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New Research Sheds Light on Workplace Well-being

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You will spend the majority of your waking life at work. So if your work is a source of stress, anxiety, uncertainty and unhappiness, you’re probably not going to enjoy your life very much.

This is unacceptable. Surely if we’re to spend most of our lives at work, then employers have an obligation to ensure that the time we spend working is as pleasant and stress-free as possible?

A stress pandemic, a mental health crisis

According to Mind, one in six workers is currently facing mental health problems. While figures from the Mental Health Foundation Mental Health Foundation reveal that in 2018, 74% of people felt so stressed they were overwhelmed or unable to cope.

This comes at a very real cost to businesses. Widespread mental health issues are estimated to result in 91 million lost days, which costs UK companies up to £15 billion in productivity each year.

Of course, some jobs are more stressful than others. The Office Group recently calculated the overall stress score for 12 industries across the UK. They found that human health and social workers suffer the worst cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety. Other reports indicate that workers in the legal sector experience similar levels of damaging and debilitating stress.

For many workers, stress comes with the territory. It’s unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a problem. 

An employee well-being program is a means of managing stress, anxiety, and unhappiness in the workplace. It involves introducing a number of plans and policies to address the root causes of workplace stress, anxiety and unhappiness. 

Do UK businesses understand the need for employee well-being?

In July 2019, Censuswide conducted a survey of 257 HR specialists – all managers or higher. They wanted a snapshot of attitudes in the HR community towards various issues, including technology, productivity, and the decision-making process.

One of the questions posed in the survey was this: ‘What do you value more – time savings for senior management or a productive workforce driven by well-being initiatives?’

Both of those options seem like desirable outcomes. If senior management are able to save time, they’ll have more time to dedicate to doing their jobs – making the business grow and getting the best for everyone. Similarly, a productive workforce driven by well-being initiatives is a no-brainer. What sort of HR manager wouldn’t want this outcome?

51% of respondents were unable to decide which outcome they valued more. They claimed they valued time savings for senior management just as much as a productive workforce driven by well-being initiatives.

But perhaps in recognition of the stress and mental ill health epidemic currently facing the UK workforce, 42% of respondents said they valued well-being initiatives for the whole workforce over time saving initiatives for senior management.

Only 8% of respondents claimed to value the needs of senior management over the greater well-being needs of the workforce.

HR managers recognise the need for employee well-being. And with good reason: All evidence suggests that well-being programmes pay off. For example, a 2010 study by the London School of Economics found that the Royal Mail received a £225m ROI from their three-year investment into workplace well-being.

But while UK organisations may understand the need for well-being in the workplace, very few are taking the steps to put their plans into action. The recent CIPD Health and Well-being at Work survey revealed that only 40% of UK businesses have a dedicated employees well-being strategy. 

What does workplace well-being look like in practice?

What sort of policies should businesses include in their well-being in the workplace programme? What works, and what doesn’t?

To answer these questions, e-days and Perkbox studied the popularity of various employee benefits, the wellness programmes of some of the biggest organisations in the world, and the absence data of 500 UK businesses. The aim was to discover the sort of things that make employees unhappy at work, and the sort of things that can help them avoid stress while achieving lasting job satisfaction.

In brief, a good workplace well-being programme will:

  • Prioritise a good work/life balance, with flexible working policies and generous leave allowance.
  • Encourage physical activity and healthy eating.
  • Champion a culture of open and honest discussion.
  • Emphasise the prevention of stress over the cure for stress.

You can explore these ideas in greater depth through downloading your free copy of The Essential Guide to Workplace Well-being. The report is designed to give UK employers all the information, motivation, and resources they need to design a well-being programme for their business.

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