If you are an employer, here’s something to chew over:
15% to 20% of payroll costs are attributed to voluntary employee turnover, mostly due to burnout. Yes, overwhelmed and unhappy employees are very expensive.
If you’re an employee, work-related stress disorders, like anxiety or depression, may be causing you to take an average of 28.5 sick days a year!
It’s clear that mental health in the workplace is a serious issue for everyone involved. The question now is what to do about it and how to improve employee wellbeing.
What is employee wellbeing?
Employee wellbeing is the complete picture of the physical, mental, and emotional state of individuals at work. Because people spend so much time of their day in the ‘employee’ role (an average of 8.8 hours a day in the US!), wellbeing in the workplace will have a profound impact, not just on the job, but on the employees’ whole lives.
It is common for the effects of workplace stress to spill over at home, in relationships with family and friends, and in a person’s self perception and self esteem. On the flip side, high levels of employee wellbeing can lead to an enhanced sense of self and enjoyment of life.
The benefits of employee wellbeing
Employee wellbeing is linked with higher satisfaction at work, improved teamwork and healthy social connections among colleagues and between managers and staff. When workers are happy, their productivity increases by 13%! For employers, this translates to a more stable workplace environment, reduced costs related to absenteeism and turnover, and better business continuity.
For all these reasons, employee mental health has become a top priority for many businesses. More employers are investing in employee mental health programs, or looking for smaller yet meaningful ways to improve employee wellbeing and create a healthier environment for their staff.
Here are 5 ways to improve employee wellbeing and enhance satisfaction and productivity in the workplace:
1. Identify possible drivers of stress
A problem can’t be solved if it is not understood. The first thing employers can do to improve mental health among employees is pinpoint the possible ways that the workplace is stressing them out.
There are lots of causes of workplace stress, and some are easier to solve than others. For example, if the office design is not up to par, then an update with the help of an interior designer and ergonomist can make a world of difference. However, if an employee doesn’t have good chemistry with their boss and they just don’t get along, this is a more delicate and complex problem. It’s not uncommon either; having a bad boss is the leading cause of stress at work!
Some other common drivers of stress among employees include:
- Boredom or unchallenging work
- Long hours
- Feeling a lack of autonomy or control
- Workplace harassment or discrimination
- Poor equipment or work environment
- Lack of opportunities for advancement or promotion
- Job insecurity
2. Implement employee mental health programs
Employers can be proactive about improving employee wellbeing by offering programs specifically focused on mental health. This is definitely a worthwhile investment, as 70% of employees who enrolled in mental health programs at work said they had improved job satisfaction compared to employees who didn’t enroll.
There are lots of ways to do this, such as a mentorship program, where staff members pair up in a buddy system to support each other. Another example is to grant employees several mental health days a year, so they can have dedicated time off to focus on their wellbeing, without having to call in sick or use up precious sick leave.
You can also provide stress management workshops during office hours, such as learning healthy communication skills, nutrition and fitness courses, or relaxation techniques, such as journaling, yoga or meditation. Employees can enhance these practices with the Reflect biofeedback device, which is very easy to use on a quick break at work. Simply place your hands on the orb, track your progress, and learn how your body is reacting to the relaxation exercise in real time. Employees can use that knowledge to calm their breathing, slow their heart rate and reduce the symptoms of stress during their workday.
3. Encourage Mindfulness in the workplace
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps people become aware of their thoughts and feelings as they occur, and learn to calm the mind and the physiological symptoms of stress. Rooted in Eastern practice, mindfulness has become very popular in the West as a tool for wellness, and many workplaces encourage mindfulness to help boost employee wellbeing too. Incredibly, one study found that mindfulness meditation in the workplace improved productivity by 120% and absenteeism dropped by 85%! Even just ten days of mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce aggression by 57% and increase compassion by 23%.
Encouraging mindfulness in the workplace is one of the most effective ways that employers can help to improve the wellbeing of staff. Employers can offer workers free subscriptions to meditation apps, meditation workshops and sessions in the office, or subsidize employees to attend mindfulness courses outside of the workplace.
4. Offer fun activities to recharge employees
Offering fun activities for employees, whether it’s a game room at the office, a non-work related outing, or parties on special occasions (like Mother’s Day, or Meatless Monday, or thousands of other fun or wacky days!) is a great way to let employees unwind, recharge and connect to one another outside of their daily responsibilities.
Having fun at work is really important to help create a healthy, balanced environment. Employees don’t want to feel that they are simply paid to do a job; they want to be a part of a workplace community, and feel that their contribution is appreciated and rewarded. Plus, having fun at work feels good! Laughter and lighthearted activity releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone, and helps to build creativity. And the fact is, people who enjoy what they do will naturally do it better.
5. Recognize employees for their hard work
There’s one thing that all humans have in common: the need to feel appreciated. This is also true of the workplace. While 89% of employers assume that workers leave for a better-paying job, only 12% actually get a salary increase at the new workplace. What’s more, 77% of employees say they would work harder if they were more appreciated.
Recognizing employees for their hard work is the most essential thing an employer can do to improve wellbeing. Things like bonuses, gifts for employees and “Employee of the Month”-type awards are all important, however there is more to it than that. Appreciation should be built-in to the workplace culture, meaning that employees must be recognized every day, even for the small things. Seemingly fleeting gestures, such as a “You rock!” email, or an impromptu meeting to thank the team, or even just looking an employee in the eye and asking how they are doing and whether there is something they need right now – all these are quick yet powerful ways to show recognition and make staff members feel seen and cared for.
Create the space for employee wellbeing at work
Here’s a final (and simple) tip for employers who want to improve employee wellbeing: create a relaxation zone, a dedicated space where employees can chill, take some quiet time, and practice mindfulness exercises during the workday. Equip the room with calming lighting, music, earphones, yoga mats, and the Reflect biofeedback device that employees can use to monitor their stress responses – all this is a relatively minor investment that can have a major impact.
Besides creating the physical space for employee wellbeing, employers must also consider how to create the emotional and even spiritual space where staff can feel empowered to be more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and express what they need to boost their mental health. That begins by placing employee wellbeing at the top of the list of priorities. It’s not just good for employees; it’s good for business too.