Why employee wellbeing matters
The case for employee wellbeing on an individual level:
- Workers with depression are five times more likely to become unemployed. – JobSage
- 61% of remote workers and 53% of on-site workers now find it more difficult to “unplug” from work during off-hours. – Indeed
- More than one in two Australians with a mental health condition hides it at work in fear of judgment or discrimination. – ACAP
The case for employee wellbeing on an organizational level:
- Absenteeism for employee mental health conditions costs Australian businesses $4.7 billion per annum – equivalent to 1.1 million days’ sick leave. – Heads Up
- Employees who feel cared for by their employer are five times more likely to strongly advocate for their company as a place to work and to strongly agree they trust the leadership of their organization. – Gallup
- Employees are three times more likely to be engaged at work compared to others when they feel cared for by their employer. – Gallup
Based on the numbers, it’s clear the human resource department has the ability to influence great change within an organization and its workforce. Benefits for employee wellbeing include higher employee engagement, better performance, and increased retention. So let’s look at some key strategies HR can put into action to support employee wellbeing.
How HR can improve employee wellbeing
- Use HR software to monitor staff wellbeing and employee sentiment
- Review (and improve) any outdated DE&I policies
- Embrace flexibility with remote and hybrid work
- Build a culture of recognition
- Set clear expectations and boundaries
1. Use HR software to monitor staff wellbeing and employee sentiment
In the 2022 intelliHR State of HR Report, only 21% of respondents stated they use employee engagement or performance management software to monitor employee wellbeing and mental health.
Using people management software to track wellbeing enables you to visualize your people data consistently and identify issues faster. You can see this in action with our customer story with The Aesthetic Skin Clinic.
The team implemented automated wellness check-ins through intelliHR to create a safe space for employees to voice any challenges or concerns. They monitored employee sentiment to identify opportunities to support their people better and in July 2021, the organization achieved an outstanding eNPS score of 83%.
READ FULL CASE STUDY: The Aesthetic Skin Clinic
This centralized source of employee information also enables you to act on feedback more effectively, and revisit and reevaluate your company wellbeing strategy to adapt to changes in your workforce over time.
Having specialized HR software with powerful analytics capabilities (like intelliHR) also means that you can also leverage Sentiment Analysis to understand how your people are feeling. Instead of taking actions based on gut feelings, you can base them on extensive quantitative and qualitative data.
2. Review (and improve) any outdated DE&I policies
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is an ever-changing factor of workforce management and is incredibly important as a focus for your people and culture strategy if you, as a HR leader, want to create an inclusive, empowered, and engaged workforce. No longer viewed as a “nice to have”, effective DE&I policies and outcomes not only have an impact on compliance and productivity, but also should be top of mind when it comes to your employees’ overall psychological safety and wellbeing.
Research has shown that diverse and inclusive workplaces experience:
- Higher revenue growth
- Greater readiness to innovate
- Increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool
- About five times higher employee retention
However, despite diverse teams being proven to be smarter and more innovative, diverse employees also struggle the most.
Diverse employees experience more severe mental health concerns. They are more likely to face challenges in the workplace that can be detrimental to their mental health — like discrimination, underrepresentation, microaggressions, and unconscious bias. Furthermore, intersectionality plays a significant role as employees who fall in more than one diversity category experience more negative outcomes.
Like all other workplace policies, ensure your DE&I policies are being constantly reviewed and refreshed to adapt to the times. It’s crucial that these reviews and updates are also being progressed through the lens of intersectionality.
READ: The ultimate guide to diversity in the workplace
3. Embrace flexibility with remote and hybrid work
If you work in an organization that does not require employees to complete their work in person all of the time, then consider implementing a flexible work policy.
For some employees, interacting with coworkers in the physical workplace energizes them and helps them thrive. Meanwhile, others may experience “return to office” anxiety and prefer to work from home. You may also have a nationally or even internationally distributed workforce whereby team members can’t work from your company’s HQ. Whatever your situation, it’s important to understand that how employees feel about the nature of their workplace can significantly impact their wellbeing – and have a knock-on effect for engagement, performance, and more.
Remote and distributed working is something many organizations are still trying to find a balance with. The reality is there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so a flexible work policy is your best option – if it’s possible for your company. Not only will this allow employees to choose the option that’s ideal for them (in-person, remote, or hybrid), but it also demonstrates your dedication to their wellbeing.
A flexible work policy gives your people control over their workday and allows them to tailor work around their other life commitments. It’s a great initiative for empowering them to hold themselves accountable for their work, while also showing you trust them to kick their goals regardless of their place of work.
4. Build a culture of recognition
A healthy culture of recognition improves employee morale and consequently, staff engagement and performance. Most HR leaders know by now that employees want more than to work and get paid. They want to feel valued and appreciated, and know they have a purpose in their workplace. They want their contributions to the broader business objectives to be acknowledged, while also honing their skills.
Employee dissatisfaction can be connected to feeling inadequate or unworthy, or even be born from a lack of belief in the work they do. A few best practices for ensuring your workforce’s recognition impacts employee mental health positively include:
- Peer to peer recognition
- Managers to employee recognition
- On the spot and timely recognition
- Social validation
- Being specific about the purpose of recognition
It’s important to note that fostering a culture of recognition can be done in many ways. Everyone’s motivation is different, so you need to consider how to tailor your reward and recognition programs to satisfy your employees. Doing so can also boost your retention rates in the long run as your people will feel valued and supported, and, perhaps most importantly, committed and dedicated to your organization.
WATCH ON-DEMAND: The impact of appreciation: How to cultivate engagement through authentic recognition
5. Set clear expectations and boundaries
A big challenge that many employees experience is the inability to switch off or tune out from work. While remote and hybrid work has been beneficial for those who welcome flexibility, it has blurred the lines between work and life for others.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries can look different for everyone, but here are a few effective strategies you can implement right away:
- Log off on time: It’s reported that Australians work an average of about two months of unpaid overtime per worker per year. Encouraging them to log off is a good way of promoting employee wellbeing and managing burnout. It shows that you prioritize their wellbeing and care about maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
- Take proper lunch breaks: It’s rather common for employees to eat lunch at their desks while working. If you spot employees doing so, get them to mute notifications and take proper breaks away from their devices. Suggest activities like taking a walk or doing a brief workout routine. Let them know there’s no guilt in taking proper breaks.
- Communicate considerately: Noone likes to receive work updates right before bed, or when they’re unwell, or on holiday. Encourage employees to set and respect boundaries regarding work-related communication. Remind them to schedule emails and messages (an increasingly common feature in modern communication tools) to coworkers for more appropriate times. It’s such a small yet powerful practice for fostering a healthier work-life balance.
- Taking sick leave: Presenteeism is estimated to cost the Australian economy up to $7 billion per year. Often, this kind of present unproductivity can occur if employees feel insecure about taking leave. Remind them that it’s completely acceptable to take time off when they are unwell, be it physically or mentally. This will help them boost productivity during the hours they are working.
- Host efficient meetings: Running efficient meetings is a learned skill that not every leader possesses. Teaching your people managers the importance of efficient meetings, and promoting this company-wide will help deliver far more value to attendees and reduce resource and time wasting. Setting an agenda and preparing all the relevant tools and documents beforehand is a great way to do this. And in the event that people run under time, end the meeting early and give people that extra time back in their day. Meeting fatigue, or “Zoom fatigue” for remote employees, is a real hurdle for employee wellbeing so keep this in mind, too.
- Walk the talk: As a people leader, you want to be the example you intend to set. Be mindful of your own expectations and boundaries in the workplace so your employees can follow suit without hesitation. Plus, your wellbeing as a HR leader matters too. You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
As you can see, employee wellbeing initiatives don’t always have to come in the form of massive policy overhauls. Often, they can stem from the smallest shifts in behavior and mindset.
Consider doing an audit of the ROI you’re getting from your current employee wellbeing initiatives. Optimize the ones that are working and scrap the ones that aren’t. And most importantly, ensure that you’re looking after your own wellbeing too — so your people have a good example to look up to.