Welcoming Workplace Wellness In The Digital Age
The impact of technological revolution is far-reaching, impacting numerous psychological, emotional and social areas of our lives. In the Skills Revolution, change and uncertainty go hand-in-hand. As digital advances continue to accelerate, employers have a responsibility to not only help their people upskill and reskill, but to support them in adapting to our new world of work.
At ManpowerGroup UK’s Skills Revolution Series event, we explored the growing necessity to make workplace wellness a key strategic priority. We examined the importance of breaking down stigmas associated with mental health, and discussed practical examples of the positive impact creating a culture of wellness can have on organisations. We share highlights from our discussion below.
Re-Evaluating Our Way Of Working
The rate of transformation we are experiencing in the world is exponential, and the impact of technological, political and social change is significant. This is being translated into the workplace, with changing expectations from both employers and employees, alongside shifting pressures.
The times we live in require a new set of rules and a new way of engaging with employees. This includes understanding the impact that change is having on people. The need to support people to empower them to adapt to change is becoming increasingly crucial. This, in turn, leads to greater connection, engagement and productivity.
Despite the significant link between high performance and strong mental and physical health, not all organisations are set up to support people with their mental fitness. With a recognised stigma still associated with mental health, it’s clear that few recognise the importance and value of creating a culture of wellness within organisations. Yet, with increasing numbers of employees negatively impacted by mental health issues, it may be time to re-evaluate if the ways we’ve been working are producing the best possible results.
Corporate Wellness – Buy-In From The Top Essential
To ensure that corporate wellness is taken seriously, there is a need for genuine buy-in from senior leadership. Although corporate wellness is a recognised strategic priority within some organisations, not all leaders recognise its importance or embrace this as an essential element of the workplace.
In such cases, introducing tangible business metrics can be one way to help leaders recognise the value of implementing wellness initiatives. For example, it may be useful to demonstrate how attrition rates, productivity and output can be positively and negatively influenced by certain elements of the corporate culture.
Building An Environment Where Individuals Can Thrive
Both individuals and their employers are responsible for changing current ways of working and the resulting impact this is having on our mental health. Individuals must understand how they work best and try to communicate this to their employees. Organisations, in turn, need to work hard to create open, honest and authentic environments where they can energise their employees, rather
than take energy from them.
In building an environment where people can truly thrive, leaders, in particular, have a crucial role to play in creating the right culture and behaviours where wellness can become part of an organisation’s DNA.
This includes recognising the factors that contribute to people’s stress. And, while stress doesn’t just come from the workplace, organisations have a responsibility to be aware of their ability to add to the existing stress in people’s lives.
Embracing Wellness In The Workplace
It must be acknowledged, however, that wellness means different things to different people (particularly from one generation to the next). Therefore, it’s vital that organisations actively open a dialogue with their employees to find out what their perceived needs are, so that initiatives and programmes can be tailored to address these.
Even if investment is made in wellness initiatives, people need to be genuinely encouraged to partake of these. Education can make a huge difference. To encourage an open conversation around mental health, it’s vital that employers humanise and personalise their messages and approach. At the same time, there must be recognition that some people will decide not to take up wellness initiatives and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work.
When introducing new initiatives to an organisation, testing is crucial. It’s important that organisations understand the impact of any new concepts introduced and what’s working for their organisation to ensure employees can be as engaged and productive as possible.
Shared Responsibility To Promote Stronger Mental Health
As much as employers have a responsibility to create a healthy culture and workplace environment, individuals must also take responsibility for any changes they may need to make. This includes recognising where their behaviours may be contributing to poor mental health.
For example, the increasing blurring of private life and work life is making it harder for people to separate the two. Boundaries are often crossed and there is an increasing inability to switch off. While the culture of some organisations adds to this challenge, in some cases, individuals may need to consciously ‘opt out of always being on’. Expectations around response times also need to be carefully communicated and managed.
Supporting any wellness initiatives introduced to organisations, and actively providing feedback to employers on the impact and success of these, are further ways that employees can help to contribute to stronger mental health – not only personally, but across their organisations.
Moving From Conversation To Practical Action
While the topic of workplace wellness may be moving up the agenda, it is not yet a key strategic priority for the majority of organisations. It is increasingly important to ensure this becomes more than a conversation and moves to practical action, for the benefit of employees, organisations and society in general.
To promote and embrace wellness, shared responsibility from both employers and employees is vital. In addition to individuals taking responsibility for their mental wellbeing, employers have an important responsibility to create an environment where people can truly thrive.
While this involves investing in employees to increase the resilience of people and of organisations, it also involves examining existing workplace practices to see where changes should be made. As with any new initiatives introduced, a one-size- fits-all approach will not work and balance is necessary.
Ultimately, genuine buy-in and support from senior leadership is critical to ensure workplace wellness can truly become embedded within an organisation’s culture. When a wellness culture is created and nurtured, it is not only the ‘right thing to do’ but makes good business sense. Connection, engagement and high performance are all impacted when people can thrive and work at their best. In such an environment, organisations can remain innovative, competitive and better equipped to withstand unforeseen future challenges in our everchanging world of work.
This article first appeared in the tenth edition of The Human Age Newspaper.