A healthy and happy workforce is also a more productive one. Our top ten tips suggest ways that employers can encourage their staff to look after themselves.
- Help your employees to take care of their health. It is impossible for anyone to give their best if they do not feel their best. By encouraging your employees to put their health first, you not only show them that you take an interest in them as people, but you also help them to be happier and healthier: both key factors in workplace motivation. Ensure that you foster a positive attitude to health, one that encourages people to take breaks when needed, to eat well, and not to be afraid to call in sick when they need to. All too often workers feel pressured to come into work even when they are far from well enough to perform effectively. This not only risks spreading illness around the office, but also creates a culture of fear and bad feeling: ultimately translating into demotivating factors. Look into providing healthy workplace snacks, ensure that people take regular breaks, and demonstrate a fair and sensitive attitude towards sickness. These all send a clear message to staff that you value their health.
- Introduce flexible working practices that allow people to work at home now and again. For instance, some companies allow employees to work a nine-day fortnight, which means they can have every second Friday off. According to productivity specialist Workfront’s recent report, What Motivates UK Workers, over half (52%) of British workers picked ‘flexi hours’ as the perk that most motivates them to be a better employee. Its study also found that employees value the opportunity to work from different locations. 34% said that they are most productive at home, where there are fewer distractions. A fifth said that working from a coffee shop enabled them to boost their productivity. Not all jobs will allow this type of flexibility – but where appropriate, it seems that variety really can bring spice to working lives.
- Introduce a strategic absence management system instead of out-of-date paper forms and spreadsheets to monitor absence trends. This can help organisations keep track of who is in or not, especially if the organisation offers flexible working. It can also flag up if someone is taking a great deal of time off sick. Capturing data in this way also means that absence management can be linked into other forms of HR data, to provide a bigger picture view of how the organisation is performing. In turn, that can help in building the business case for workplace wellbeing initiatives by showing where problems lie, or showing return on investment for existing benefits through benchmarking ‘before and after’ absence management patterns.
- Tackle the stigma of stress by providing a supportive and open culture where people feel they can talk to their line manager about any concerns. A section on the intranet about stress, recognising the symptoms and ways to reduce it, such as exercise, could be a good start. There are many free online resources, such as Time to Change, which provide support and information, both on speaking out if you are struggling with a mental health issue and how to support others as a manager or as a colleague. Its annual Time To Talk day (1 February in 2018) encourages everyone to be more open about their mental health, and also offers a wealth of materials on the website to help you. Introducing workplace champions is another good approach. Consultants PwC’s Green Light to Talk policy includes volunteer wellbeing champions and aims to help people be more open about stress and mental illness.
- Provide line manager training to be able to spot the signs of stress and depression early on. This can help initiate conversations before things get out of hand and to provide appropriate support if needed. Spotting these and other early signs of mental health issues may be uncharted waters for a line manager, both in terms of what to look for and how to respond in a work environment. Knowing how to be supportive while still carrying out a manager’s role is essential. Poor line management is often singled out as a cause of workplace stress and staff illness. However, managers themselves may be feeling under pressure and need support as well. It is important that senior staff, as well as more junior managers, are trained in how to build a good workplace culture.
- Improve employee engagement and morale in the organisation. This could be as simple as Friday afternoon drinks to thank everyone for their hard work or a monthly team outing for lunch. Encouraging people to socialise and not just talk about work can be a good stress reliever. Workfront’s report asked employees ‘what influences you to excel at work the most?’ Over a third (37%) of workers cited ‘praise from my manager or boss’ as their top motivator. The simple act of saying ‘thank you’ and acknowledging a job well done is an obvious (and free) way of improving staff motivation and morale. On the flipside, research by the Centre for Mental Health estimates that the cost of mental health-related presenteeism to the UK economy is £15bn per year – almost twice the cost of absence.
- Encourage people to take regular breaks and not eat lunch at their desks. Time away from their desk and perhaps going for a walk outside can help people feel more refreshed and less stressed. It is also good for their posture. However, if your workplace culture has always been about snaffling sandwiches at record speed while checking emails, employees may need some behavioural ‘nudges’ to encourage them to change their habits. Building the right environment, such as creating relaxation areas where staff might want to spend time, could help. Or why not encourage staff to build a ‘good eating guide’ to cafés, parks and other lunchtime options in the area?
- Make sure you carry out back-to-work interviews when people come back after time away sick. This gives your employee the opportunity to talk about any issues or feelings of stress, as well as giving you the chance to spot potential areas of concern. Back-to-work interviews can also provide valuable feedback about health and wellbeing across an organisation. When combined with other data, such as aggregated feedback from Employee Assistance Programmes or health cash plans, back-to-work interviews can help to pinpoint specific health needs. For example, if there are regular instances of staff suffering from back pain, it may be time to review workplace design. It’s important that back-to-work interviews are supportive so that they can really get to the truth –if someone is claiming illness, but is really struggling to support a child or elderly relative, the solution will be very different.
- Adopting a more positive management style can help employees feel more engaged. It’s important to regularly praise and recognise people’s achievements, and encourage staff to suggest new ideas and generally become more involved in the goals of the organisation. As we’ve shown in point 5, above, giving line managers the right skills and training is vital. That applies to building a good working environment as well as how to spot when an employee is struggling. Developing a positive workplace culture starts at the top – an individual’s own managers will play a large part in forming their management style and determining what they think is acceptable behaviour.
- Companies could introduce initiatives to motivate employees and improve happiness. The programme should offer discounts on big brands, including fitness and wellness products, and a way to reward and recognise people’s hard work on a platform. Poor workplace culture has a cost attached. According to Investors in People’s Job Exodus Report 2018, nearly half (47%) of the 1,000 workers it surveyed plan to look for a new job in 2018. That’s a great deal of recruitment cost, temporary staff costs and pressure on remaining employees, should all of those individuals follow through on their intentions. According to the IIP, the top reason why people want to move is job satisfaction, with 48% saying that they felt they would be more satisfied elsewhere. 29% also believed that their skills were not sufficiently valued.
This article is featured in Reward’s Rewarding Tomorrow’s Workforce research report. CLICK HERE to read the full report.