Our working world may have changed dramatically, but how employers support their peoples’ wellbeing is as critical as ever.
Why wellbeing is important at work
Workplaces that foster wellbeing tend to be positive, productive places that their employees can bring their best to. Not only do these kinds of workplaces attract and retain top talent because they’re great places to work, but employees also usually feel confident and content in their roles.
“For many of us, our identity is connected to the work we do,” says SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read. “If you have several employees who have low levels of wellbeing, the mood, tone and outlook of the entire business can be impacted. But when we focus on boosting wellbeing, we can see a collective upwards spiral.”
Two in three Australians agree COVID-19 has made them more aware of mental health, research conducted for SEEK reveals. But three in ten people say their workplace does not offer any type of wellbeing support. “Wellbeing isn’t an add-on to an organisation,” Read says. “It’s a core component of running a successful business.”
The 5 essential elements of wellbeing in the workplace
According to Read, there are five key elements in workplaces that support wellbeing and mental health:
- A culture of resilience
“Has your organisation introduced opportunities that build a culture of resilience?” asks Read. “This might look like participating in training regarding stress, mental health and wellbeing; encouraging exercise and physical activity or establishing a mentorship program. These are key to wellbeing because it means everyone – including leadership – can participate in opportunities to grow.”
- Open communication
Do your employees see you and others in leadership positions sharing their vulnerabilities and challenges? Is everyone encouraged to speak up and identify what they’re struggling with before it reaches a crisis?
“It’s important your workplace encourages early help-seeking behaviour,” Sabina says. “This might be regular wellbeing checks, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or HR protocols that identify how issues will be tackled. You want your employees to know you’re there for them every step of the way.”
- Return-to-work policies that support work-life balance
Returning to work used to be most relevant to people coming back after maternity, carer or sick leave. But due to COVID-19, adapting to new ways of working after significant change is relevant to many if not all employees.
“This is a chance to modify your approach and accommodate your employees and their roles,” Read says. “Are you offering flexible working hours or valuing their feedback about what they’ve learnt during the pandemic?” Nearly a third (31%) of Australians think flexible working hours have a significant (positive) impact on their mental health and wellbeing. See this simple guide to workplace flexibility.
- A culture that is inclusive and respectful
“Your workplace’s culture is embedded in so many things – from the conversations you have and the tone of those discussions to the way in which employees contribute to the business,” Read says. “Workplace wellbeing is built on a culture that does not tolerate bullying, offers training in wellbeing and mental health, encourages decision making at all levels of the organisation and that values the voices of all employees.”
- Availability of wellbeing support
A workplace with a focus on wellbeing makes sure information and resources are available to employees in a number of ways. “You can put a wellbeing poster on the back of the toilet door or in the tea room, but this also needs to be backed up with policies, training and conversations,” Read says.
Actively participating in initiatives such as R U OK Day, having clear policies about when and how individuals can take leave and providing regular health and wellbeing professional development opportunities are all ways to keep the conversation going, and let your employees know you value their wellbeing.
Supporting employee wellbeing is part of running a successful business that attracts and retains talent. By focusing on wellbeing, you’re sending a strong message to employees that they are valued and important, not just as workers, but as individuals. And that’s good for them, their confidence, their productivity and for the bottom line as well.
Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published October 2020.