In an era where work dynamics have transcended the traditional office space, prioritising the welfare of our workforce is imperative. Employers are increasingly acknowledging that employee wellbeing is not just a desirable aspect but an essential foundation for a thriving and sustainable business environment. However, this heightened awareness doesn’t always translate into tangible results felt by employees.
A recent survey conducted by Deloitte has unveiled a clear disparity in perceptions. While a significant majority of executives (89%) believe their company is actively advancing human sustainability to some degree, only 41% of employees share the same perspective. This disconnect underscores the need to reassess the efficacy of traditional wellbeing practices.
The path forward requires a comprehensive approach that nurtures both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, while also fostering a workplace culture grounded in empathy, flexibility, and support. This includes implementing stress mitigation strategies, offering flexible work arrangements, and supporting employee growth. In doing so, employers can create an environment that not only enhances productivity but also nurtures their most valuable asset—their employees.
Understanding the spectrum of mental health
The first step towards bolstering workplace wellbeing is recognising the intricate spectrum of mental health. Poor mental health has been identified as a significant factor affecting the productivity of one in five employees, leading to costly levels of presenteeism, which is when an employee is constantly present at work despite being unwell. Investing time and money in establishing an environment where employees feel secure discussing their mental health challenges is pivotal in cultivating a culture of emotional intelligence within the organisation. Estimates suggest a £5 return for every £1 invested in employee mental health through enhanced productivity, making it appear advantageous for everyone.
However, it is notable that 49% of employees are apprehensive about disclosing the state of their mental well-being for the fear it might lead to adverse consequences, potentially jeopardising their employment.
There are traditional approaches to combatting stress and mental health issues at work, such as ensuring confidentiality in one-on-one meetings with line managers and offering therapy as a company benefit, which continue to hold significance. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these methods alone may not be sufficient to destigmatise challenging and emotionally complex discussions within the workplace. This observation is underscored by the fact that only seven percent of British employees make use of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). In fact, eight in ten individuals express a preference for seeking support through a mobile app, rather than turning to their HR team for assistance with their mental health concerns.
Recognising the complexities of mental health requires empathy and patience. As an employer, it is imperative to comprehend that mental health is a deeply personal journey that necessitates highly individualised support, which may extend beyond traditional methods. Incorporating peer support systems and thorough mental health training programmes, can provide essential structural support for situations where employees might be reluctant to interact directly with their employers. At OSiT, we introduced a Mental Health First Aid course for our employees in 2021 and have been conducting it annually since. We saw that this engagement, combined with traditional employee assistance programs, helped employees feel comfortable both discussing and seeking support for their mental health at work, leading to a more compassionate and emotionally intelligent organisational culture. Top of Form
Mitigating stress and burnout
Stress and burnout are like silent predators in the modern workplace. They creep in gradually, often unnoticed, and before we realise it, they’ve taken a toll on productivity and overall wellbeing. Currently, 77% of employees have experienced burnout at least once in their current jobs. It’s the responsibility of employers to create an environment that mitigates stress rather than exacerbating it.
Implementing company-wide ‘experience’ days is a highly effective strategy. These types of events offer employees a chance to channel the pressures and demands of their daily work routines into team building activities. Artistic focused days out of office, like the recent graffiti art team day OSiT hosted for its employees, not only foster camaraderie and relationship-building among employees but also encourage creativity and significantly reduce stress. Studies have found that, regardless of participants’ artistic backgrounds, creative pursuits can reduce cortisol levels by up to 75%, and thus can be a great tool for employers looking preserve a healthy and sustainable workforce.
Office amenities play an equally pivotal role in burnout prevention. Features such as comfortable breakout areas, green outdoor spaces, and recreation rooms offer essential retreats where employees can rejuvenate, gather their thoughts, and return to the productivity of the office effectively. Remarkably, one in five employees believe that having more relaxation areas or alternative workspaces away from their desks would enhance their workplace productivity. As an employer, finding a workspace that supports a playful, creative environment is vital in supporting employees in discovering their optimal work-life balance.
Nurturing physical wellbeing
Physical health and mental wellbeing share an intrinsic connection, with the neglect of one inevitably affecting the other. Research reveals that people with a mental health condition are more likely to have a preventable physical health condition such as heart disease. Therefore, promoting physical wellbeing should form an integral component of any workplace wellness strategy.
One practical approach in this regard is investing in ergonomic office design. Offering facilities like posture-supporting chairs, height-adjustable desks, and well-illuminated workspaces isn’t an indulgence; it’s an investment in your workforce’s health and productivity. In many OSiT offices, you’ll find amenities such as bike racks, standing desks, and on-site gyms. As an employer, providing these facilities encourages employees to adopt healthier habits, leading to overall improved wellbeing.
Moreover, while it’s essential to promote healthy physical behaviours both within and beyond the workplace, providing support when things go awry is equally crucial. Research indicates that health insurance is a significant factor for over half (57%) of British employees when choosing a job. Investing in comprehensive employee benefits, including health insurance or healthcare benefits, can help to attract and retain a talented workforce.
Embracing flexibility in work arrangements
Flexibility in work arrangements is no longer just a desirable perk; it’s a necessity for modern businesses. The traditional nine-to-five office model doesn’t align with the diverse needs and lifestyles of today’s workforce. As a result, offering flexible work arrangements that accommodate the diverse needs of your workforce is important. With 80% of employees now considering flexible work arrangements as a deciding factor when evaluating job offers, it not only addresses their individual needs but also enables a better balance between their professional and personal lives, ultimately reducing the risk of burnout.
However, it is essential to prioritise and maintain a healthy balance. Although remote work offers flexibility, it’s vital to preserve opportunities for in-person collaboration and social interaction. Hybrid work models, which blend remote and in-office work, can offer the best of both worlds. Equipping employees with the necessary tools to navigate this hybrid flexibility is essential. At Office Space in Town, we provide conference rooms capable and equipped to accommodate online and in-person meetings, with access to various digital communication tools. This approach allows businesses to enjoy the benefits of flexibility while nurturing a sense of community and teamwork.
Supporting Employee Growth and Development
For employers to invest in the growth and development of their employees is advantageous not only for individuals but for the organisations where they work. Some 74% of employees feel they are not reaching their full potential at work due to a lack of development opportunities. Furthermore, 41% of employees consider their organisation’s career advancement opportunities an important factor in job satisfaction. If employers focus on investing in development programmes or initiatives, employees feel their skills and career aspirations are supported. They are also more likely to be engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their work.
Offering opportunities for ongoing learning and skill development should be considered by any employer, this can include going to courses, workshops, or conferences relevant to employees’ roles, or a role that they wish to progress to. In doing so employees are encouraged set personal development goals and are provided the resources and support necessary to achieve them.
In the ever-evolving landscape of the workplace, employee wellbeing has transitioned from being merely a nice-to-have to a necessity. An organisation that nurtures the physical and mental wellbeing of its workforce not only reaps the benefits of increased productivity and improved employee retention, but also contributes to the creation of a strong culture and a positive, sustainable organisation.
Georgia is the Operations and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) Director at Office Space in Town (OSiT). With over 12 years of experience in the flexible office market, Georgia oversees the operational success of the business and is responsible for managing OSiT's ESG strategy, including current efforts and future commitments related to environmental, ethical, social, and economic issues.