Putting the well in wellbeing
Love Your Employees research
Over the last two weeks we have looked at some emerging themes from this year’s Love Your Employees annual research. Firstly we looked at the impact COVID has had on businesses in the UK and last week we looked at the mental health crisis which has escalated over the last 18 months. Employee wellbeing, (as you would expect given the persistence and longevity of this pandemic)is a top of the mind theme for employers, so in this article we explore what employers told us and what sort of solutions are available to help put the ‘well’ into wellbeing.
We spoke to 300 senior HR managers across the UK, in randomly selected companies of all sizes and sectors to find out what was top of their mind this year. We asked 60 questions on a variety of different themes so it was a significant time commitment from these busy people and it produced an extensive piece of research. The smallest firm had 20 employees and the largest had 54,000, collectively the companies in our sample employ 1,733,337 people in the UK.
Good health and wellbeing can be a core enabler of employee engagement and organisational performance. Employee wellbeing can prevent stress and create a positive working environment where individuals and organisations can thrive. Most companies want this of course, a toxic stressful culture is very rarely made by design but often employers are unaware when, what they do (or don’t do) negatively impacts the wellbeing of their workforce. We wanted to understand employers opinions and how proactive they were towards wellbeing.
We asked ‘do you have a dedicated budget for employee wellbeing?’ 39% said ‘yes’, and 61% said ‘no’.
We asked ‘do you have a designated person with ultimate responsibility for employee wellbeing?’ encouragingly a whopping 83% ‘yes’. This shows a real commitment, responsibility and intent towards their employees wellbeing. We also asked ‘do you intend on improving the mental health and wellbeing support you offer?’ again a real high response with 89% saying ‘yes’. These results here are very positive. A very high percentage of employers already have dedicated support in place, yet still 89% intend on improving the support they offer.
We asked ‘do you think there is a link between staff’s financial wellbeing and their physical and/or mental wellbeing?’ 89% felt there was a link – they answered ‘yes’, this has been a consistent result for a number of years now. Employers know how important financial wellbeing is for their employees overall happiness and stress levels. We asked ‘has your company set aside a budget to pay for financial education?’ 68% said ‘no’. However, encouragingly 21% have set aside budget, and a further 11% expect to do so this year. The majority however, have no plans to support financial advice.
We were interested in how active employers were being with a specific segment of employees, those who have reached an important milestone in their life – retirement. We asked ‘do you offer pre-retirement guidance or courses for employees?’ 47% said ‘no’ but just under one third would like to in future. This surprised us, having encouraged employees to save for security in their old age and having paid into their pensions savings over a number of years they do not offer pre-retirement guidance at such a critical time for employees in an older age bracket. We asked ‘do you provide specific support for those employees near age 55 who can access their pension savings?’, 66% said ‘no’.
Similar to the question above, we were surprised that 66% of employers do not provide specific support for this group of employees at such a critical decision-making time. There is real concern about the millions being drained from quality DB schemes, and a rise in pension scams, and an acknowledgement of the impact of financial education has on mental health, it would seem an easy solution to support wellbeing and security for this group of employees by providing access to financial education. It can also be at no cost to the employer.
What sort of things can you do to improve wellbeing?
Some larger organisations such as John Lewis really get the importance of the wellbeing of their people. John Lewis (a brand known already known for its great people culture) use wellbeing tools which focus on a holistic and self-ownership approach in recognition that their people are unique.
To have the full effect from any wellbeing intervention make sure you are authentic. If there is a disconnect or a falseness between what you say you do and what you actually do with employee wellbeing, it can mean that your wellbeing investment can actually deliver the opposite results – it can be a demotivator instead of a powerful motivator. If your communications, your literature, your newsletters, your job adverts and your website say one thing about your culture but your approach to wellbeing is an entirely different reality, then you are creating problems for yourself. As the saying goes you to need to walk the walk not just talk the talk. Every level of manager and supervisor needs to understand the role they have to play with the wellbeing of employees and you need to provide a way for employees to voice the truth and tell you how you are actually doing.
To have a wellbeing strategy that is truly holistic you might include lots of things, such as health and safety, mental health, leadership wellbeing skills, occupational health, career development with opportunities to thrive, policies and procedures, resilience building, financial education and the wider context of social and environmental engagement. Bigger picture benefits like ‘making a difference’ and ‘social conscious’ are a huge driver for happiness and wellbeing, particularly for some groups of people such as millennials.
Where could you look to for help?
Organisations such as the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) might be somewhere to start, they have fact sheets, a helpline and several resources. Thankfully employee wellbeing is an area of massive innovation and choice. There are a huge number of new and exciting providers in the marketplace, offering effective solutions for employers and their increasingly diverse workforce. They can help embed some real long term benefits. We look here at just two of the many partners Love Your Employees have available on their marketplace.
My online therapy is a specialist therapy provider. They help employees bypass long waiting lists and access the therapy they need quickly. Online therapy is just the same as in-person therapy: the only thing that changes is the setting. Their team of psychologists offer therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Schema Therapy.
Working2wellbeing provide one to one support with physical and also emotional symptoms to help people improve their daily functioning, or get on the road to recovery and back to work. They work with both managerial levels and with individuals and can provide early intervention and long term support. They specialise in helping people with long term conditions including cancer, heart disease, fatigue, pain and now long covid who want to either remain in or return to work.
Employee wellbeing has risen to be such an important issue in the workplace currently. There are many cost effective, solution focused options out there. Covid has become a massive catalyst for change. Its time to look at your current employee benefits and see if they are fit for purpose today. Do your research see what’s available, you truly can make improvements to the wellbeing of your workforce.
*John Lewis to discuss wellbeing at Employee Benefits Live 2021
CIPD factsheet and health agenda report