Workplace wellbeing has been a growing trend, but 2020 brought it front and centre for leaders everywhere.
The Global Wellness Institute found that the trends of workplace wellness initiatives in 2020 were all about crisis management and health and safety. Amidst a global pandemic, this isn’t surprising.
But as things settle in 2021, new trends are emerging that will shape the new normal of our workplaces.
The 2021 Global Wellness Institute is seeing more focus on preventing burnout and finding ways to promote social connection among employees to combat feelings of isolation - a common challenge for remote work. There’s also a shift toward wellness-focused leadership that prioritizes inclusion initiatives and building healthy workplace cultures.
It’s clear that well-being in the workplace is important, and companies are beginning to promote it more.
This article will outline 10 different ways that organizations can step up and promote workplace wellbeing. Each of these 10 ways aren’t so much activities (if you want ideas, check out 81 ideas by The Workplace Wellness Show), but strategies you can employ.
By following these strategies, you’ll be able to do more than just lecture employees about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Instead, you’ll do more by supporting all areas of workplace wellbeing. What are those areas?
The Five Areas of Workplace Wellbeing
In 2008 Gallup and Sharecare partnered to create a wellbeing index to understand the different areas of wellbeing. They define their index as follows:
“The Well-Being Index measures Americans' perceptions of their lives and their daily experiences through five interrelated elements that make up well-being: sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, and physical health.”
To make it more concrete, the five elements of wellbeing are:
- Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
- Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
- Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
- Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
- Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily
Now that we know the areas of workplace wellbeing let’s outline 10 different strategies to promote workplace wellbeing.
10 Ways To Promote Workplace Wellbeing
1. Getting leadership on board
Wellness programs need both a bottom-up and top-down approach. Firstly, getting leadership buy-in is crucial to having the resources to support the program. Secondly, senior executives and managers are essential to promoting workplace wellbeing. They can let employees know about the program, encourage people to participate, and be early champions for the program. Their enthusiasm will lead to more engagement with the program and according to Gallup’s research, engaged employees are more likely to get involved in company wellness programs.
Getting employees engaged in the program is the role of a manager. However, the key here is to build trust with the team. Once a manager has the trust of employees, they are more willing to discuss issues like health goals. A manager must play a supportive and encouraging role to help employees feel comfortable about being involved in workplace wellbeing initiatives.
2. Raising awareness around the importance of mental health in the workplace
Statistics show that nearly 300 million people around the world suffer from depression. With numbers like that, it’s very likely someone at your company has mental health challenges.
Sometimes these employees are afraid to speak up because of the perceived stigma of mental health issues. There is also a lack of education and understanding of the treatment options available.
Generating awareness of mental health initiatives is crucial in promoting workplace wellbeing. For example, your company could offer some counselling sessions for employees as part of their health benefits package. Doing so will lead to an inclusive wellness program that is much more meaningful than only focusing on one element of wellbeing like diet, for instance.
3. Encourage mental health champions to start discussions around things like work-life balance
Employees have a life and interests that extend beyond the workplace. Their families, friends, hobbies, and other activities play a significant role in their overall well-being. However, if work obligations continually get in the way of different activities, an employees’ work-life balance will be out of kilter.
Open up discussions about the importance of work-life balance. Ensure that employees have some flexibility and control over their schedule and work. You’ll find they’ll feel less like work machines and more like partners, and they’ll be more dedicated as a result.
4. Promote dialogue around the challenges of workplace wellbeing
Personal health can sometimes feel like a private issue for employees, but it can impact the whole team if someone is struggling. It’s why discussing wellness at work is so important.
Look for ways that you can open up dialogue about healthy lifestyles at work. It could be around the snacks and foods offered by employees, moving from vending machine goodies to fruit and other alternatives. Workplace wellbeing has many facets, and each of these is important to discuss together.
5. Organize mentoring opportunities
Workplace mentorships are one of the most powerful ways you can encourage engagement and wellbeing. A mentor supports, advises, and guides a mentee on a goal-development journey.
These mentorships come in a variety of forms that can be adjusted to meet the objectives of your organization. From traditional mentorships to peer learning to remote mentoring, organizations can define the program that works best for them.
6. Encourage employee recognition
Employees crave recognition, but one study found that only 1 in 3 employees said they had been acknowledged for their work.
Recognition at work can motivate employees, giving them a sense of accomplishment and value. While this recognition can come from peers or customers, the study found that it is more memorable if it comes from a manager or company leader.
Recognizing employees’ efforts can be as simple as sending a handwritten note to say thanks, or you can issue a certificate or award to publicly acknowledge your employees.
7. Train new managers in support workplace wellness
Hiring and training new managers can be an exciting time. It’s crucial not to overlook offering some guidance to help them understand their role in supporting workplace wellness. Ensure they know what programs and services your organization provides.
Let them know that you expect them to encourage employees to take advantage of these wellness programs when appropriate. Training new managers on how they can support your workplace’s well-being should be a vital component of the onboarding process.
8. Survey your employees with pulse checks
It’s essential to ask your employees how they are doing to get an idea of how your wellness initiatives are being received. Soliciting feedback from staff may also help you understand areas where you need to offer more support. Invite employees to make suggestions about activities they would like to see at work that could increase well-being.
An HBR article dating back to 2002 provides a word of warning on soliciting feedback from employees. The article states that the difference between an enlightening and revealing workplace survey and a poor one “is careful and informed design.” The authors then outline 16 guidelines to making an informed workplace survey. Some of the most helpful for promoting workplace wellbeing include:
- Avoid terms that have strong associations (metaphors may skew responses)
- Avoid merging two disconnected topics into one question
- Numbers are better than words when using a scale
- Avoid questions that require rankings
- Make sure that employees can complete the survey in about 20 minutes
These are a few of the thoughtful tips each backed up by real-world examples of mistakes companies have made when surveying employees. The result of a properly executed survey is feedback that is revealing and actionable. You may learn that your wellness program isn’t meeting expectations, or you didn’t consider an important topic in generating awareness.
9. Take stock of your workplace environment
A healthy lifestyle is an active one, but most jobs require us to sit at a desk for several hours a day. Although there may be no getting around the need to be at a screen or on the phone to complete tasks, there are ways to make your workplace more active.
Consider the type of desk employees have and possible alternatives, such as a standing desk or one with a treadmill. Perhaps you have some extra space you can dedicate as a stretching area or a work gym? Start running or walking groups so employees can spend their lunch hour burning off steam. If you’re a remote-first company, encourage daily walks or exercise. It’s proven that walking makes you more productive so it’s within an organization's best interest to encourage a quick walk to refresh the brain.
There are many ways that you can adjust your workplace to support employee wellness.
- Connect employees with external support
Any workplace wellbeing initiative should include some external support for employees. These can be part of a health benefits package you offer, such as counselling or therapy sessions. Having a group of professionals outside of the company that you can draw on to help promote a healthy workplace will lead to a more successful program.
Building A Culture Of Wellbeing In The Workplace
Investing in workplace wellbeing is investing in your most valuable asset: your people. Promoting workplace wellness and organizing wellbeing initiatives starts at the top. If leaders buy into a program aimed at supporting employees’ mental and physical health it will signal that the organization values sustainable workplace habits. This, in turn, will lead to a culture of happy and healthy employees.
An effective way to support workplace wellbeing is through employee mentorship programs. They connect employees with colleagues and leaders which helps break down barriers and build more inclusive workplaces. You can learn more about the importance of mentorship and its benefits in our article, The Purpose Of Mentorship.