Generation Game with Scott Castle

Employee well-being in the modern workplace.

Just as elite athletes are required to remain in peak condition for their respective sports, so too should employees be encouraged to stay in the best shape, physically and mentally, to perform their roles to the best of their ability.

Indeed, ensuring employee well-being is more relevant than ever before. An increased awareness of mental health issues and research into staff productivity has led to more workplaces relaxing ‘normal’ work practices.

A recent YouGov study of more than 4,000 people in the UK states that only 6% work the typical nine-to-five work day. The most popular shift was eight to four, with 37% choosing these hours. Almost half the people surveyed work flexibly, job share or work compressed hours, allowing them to juggle other commitments to find the work-life balance that suits their circumstances. The benefits speak for themselves: those that work flexibly report an increase in motivation and productivity, and are encouraged to stay in a job for longer.

Move with the times

As the perception of ‘normal’ changes, employers need to move with the times and ensure their staff are happy to maximise their productivity. Stress in the workplace is a major cause of stress outside the workplace, meaning that employees are more likely to leave a job if they are unhappy during working hours.

Some of the practices that are now perceived as part and parcel of a well-being package are flexible hours, walking during the day and digital detoxes – all things that we, as members of the BOSS Leaders of the Future committee, are well aware of and as a group try to adhere to.

According to research by Fellowes Brands UK, 75% of managers are seeing a rise in expectations among their workforce, with a third prepared to change employer if the reality falls short of their expectations.

It starts with the basics which should be easy to manage. Hydration is key to well-being, so water should always be easily accessible, with employees encouraged to drink an appropriate amount throughout the day. Providing hot drinks such as tea and coffee is also seen as essential, with additions such as biscuits or more ‘luxury’ products being a bonus.

Physical well-being is also important, with 70% of workers thinking their employer should do more to proactively prevent health issues. A workplace that isn’t fit for purpose could make employees unproductive at best and sick at worst, driving up absentee costs.

Issues often reported are back or neck problems, headaches or fatigue, many of these attributed to long periods of time spent working at a computer or laptop. Some companies have stepped it up, so to speak, introducing discounted gym memberships, healthy eating options and free health checks, with the benefit of noticing an improvement in employee happiness and increased staff retention.

With more solutions readily available to help prevent health issues, it is the duty of employers to ensure risk assessments are carried out and employees are treated on an individual basis to create an environment suited to their needs.

Uptake of sit-stand workstations is rapidly increasing to counteract the negative effects of sitting down for long periods during the working day, with 90% of workers in Sweden and Denmark, for instance, already adopting the practice. Businesses elsewhere would be wise to consider following a similar path, as 51% of managers in the UK, for example, have admitted to losing good people because of their working environment.

With people more aware of how many factors – from diet and physical activity to the amount of water they drink – affect their health, they’re simply becoming less willing to stick around at companies that systematically fail to take health seriously.

Employees can also help themselves, of course. The simple things are often the most effective, like a ten-minute walk during the day to keep key muscle groups moving and refresh. Sitting at a desk all day can become monotonous, so if there is somewhere near the workplace to have a walk and change your surroundings, try it at least a couple of times a week.

We could also benefit from ‘being in the moment’ more often. Take occasional breaks from working for interpersonal contact. That doesn’t mean social media – leave Twitter and Instagram alone. Put the tablet or smartphone down and set time aside for colleagues and friends – maybe a digital detox one day a week could be helpful.

We might not be professional athletes, but it is still important to keep our minds and bodies in top condition, not just to reach maximum performance, but also to ensure our well-being.