the health and happiness of its employees. Let’s take a look at some employee wellbeing initiatives examples: 

  • Running activity challenges or offering gym memberships to increase employee physical activity 
  • Making arrangements so employees can work around commitments like childcare
  • Offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for employees in need of support
  • Providing access to financial planning tools and resources to help employees manage their money

Positive workplace initiatives impact every part of the employee lifecycle. In today’s day and age, job hunters will prioritise employers they feel care about their wellbeing. They’re also more likely to stay if it’s demonstrated long term. 

Not to mention it’s the right thing to do – employers have a responsibility to protect the wellbeing of the people that work for them. 

What are the 4 pillars of employee wellbeing?

The 4 pillars of employee wellbeing is a framework for HR teams to base their employee wellbeing strategy on. The framework looks at employee wellbeing holistically, considering: 

  • Physical wellbeing
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Social wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing

By taking these 4 pillars into account, the employer is able to support every aspect of the employee’s life – and make a real impact.

It’s worth noting that one impacted employee wellbeing pillar might have a knock-on effect. Think about how worries about money can impact mental health, or how someone struggling with their mental health may not be able to work on their physical health, for example. Conversely, one pillar can have a positive impact on another – take the impact mental health has on relationships, for example.

Physical wellbeing

Taking care of physical wellbeing looks like taking care of the health and function of the body. Long hours sitting at a desk and high levels of stress can negatively impact an employee’s wellbeing. For example, almost one million people in the UK are too sick to work because of back or neck issues. Stress impacts the immune system, and a person’s weight. 

A physically healthy employee will have more energy, be sick less frequently, and have a higher quality of life. Being physically active can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing, too. 

For an employer, that means more productivity, higher morale and improved engagement and retention metrics.

Mental wellbeing

Today, almost one billion people worldwide have mental health conditions. Work can have a serious impact on mental health – over 88% of the workforce report experiencing burnout, and 60% report high levels of burnout. 

Surprisingly, it can have a positive effect too. The WHO reports that decent work is good for mental health; providing livelihood, a sense of confidence, and an opportunity for positive relationships and routines. 

An employee with positive mental wellbeing will be resilient, self-aware, and good at dealing with stress. They’re also more likely to have strong relationships and social wellbeing in the office, too. 
From 2020 onwards, introducing employee wellbeing initiatives for mental health has become a true business imperative. As well as driving key people metrics, it also contributes to a strong Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) strategy.

Social wellbeing

Social wellbeing at work reflects the quality of relationships and interactions your employees have with each other. It’s important to a lot of people; in fact, 77% of UK workers say it’s essential to their job satisfaction. 

Good social wellbeing at work will result in a positive culture, and employees who feel valued, respected and connected to their peers. Social wellbeing and mental wellbeing are closely linked. 

When your employees have positive relationships with each other, they’ll collaborate effectively and produce better work. A positive culture is also key to a good employer brand and a strong employee lifecycle.

Financial wellbeing

A good measure of financial wellbeing is a person’s ability to withstand financial shocks and save for the future. Employers have a huge potential to impact this area of their teams’ lives. After all, they’re responsible for salaries and pensions plus options and other similar benefits.

Employees with good financial wellbeing will understand their compensation packages and will know how to make their salaries go further. Today, with the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation rates still front of mind, financial wellbeing has a huge impact on attraction and retention. For example, 73% of employees say they’d be attracted to another employer that cares more about their financial wellbeing. 

Now we’ve covered the 4 pillars of employee wellbeing, let’s take a look at specific initiatives to improve them.

What are 5 initiatives to improve employee health and wellbeing?

1) Speak to your teams and do an audit

Let’s start with planning. First of all, you’ll want to find out what your team wants, what they need, and what initiatives will be best for your business. 

Speak to your people first – after all, “you don’t know what your employees are feeling unless you ask them”. Once you’ve got your qualitative data, it’s time to audit your current initiatives. 

Look at your offering as a whole and make sure you’re ticking off all the pillars – are there any that could be stronger? Next, look at the uptake data from each team. Are you paying for anything that isn’t used? Perhaps there’s a particularly high takeup for a pillar you’re not offering much else for? 

You should now have identified some gaps for new initiatives, and some areas you could improve or replace completely. Next up, let’s take a look at some employee wellbeing initiatives examples:

2) Physical wellbeing

Here’s how to improve the physical wellbeing of your team: 

  • Get moving: our bodies weren’t built to sit at a desk for 8, 9, or even more hours a day. Get your leadership team to run walking meetings where possible, set up a lunchtime running club, or organise a team outing to a local fitness class
  • Optimise your space: making sure your desk setups are ergonomically set up and providing options to stand are  great wellbeing ideas for the workplace. You can also provide options to stand and work if employees would like to
  • Promote healthy eating:  provide healthy snacks and caffeine and sugar-free drinking alternatives in your kitchen. Some businesses also provide a weekly lunch or breakfast for the team as a perk. Why not kill two birds with one stone and make it a healthy one? 

Mental wellbeing

Mental health is different for everyone, and as a result you’ll want a wide-ranging approach to supporting mental wellbeing. Take these employee wellbeing initiatives for mental health: 

  • Create an open culture: introduce an employee-run mental health stories programme to give employees a safe space to share their experiences
  • Introduce flexibility and mental health days: these can be a huge stress reliever for your employees – whether they’re new parents, have a disability or aren’t feeling their best
  • Encourage employees to be proactive: provide subscriptions to meditation apps and access to mental health resources such as an EAP

Social wellbeing

Cultivating social employee wellbeing in the workplace focuses on creating an environment where healthy relationships can flourish. Social wellbeing ideas for the workplace include: 

  • Build a caring culture: introduce a buddy system for new starters or mentoring opportunities between your more and less experienced members of staff
  • Make socialising inclusive: make sure your employee wellbeing initiatives in the UK don’t revolve around the pub. A board games night, meal out or a book club are great examples most employees will love 
  • Don’t sweep disagreements under the rug: how you deal with disagreements is a big part of working culture. Frameworks such as ‘disagree and commit’ can be helpful in showing teams how to move forward 

Financial wellbeing

Helping your team to take control of their finances is one of the most significant things you can do to improve their wellbeing:

  • Promote financial literacy: as a minimum, run sessions to make sure they understand their pay, pensions, options or shares, and how to plan for life events like having a baby and retirement 
  • Make sure you know what works, and when: understanding the difference between education and content is key. True education is personalised to the individual, while content is not. 76% of people are able to make a decision which will benefit them with personalised guidance, but this number drops to 14% with generic guidance. Make sure that your teams are educated before you introduce supporting content, otherwise they’ll be unlikely to benefit from it 

For more financial wellbeing ideas, take a peek at this employee wellbeing initiatives pdf.

How do you promote staff wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing in the workplace should be deep-set in your culture: from the hiring process, to everyday life at work, development opportunities, relationships between your team members and beyond. 

Here are some employee wellbeing initiatives examples to get you started:

  • Providing flexible working: so employees can work in a way that works for them. This might be in the office or at home, starting and finishing at different times, or choosing what days they come into the office 
  • Keeping time off sacred: not answering emails or messages after-hours and at weekends, and going offline when you’re on holiday
  • Have senior leadership set the tone: senior leadership define the sentiment of a team, and you’ll want them to regularly communicate about your wellbeing initiatives. Investing in manager training is another great way to improve employee wellbeing
  • Encouraging staff to take responsibility for their wellbeing: if they have feedback, they should give it! If they’re not feeling their best, make sure it’s considered normal to say so
  • Recognise and rewards great work: make sure employees feel like they, and their contribution, matter to you

In today’s day and age, employee wellbeing isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a business necessity. Employers that get it right will reap the rewards: an improved culture and employer brand, higher business output, and the knowledge that they’re doing the right thing for their people. Now that sounds like job satisfaction to us.

Need help with your financial wellbeing strategy? You’ve come to the right place. Find out about Octopus Money Financial Coaching here.

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