Workplace wellbeing has become much more than a hot topic in HR and business—now widely seen as a priority. Businesses increasingly recognise the importance of having a healthy and happy workforce, for an abundance of reasons.
Promoting wellbeing at the workplace doesn’t just reduce stress, it plays a crucial role in creating a positive working environment that benefits both individuals and organisations. Engagement and wellbeing go hand in hand, as 64 per cent of employees say they work harder when they feel supported and recognised. Notably, organisations can see a substantial 23 per cent increase in profits when their employees are engaged.
With this in mind, how can HR teams put a workplace wellbeing strategy in place and what should it entail? How can they measure results and how should they present their plan to the board?
What does a workplace wellbeing strategy look like?
According to research, nearly one in five employees experiences reduced productivity due to poor mental health. When addressing employee wellbeing, it’s crucial to recognise the interconnected nature of mental and physical health. Placing both at the core of a workplace wellbeing strategy is essential; improved physical health contributes to enhanced mental resilience, and vice versa.
Not only should organisations embed physical wellbeing benefits, such as gym discounts, into their employee benefits offering, but they also should create workplaces where mental health is treated with the same level of importance as physical health. Indeed, our recent survey findings reinforce how important both aspects are to employees, with 40 per cent claiming that health and wellbeing should be the top priorities for HR teams over the next 12 months.
Many businesses are already actively investing in Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to help improve the wellbeing of their employees, however, HR teams should prioritise additional tailored benefits, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, while company-wide meditation sessions might be well-received in one organisation, in another business, employees might benefit more from a more self-directed approach to mental wellbeing.
For a wellbeing strategy to truly make a difference, it needs to cover not just physical and mental aspects but also financial wellness, taking a well-rounded approach. With the rising cost of living, employers are feeling the heat to keep their workforce, as employees are tempted by better pay elsewhere. Our research shows that a significant number (37 per cent) of employees plan to switch jobs next year in pursuit of better financial perks.
While not every company can afford hefty pay raises, many can still take steps to help their employees handle financial stress. Offering cashback and savings through employer-backed programmes is one way. Investing in benefits like this not only reduces stress for employees but also plays a key role in attracting and holding onto valuable talent.
In the stages of planning and implementing a wellbeing strategy, HR teams should prioritise gathering open and honest feedback from employees. Once implemented, it’s crucial for businesses to consistently measure the employee experience to ensure the strategy is delivering the desired results. This feedback offers a clear view of areas for improvement and effective ways to connect with and engage employees.
To collect this feedback, businesses can use methods such as focus groups, anonymous surveys to encourage honest responses and boost employee participation, and exit interviews to gain valuable insights into company culture and wellbeing. Additionally, taking the time to assess how other organisations promote a happy and healthy workforce through employee review sites is valuable.
Embedding the wellbeing ethos into the business
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all wellbeing strategy. To ensure workplace benefits and rewards pack a punch, businesses should tailor their offerings where possible according to their challenges, factoring in the demographics, wishes and needs of their workforce.
When seeking board approval, it’s essential to take all these factors into account. Beyond outlining goals, measurement criteria, costs, and required resources, HR teams should show how these initiatives align with the overall business plan. Emphasising the sustainability and long-term importance of these interventions is crucial—underscoring that they aren’t short-term fixes. This approach prevents them from being seen as optional or easily cut, especially during budget cuts when quick wins are sought.
Conversations with the board should focus on integrating the wellbeing ethos into the business, stressing the significance of prioritising employee wellbeing from top to bottom. This ensures it’s not viewed as a checkbox exercise but as a fundamental aspect of the company’s values and practices.
Regularly tuning in to employee needs and gathering feedback through surveys equips HR teams with valuable data and insights when seeking approval from key decision-makers. It’s equally crucial to pay attention to what employees desire from their benefits, helping decision-makers grasp the pertinent issues. For instance, the leadership team might believe that pay is a primary employee stressor, but the reality could be centred around work-life balance. In such cases, offering a benefit like the option to purchase additional annual leave could be an excellent solution—both addressing the actual concern and being more cost-effective for the organisation.
Ownership of leadership
Business leaders need to recognise their role in supporting employee wellbeing and the benefits that follow when it’s prioritised. They should also set an example by prioritising their wellbeing needs. They too need to be healthy to be at and do their best for their workforce and organisation.
Just like other members of staff, business leaders should be involved in focus groups and embrace opportunities to communicate and engage with employees at all levels about the wellbeing strategy in place – everyone in the business should take an active role in bringing the workplace ethos to life.
So much more than an afterthought
An effective workplace wellbeing strategy works hard to not only boost the financial, mental, and physical wellbeing of employees but also to put these priorities at the very heart of a business ethos. As such, it plays a crucial part in keeping employees healthy and happy, which in turn improves productivity and the overall profitability of an organisation.
A wellbeing strategy must be more than an afterthought – it should sit at the very core of a business strategy. This is not an unrealistic goal that businesses will never attain; it’s the future of work, and it begins with acting now to build the organisations where employees want to remain long-term.
Graham is a strategic leader whose skill set spans commercial planning, performance management, and culture change in both large and small organisations. He has spent the last 25 years learning how to get the best from employees – guiding multiple organisations in recognition, rewards, benefits, wellbeing, and digital transformation. Outside of work, Graham supports charities in organisational leadership via Pilotlight – an award-winning social value programme – and has previously worked with the Samaritans to raise awareness about issues concerning men's mental health.