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Your New Year’s resolution: improve employee wellbeing

9 January 2013
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As we enter year two of measuring national wellbeing through the ONS, the subject continues to create speculation and debate. Can we accurately measure it? What should we do with this data once it’s collected? What impact does wellbeing have on the government, the economy, businesses and society? Whose responsibility is it? And most importantly if we believe it is worth nurturing …how should this be done?

The body of evidence for the benefit of improving wellbeing is increasing – the Royal College of Psychiatry calls mental illness the biggest contributor to disease burden in this country. While Business In The Community (BITC) argues that wellbeing has a significant impact on staff engagement and productivity within businesses. Poor employee wellbeing can create significant costs including staff absences, presenteeism and lower productivity, not to mention increases in turnover and the resulting recruitment costs.

Irrespective of whether the roles within your organisations feature in the recent survey of the most stressful jobs or not, wellbeing is important and getting started doesn’t have to be difficult.  BITC’s Workwell model provides an excellent approach for all businesses, regardless of their size.

At Forster, where we have 28 employees, we have focused more time and effort on employee wellbeing in the last 12 months. The results have been better employee satisfaction levels (which are measured with an anonymous survey as part of our sustainability audit) and recognition through both PR Week Best Places to Work and excellence status in the Healthy Workplace Awards. Our experiences show that even small changes can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction.

One example is our approach to physical exercise. We know that this has a huge impact on wellbeing, so we reward staff that walk or cycle to work and between meetings, with additional time off. Likewise physical activity is one of the stamps on the Forster Well scheme with other stamps acquired for social, nutrition, community and cultural activities.

Employee wellbeing is also deeply connected to management style. A number of studies have shown that giving employees more control over their work and the direction of the organisation reduces stress and enhances motivation and company growth. We have done this through creating new feedback groups and opportunities to contribute to company direction; Forster Futures currently meets once a quarter with specific tasks and follow up given to a range of people in the self selected group.

So when you sit down to consider your organisation’s new resolutions for 2013, an effective employee wellbeing programme should be at the top of the list. Employers that recognise the importance of this, will reap the benefits through engaged, more productive and healthier staff.