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Attract and retain: the importance of promoting employee wellbeing

Dr Heather Bolton, Head of Psychology at Unmind – the best-funded workplace mental health company in Europe – discusses why a strong employee wellbeing programme can help businesses retain employees and help potential applicants understand that a company values its workforce.

Coming out of COVID-19, businesses have a unique opportunity to reassess their needs and strategies. C-Suites around the world  are putting their heads together to determine how to optimally foster an innovative, collaborative and productive workforce, retain their best employees, and attract new talent. Because the people driving your business have never been more important. 

If there’s been one positive to come out of this year, it’s that attitudes to mental health in the workplace have shifted. The benefits of empowering employees to look after their own mental health aren’t just ethical or moral – it also makes commercial sense. Since 2020, business leaders have seen the stark impact poor mental health has on engagement, productivity and employee happiness. A business is nothing without its workforce, so making your employees a strategic priority is, unsurprisingly, key to performance. 

What’s more, employees increasingly want to work for companies that have ‘cultures of care’. Research by Limeade Institute found that when employees feel they have organisational support and wellbeing resources, they’re more likely to recommend their company to a friend, less likely to leave and more likely to be engaged. The pandemic saw a seismic shift in how employees want to work in the future and what they expect of their employer. For example, a recent survey found just one in three employees plan to return to the office at least part-time. As companies come out of the pandemic and focus on growth, they will need to prioritise employee wellbeing to meet their business goals. So, how can they do it?

Balancing business objectives with employee expectations
Successful businesses have clear goals. These could be around business growth or profitability, customer service, efficient operations or retention of employees. The pandemic has thrown the latter into the limelight more than ever. People worldwide have taken the last year or so to reflect on what they truly value in work and life, and are making big decisions on the back of that. Leadership at many organisations is starting to take note of this shift, too. According to Brandpie’s CEO Purpose Report, 98% of CEOs agreed that the new generation of talent have expectations that challenge previously established norms of employee experience. 

Emerging from the pandemic many people are, perhaps justifiably, reluctant to return to the status quo. They expect more flexibility; safe spaces to work; higher job satisfaction; and a better work-life balance. According to EY’s Work Reimagined Employee Survey, more than half (54%) of employees would even consider leaving their job post-pandemic if it didn’t allow for some flexibility in where and when they work. While remote working this year hasn’t always been plain sailing, CIPD found that it has supported people’s mental health and stress levels overall. 

To attract the best and most diverse talent, HR and business leaders need to take this moment to empathise with the unique needs of each group in their organisation, and prioritise the wellbeing of every employee. They need to develop a new working model with workers in mind: involve them, ask about their needs, and nurture a more progressive culture to suit their needs. 

Companies asking their workforces to return to the office are being called out by employees wanting to keep a hybrid, flexible approach to work in the future. Out of touch leadership is a widespread trend, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index. It found 61% of business leaders claim businesses are “thriving” in current working conditions, compared to just 38% of those without decision making authority. Clearly it’s time businesses really listen to what their employees want and need, otherwise they’ll find themselves losing talent to their competition. 

Putting wellbeing at the heart of retention
After a year that’s challenged our psychological, physical and social wellbeing in life and work, employee wellbeing needs to be right at the heart of businesses’ retention strategies. Simply put, if employees aren’t happy with their work environment, they’ll go elsewhere. 

As a first step, organisations need to evolve their mental health strategy from reaction to prevention. While reactive services like  Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are still invaluable to those who need them, HR leaders need to think more clearly about how they can foster a working environment that prevents mental health problems before they develop. It’s time instead to start thinking of employee mental health the same way we think of physical health as something that takes constant, consistent preventative action. 

Digital tools can enable employers to measure employee wellbeing while providing proactive mental health support at scale. Traditional mental health initiatives typically only support the statistical 1 in 6 employees who will experience mental health challenges each year. But technology can empower employers to take an ‘always-on’ approach to supporting the 6 in 6 – and at a relatively low cost, too. 

For example, workplace mental health platforms can give employees the tools they need to measure and manage each part of their mental wellbeing – psychological, social, and physical – at all times, enabling them to spot signs and symptoms of mental ill-health before they become more serious problems. Meanwhile employers get access to anonymous and aggregated mental health data for their workforces, allowing them to spot trends and make more informed decisions around their wellbeing strategies. By supporting healthier workplaces, businesses can improve performance, inspire cultures of openness, and bolster their external reputations.

The crucial role of values and authenticity
This year, work has become more human. Many of us have met our colleagues’ pets or families virtually or seen inside each others’ homes. We have supported one another through the ups and downs. The shared vulnerability of this time has offered employers an opportunity to bring real authenticity to company culture and transform work for the better. In fact, Microsoft’s study found that, compared to one year ago, 39% of people are more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work, and 31% are less likely to feel embarrassed or ashamed when their home life shows up at work. HR and business leaders need to bring this same authenticity to their wellbeing strategies. 

Organi

Coming out of COVID-19, businesses have a unique opportunity to reassess their needs and strategies. C-Suites around the world  are putting their heads together to determine how to optimally foster an innovative, collaborative and productive workforce, retain their best employees, and attract new talent. Because the people driving your business have never been more important. 

If there’s been one positive to come out of this year, it’s that attitudes to mental health in the workplace have shifted. The benefits of empowering employees to look after their own mental health aren’t just ethical or moral – it also makes commercial sense. Since 2020, business leaders have seen the stark impact poor mental health has on engagement, productivity and employee happiness. A business is nothing without its workforce, so making your employees a strategic priority is, unsurprisingly, key to performance. 

What’s more, employees increasingly want to work for companies that have ‘cultures of care’. Research by Limeade Institute found that when employees feel they have organisational support and wellbeing resources, they’re more likely to recommend their company to a friend, less likely to leave and more likely to be engaged. The pandemic saw a seismic shift in how employees want to work in the future and what they expect of their employer. For example, a recent survey found just one in three employees plan to return to the office at least part-time. As companies come out of the pandemic and focus on growth, they will need to prioritise employee wellbeing to meet their business goals. So, how can they do it?

Balancing business objectives with employee expectations
Successful businesses have clear goals. These could be around business growth or profitability, customer service, efficient operations or retention of employees. The pandemic has thrown the latter into the limelight more than ever. People worldwide have taken the last year or so to reflect on what they truly value in work and life, and are making big decisions on the back of that. Leadership at many organisations is starting to take note of this shift, too. According to Brandpie’s CEO Purpose Report, 98% of CEOs agreed that the new generation of talent have expectations that challenge previously established norms of employee experience. 

Emerging from the pandemic many people are, perhaps justifiably, reluctant to return to the status quo. They expect more flexibility; safe spaces to work; higher job satisfaction; and a better work-life balance. According to EY’s Work Reimagined Employee Survey, more than half (54%) of employees would even consider leaving their job post-pandemic if it didn’t allow for some flexibility in where and when they work. While remote working this year hasn’t always been plain sailing, CIPD found that it has supported people’s mental health and stress levels overall. 

To attract the best and most diverse talent, HR and business leaders need to take this moment to empathise with the unique needs of each group in their organisation, and prioritise the wellbeing of every employee. They need to develop a new working model with workers in mind: involve them, ask about their needs, and nurture a more progressive culture to suit their needs. 

Companies asking their workforces to return to the office are being called out by employees wanting to keep a hybrid, flexible approach to work in the future. Out of touch leadership is a widespread trend, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index. It found 61% of business leaders claim businesses are “thriving” in current working conditions, compared to just 38% of those without decision making authority. Clearly it’s time businesses really listen to what their employees want and need, otherwise they’ll find themselves losing talent to their competition. 

 Putting wellbeing at the heart of retention
After a year that’s challenged our psychological, physical and social wellbeing in life and work, employee wellbeing needs to be right at the heart of businesses’ retention strategies. Simply put, if employees aren’t happy with their work environment, they’ll go elsewhere. 

 As a first step, organisations need to evolve their mental health strategy from reaction to prevention. While reactive services like  Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are still invaluable to those who need them, HR leaders need to think more clearly about how they can foster a working environment that prevents mental health problems before they develop. It’s time instead to start thinking of employee mental health the same way we think of physical health as something that takes constant, consistent preventative action. 

 Digital tools can enable employers to measure employee wellbeing while providing proactive mental health support at scale. Traditional mental health initiatives typically only support the statistical 1 in 6 employees who will experience mental health challenges each year. But technology can empower employers to take an ‘always-on’ approach to supporting the 6 in 6 – and at a relatively low cost, too. 

 For example, workplace mental health platforms can give employees the tools they need to measure and manage each part of their mental wellbeing – psychological, social, and physical – at all times, enabling them to spot signs and symptoms of mental ill-health before they become more serious problems. Meanwhile employers get access to anonymous and aggregated mental health data for their workforces, allowing them to spot trends and make more informed decisions around their wellbeing strategies. By supporting healthier workplaces, businesses can improve performance, inspire cultures of openness, and bolster their external reputations.

The crucial role of values and authenticity
This year, work has become more human. Many of us have met our colleagues’ pets or families virtually or seen inside each others’ homes. We have supported one another through the ups and downs. The shared vulnerability of this time has offered employers an opportunity to bring real authenticity to company culture and transform work for the better. In fact, Microsoft’s study found that, compared to one year ago, 39% of people are more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work, and 31% are less likely to feel embarrassed or ashamed when their home life shows up at work. HR and business leaders need to bring this same authenticity to their wellbeing strategies. 

Organisations with ethics, integrity and genuine values are more likely to retain their top employees and attract new talent. According to Inc, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and they’re looking for socially responsible employers. To ensure businesses are creating genuine change, leaders can measure their company’s overall wellbeing and identify problem areas. This data means leaders will always have something to compare results to, and base their decisions on. It also helps businesses to keep themselves accountable and productive in their journey to building more mentally healthy and resilient workforces. 

Promoting employee wellbeing is essential for businesses, and a proactive strategy can strengthen both employee safety, wellbeing and performance. More and more employers are realising this, as are employees. Today, supporting mental wellness is a business imperative, as well as a moral one.

According to Inc, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and they’re looking for socially responsible employers. To ensure businesses are creating genuine change, leaders can measure their company’s overall wellbeing and identify problem areas. This data means leaders will always have something to compare results to, and base their decisions on. It also helps businesses to keep themselves accountable and productive in their journey to building more mentally healthy and resilient workforces. 

Promoting employee wellbeing is essential for businesses, and a proactive strategy can strengthen both employee safety, wellbeing and performance. More and more employers are realising this, as are employees. Today, supporting mental wellness is a business imperative, as well as a moral one.

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