May 3 2022

Holistic workplace wellbeing: Why it’s not all down to HR

Employee wellbeing continues to rise up the corporate agenda and holistic workplace wellbeing strategies are starting to find their place. Yet the responsibility of implementing these programmes tends to fall to HR. We delve into how organisations as a whole can support holistic workplace wellbeing and what the benefits are.

There’s no escaping the fact that work plays a major part in our lives. Given the hours that we spend working every week, it’s natural that employees want to enjoy it as much as possible. This means feeling ‘well’ in the holistic sense.  

Focus on workplace wellbeing has slipped since the pandemic 

The UK is facing a major recruitment crisis and the Great Resignation continues to keep retention rates low. This means that organisations are continually looking to improve their offering to employees to encourage them to join and stay for the duration. 

Implementing effective and holistic wellbeing strategies is win-win for your organisation and your employees. Healthy employees enjoy higher levels of satisfaction and engagement with their work. This is good news for your organisation’s bottom-line. 

With this in mind, it makes us question why the responsibility of wellbeing so frequently falls to HR teams? This is because there is a growing consensus that holistic workplace wellbeing cannot be tied to one particular team or function. But it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote a culture of wellness at work.  

Wellness encompasses mind, body and spirit

Approaching one area of wellbeing is no longer enough. A holistic approach to workplace wellbeing encompasses all of these areas:

  • Physical wellbeing
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing

With holistic workplace wellbeing so far-reaching, everyone in the organisation needs to be playing their part. A failure here can result in employees experiencing mental exhaustion. Consequently, your organisation suffers the fallout of employee burnout

Organisations have a responsibility to protect the wellness of their employees 

Workplace wellbeing strategies are vital to the success of your organisation. Given that employees typically spend around 37 hours of their week working, there’s a degree of corporate social responsibility when it comes to supporting employee wellness. 

By taking a holistic approach to workplace wellbeing, your people and your organisation can thrive and you’re likely to experience:

  • An increase in employee engagement 
  • Lower absence levels
  • Increased productivity 
  • Higher levels of employee retention 
  • Overall improved performance 

By implementing holistic wellbeing strategies, you’re more likely to create a workplace that your employees enjoy. By taking a rounded approach to the wellbeing of your employees, you can provide them with a work environment where they thrive.

There is research to show that during the first few months of the pandemic, businesses got good at looking into employee wellbeing. What has happened since is that focus has slipped. When we ignore workplace wellbeing, the result is often presenteeism: a workforce that is simply not engaged.

What is a holistic wellbeing strategy?

Historically, organisations have focused on mental health when it comes to wellness strategies. Physical wellbeing comes in a close second. But it’s financial wellbeing that is most often neglected from the wellness agenda. 

Holistic workplace wellbeing, on the other hand, supports all areas of employee wellbeing; mental, physica, and financial. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn. 

Physical wellbeing isn’t just about free eye tests and flu jabs

When looking at workplace wellbeing, most companies offer a range of benefits that focus on physical aspects. Free eye tests, flu jabs, and promoting a healthy lifestyle have taken prime positions. Health insurance is another popular benefit to support employees’ physical wellbeing. 

All of these benefits encourage your employees to take care of their physical health. This is important because physical health has a direct impact on sickness days. If left unchecked, high levels of absences can have a negative impact on workforce productivity.

Gym memberships are a great way to promote employees’ physical wellbeing. But it’s important to recognise that not everyone is a fan of the gym. Have you considered access to exercise classes or bicycles (like Google’s famous multi-coloured bikes?)

Other ideas include Cycle to work schemes, under desk cycles, and lunchtime learning sessions around physical activity.

Mental health is the most common focus of health and wellbeing activity 

We know that there’s growing concern about employee mental health, with the unsettling rise in burnout since the pandemic first hit. 

While employees generally find it easy to call in sick with a physical illness, many will likely find it much harder to hold their hands up to say their mental health is suffering. Being such a sensitive subject, it’s important to address mental health carefully. 

Some of the most common mental health problems that employees experience include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 

As a nation, we’re stressed

2 out of 3 experienced stress in the last 12 months. Yet less than 3 in 10 (29%) employees have access to mental health support through their workplace. More than half (56%) said they would value this as a benefit. That’s according to LCP Employee Wellbeing, The state of the nation’s financial health, May 2020)

Employee assistance programmes and access to counselling are some of the most common mental health benefits. But something as simple as promoting a culture where employees feel safe enough to talk openly about their mental health can be far more powerful. 

Financial wellbeing lacks attention in most organisations 

Holistic workplace wellbeing approaches can’t ignore the impact that finances have on employees. When employees experience tough financial times there are numerous impacts. Financial stress affects all pay levels, but especially low earners. 

Financial wellbeing is highly relevant to the workplace because of the potentially negative consequences when employees are in financial distress. That’s because employees experiencing financial stress find it hard to leave their worries behind. 

This means that employees can become distracted at work, their productivity falls, or they may call in sick. Supporting employee financial wellbeing can help prevent these negative outcomes for both employees and the organisations they work for.

Financial wellbeing is an integral part of holistic workplace wellbeing

Financial wellness is a must-have employee benefit. You can support employee wellbeing by offering financially-focused benefits and rewards, such as:

  • Subsidising financial coaching 
  • Promoting financial education by holding workshops or information sessions that focus on topics like budgeting, pensions, and mortgages 
  • Considering allowing employees to instantly access their earnings instead of waiting until the end of the month

You can also signpost your employees to organisations that can give free money advice like StepChange and Money Advice Service. There are many other ways to tackle financial wellbeing at work but it’s important to find a financial wellbeing programme that suits your workforce and their specific needs. 

The role of HR and workplace wellbeing

It’s fair to say that HR teams are the backbone of all organisations.This means that there is a major role for HR to play in a company’s approach to holistic wellbeing. That’s not to say however that employee wellbeing sits solely with HR. 

While there may be an expectation that HR teams take the lead in forming the foundations of a wellbeing culture, it’s not for the team alone to uphold and progress it. This responsibility sits with the organisation as a whole.

Everyone has a responsibility for fostering wellbeing 

Holistic workplace wellbeing strategies can only be successful if the whole organisation is behind them. Everyone within an organisation can and should take an active role in promoting and supporting holistic workplace wellbeing.

Let’s take a closer look at how everyone can promote a culture of wellness:

Leaders can promote wellness from the top

For employees to believe that their wellbeing matters to your company, it needs to come from the top. Leaders need to involve themselves with the implementation of your strategy to demonstrate their support. 

It’s also vital that leaders ensure that managers are given the appropriate resources and training to support employee wellbeing. This could include, for example, mental health first aid training. 

Managers need to promote wellness within their teams

Managers need to live and breathe the organisation’s wellbeing strategy so that employees can see that they’re being fully supported. For this, managers need to encourage flexibility and show empathy for employees. They can also encourage an open dialogue where people can discuss imbalances to their mental, physical, and financial wellbeing.

Employees can support one another 

Every single employee has a role to play when it comes to nurturing a culture of wellbeing. Peer-to-peer interaction is hugely important in organisations and can make a huge difference to an employee who’s experiencing low levels of wellbeing. 

In fact, confiding in a colleague and asking them for help can have a hugely positive impact on team cohesion and working relationships as a whole. It can do this because the process creates openness, builds trust, and lightens the burden. 

Take the lead on financial wellbeing 

Financial wellbeing is the area of wellbeing most commonly neglected by organisations. This provides an ideal opportunity for forward-thinking organisations to get ahead of competitors by offering a financial wellbeing benefit that isn’t universally available.  

Here at Openwage, we’ve built an app underpinned by the concept of promoting financial wellbeing. On-demand pay from Openwage allows employees to instantly access up to 50% of their earnings for a low, transparent fee. 

This means that an employee can pay for an unexpected expense without the need to resort to borrowing that results in eye-watering interest rates.  

Why not get in touch today to book a demo? We’ll show you how we can help you promote financial wellness in your organisation at no cost to your business.