Thursday, 2 July 2020

Why we should talk about wellbeing at work

There has perhaps never been any other time than the present when the world has been so united in crisis. Wellness at work has been a much-discussed topic for some time, but the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the number of people whose mental health may be affected by the work environment. With workplaces in Scotland likely to open up in the coming months, we need to talk about the new and existing issues surrounding wellness in the workplace. 

What is wellness?

Although the term 'wellness' has been around for some time, it may not be clear to everyone exactly what it is. Wellness can be described as adopting a proactive approach to encourage a healthier life – both physically and mentally. It is an all-encompassing state of health, rather than merely an absence of illness.

Why does wellness matter?

A healthy mindset is essential in order to reach your full potential and to experience a better quality of life. Factors like stress, depression, anxiety, and fear have a negative impact on how we live. Wellness helps people to realise why they are feeling these emotions and symptoms, and how to deal with them in a sensible, healing way.

Why does wellness matter at work?

We may presume that a happy workforce makes for a more productive workforce and that people who are unhappy, depressed, anxious, or become physically ill because of mental health issues are less likely to have a great attendance record. And this is backed up by a number of studies which have indicated that money spent on staff wellbeing is money well spent as it improves productivity and reduces absenteeism. 

And on a more personal level, as an employer you should want your employees to feel comfortable and happy at work.

Why do we need to talk about wellness at work?

Mental health training is not a significant part of the induction process or continuing professional development for a large proportion of line managers in the UK. This is extremely surprising considering that the Department of Health has declared mental ill health to be the biggest cause of disability in the UK. With so few employers prioritising mental health, it is imperative that business owners, managers and employees not only talk about wellness, but encourage and implement strategies to promote it.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed even further stress on the workplace with employees concerned about their safety as they work alongside others. Healthcare professionals and care workers have already been working in environments of high risk and need to be able to express their concerns and have them alleviated as much as possible. Those returning to work after being furloughed will also need reassurance that suitable measures have been put in place before their return.

Some of these essential measures, such as social distancing and regular sanitisation, may change the work dynamic, making work a less sociable environment. These changes, although necessary, could also be the cause of anxiety and stress if they are not implemented properly.

How can wellness be promoted at work?

There are many ways in which an employer can make it easier for employees and colleagues to benefit from wellness:

  • Make Covid-associated guidelines and procedures clear for all employees, preferably before they return to work.
  • Allow for homeworking if possible.
  • Allow for flexible working if possible so the workforce isn’t forced to commute during peak times.
  • Give employees opportunity to voice their concerns via online meetings, email or over the phone.
  • Give regular updates on procedures and guidelines.
  • Make the workplace a pleasant place to be with designated break areas (in-line with Covid guidelines).

Some of these physical alterations are applicable beyond the Covid crisis. For example, homeworking and flexible working can relieve unnecessary stress for all manner of employees such as those with disabilities or illnesses exacerbated by travel, and for those with childcare difficulties. It is important to create a culture where employees feel able to make requests concerning their working patterns without the fear of being negatively affected. 



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