Wellbeing is no longer a “nice-to-do”. It’s a “have-to-do”

Despite its popularity as a term, many businesses are not doing enough for employee wellbeing. A study undertaken by employee engagement company Reward Gateway covering the last 12 months found that a third of employees said their company offers no wellbeing programmes. Just 29 per cent offer physical wellbeing programmes, 23 per cent financial ones, and 22 per cent offer a mental wellbeing programme. These numbers are shockingly low.

Poor wellbeing costs companies money. In fact, the cost of sickness absence to an employer is £554 per employee per year, totaling £14billion annually to employers. And that’s not all – presenteeism (working while sick) costs employers a further £15billion annually. Helping employees to be healthier doesn’t just get these costs down. Healthy employees also contribute to increased energy, reduced stress, improved employee engagement, higher productivity and higher talent acquisition and retention.

But companies and leaders can be protective to get the most from their team. Just like athletic team leaders can help make sure their team members are healthy and ready for play.

To implement a holistic wellbeing strategy, employers need to understand the three main pillars of wellbeing: physical (helping employees with healthier eating and activity), financial (helping employees manage debt, overspending and money management), and mental (helping employees with stress, depression and mental wellness). It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach either. Businesses need to stop ignoring the diversity of their employee composition – simply implementing a subsidised gym membership, popping some fruit out and ticking the wellbeing box as “done” is insufficient. Whilst these benefits aren’t bad in themselves, there is no choice involved, and things certainly shouldn’t stop there.

Although it may seem intimidating, there are many cost-effective (or even free) ways to implement a wellbeing strategy. Take physical wellbeing – as well as offering employee discounts for local gyms or fitness equipment of the employee’s choice, businesses can offer free bottled water or water refill stations to keep employees healthy and hydrated. Or they can switch to walking meetings, helping employees get in exercise, while creating a less formal environment. Offering group activity options (such as yoga classes or walking clubs) or implementing a company-wide step challenge can motivate employees to get active together.

Financial wellbeing may seem more difficult to implement, but providing education for employees can be simple. Educating workers on benefits such as childcare vouchers, providing budgeting classes or raising pension awareness can have a massive impact on employees at a low cost to employers. Launching a discounts programme can help employees’ disposable income go further, without introducing a company-wide pay rise.

The final pillar, mental wellbeing, is the category that is most often overlooked and often not addressed – it’s a sensitive topic and people may not feel comfortable talking about their mental health. Starting small, such as educating employees on signs of poor mental health, creating “unplugged hours” or organising meditation sessions can open discussion and alleviate stress. Allowing flexible hours and working from home can help employees better manage their work-life balance, improving their mental wellbeing.

A holistic approach to employee wellbeing is no longer a “nice-to-do”. It's a “have-to-do”. Over the years, working with almost 2,000 clients across the globe, Reward Gateway has developed the Engagement Bridge™ model to help companies create an engaging workplace culture. Workplace and wellbeing are the underpinning elements, and if you don’t have these your bridge collapses. The care that you put into your workplace and employee wellbeing can drive productivity, define your culture and truly bring your values to life.

Reward Gateway helps more than 1,900 of the world’s leading companies, in 23 countries, to attract, engage, and retain their best people with an employee engagement platform that brings employee benefits, discounts, and perks, reward and recognition, employee wellbeing, employee communications and employee surveys into one unified hub. Clients include American Express, Unilever, Samsung, IBM, and McDonald’s. For more information, please visit rewardgateway.com/uk

by Lucy Tallick, Head of Wellbeing at Reward Gateway


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