Deviation from the archetypal cubicle-based 9-to-5 office is by no means a new phenomenon. For years, advertisements for jobs on LinkedIn and the like have sought to attract new recruits through offers of flexible working. However, remote working brings with it its own set of challenges. With emails accessible everywhere and documents saved in the cloud, boundaries between work and home are blurred, making it increasingly difficult for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. In the face of the coronavirus crisis, with many working from home for the first time, this issue has become increasingly prevalent.
It is key to note that many of the corporate wellness programs currently existent focus primarily on physical wellness. According to the CIPD, 70 percent of employers in the UK have improved their physical environments to encourage healthy behaviours since 2017, demonstrating that businesses are taking notice. Whilst physical health is indubitably a key factor, financial, emotional and social well-being also require greater attention. What is necessary is a more holistic approach, one which views employees as individuals with complex needs that cannot be fixed by installing a gym in the office building. According to one study by GreenPath Financial Wellness, 58% of employers reported that financial “illness” plays a role in employee absenteeism, and 71% of employees say their top source of stress is personal finances. Steps as small as providing resources to employees that can help them take control of their finances, or lunch and learn sessions covering skills such as budgeting, can avoid the huge toll that such an issue takes.
The need for employers to take responsibility for workplace wellness cannot be understated. According to the Centre for Mental Health, stress and poor mental health cost UK businesses an estimated £34.9bn a year through reduced productivity, high turnover and sickness absence – the equivalent of £1,300 for every employee in the UK workforce. Emotional wellness is also comprised of stress management, emotional intelligence and positive mental health habits, such as meditation or mindfulness. This is closely linked to social wellness, particularly in the age of lockdown. Loneliness and disenfranchisement in the workplace can lead to less motivation and lower productivity. Team parties, quizzes, zoom calls and events all work towards boosting team morale, encouraging healthy working relationships and good communication.
It is imperative that employees take the time to consider these different facets of wellness and address them accordingly. This is where employee engagement comes in. Each workplace is unique, from its culture to the skills and personalities of the individuals that make it up. That is why there can be no ‘one size fits all’ strategy rolled out in response to this need for the promotion of workplace wellness. By collecting information from employees and giving them the opportunity to give their view, employers are given the ability to act on their wishes and show their workforce that they value them. Employee engagement and the promotion of a symbiotic, human relationship between employees and employer are in all stakeholders’ best interests.
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