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Taking a ‘Hands on’ approach to Workplace Wellbeing

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Emma Ellis of Redwood Ellis explains why and how she believes businesses can take a more hand on approach to employees’ wellbeing.

For many businesses the pandemic has acted as a catalyst propelling their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing into the spotlight for the first time. Whilst this can be unnerving for some leaders, wellbeing isn’t rocket science. A simple ‘How are you’ is sometimes all it takes for a colleague to feel supported and listened to. Not everyone's first foray into their own mental wellbeing is to go straight to counselling - as some Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP’s) suggest.

With the UK’s businesses opening up as lockdown eases, that investment in wellbeing is more important than ever. As working situations are more fluid, with many businesses either continuing to work from home or embracing hybrid working, checking in and supporting your team is increasingly important.

The unexpected move in March 2020 from the workplace to a home space has taken an emotional toll on people as they no longer have the social contact with work friends and colleagues.

So, understanding how employees feel is key.

According to a recent Chartered Management Institute report (Nov.2020), Managing in a Marathon Crisis:

"Ensuring staff wellbeing should be a top priority for managers in 2021”

Performance can be directly related to wellbeing. If people feel cared for and listened to they’re more likely to perform better and stay longer with the business. If they’re feeling isolated or stressed, performance often drops. With good performance having a positive impact on business success, managers are encouraged to invest in finding out exactly how their teams are feeling.

These three facts from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) reinforce the need for improved wellbeing in the workplace:

  • £8bn is lost every year to absenteeism in the UK.

  • £17-26bn lost to presenteeism (working whilst unwell) - this number has tripled since 2010.

  • Poor mental health is believed to cost employers between £1,205 and £1,560 per employee per year.

Good performance and productivity come from feeling valued, heard and empowered. So, having those 1:1 wellbeing conversations with every member of every team is essential.

In 2020 Headspace carried out a Mental Health Trends survey. Their report ‘A Path Through the Storm’, shows how the pandemic’s challenges have made it even more crucial for employers to understand:

The gap between what employees need to support their mental health and what companies are actually providing.

Why it’s time to embrace the concept of the whole employee, understanding their wellbeing extends to beyond their working hours and the formal work place.

5 Essential Wellbeing Practices to put into place now

1. Have a proactive ‘hands on’ approach to wellbeing

Things have been tough throughout the pandemic. Many employees silently struggled as they worked from home. By conducting regular 1:1’s with EVERY team member to check on how they’re doing will help them feel valued and listened to. It should be a conversation about that person’s wellbeing, NOT their work. This ‘hands on’ approach to wellbeing will leave employees feeling more engaged with the organisation.

2. Communicate, communicate and if in doubt communicate!

The sudden move to working from home (WFH) led to some employees feeling isolated and left out of conversations – despite the numerous team meetings, coffee morning chats and quizzes. Finding new ways of communicating with your team and by communicating more than feels necessary has to be a priority. This is especially important for those WFH as colleagues working in the office have the opportunity for unscheduled conversations about work issues – the outcome of these should to be communicated or some WFH will feel ostracised.

3. Debunk the stigma of working from home

The outmoded stigma attached to WFH led some team members, particularly in the height of the pandemic, to be on their devices all day for fear of missing an email or call. This then became their normal way of working.

The average length of time an employee working from home is logged into their work computer has increased by over two hours a day since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. This is the same in the UK, Austria, Canada and the US according to data from the business support company, NordVPN Teams. WFH you miss the distractions of colleagues chatting or moving around for meetings – so your 8 hour day is now the equivalent of a 10 hour day. Often with poor self-management of breaks and rest.

4. Reduce expectations of a straight 8-hour workday – encourage breaks

The Guardian reported research by the remote team-building firm Wildgoose ( who found that 69% of employees from the 133 companies surveyed wanted to continue homeworking. That same research found 44% of UK employees reported being expected to do more work whilst working from home. And almost a third felt their mental health had been adversely affected.

To help avoid this, set realistic workloads and allowing your team autonomy for setting their own daily schedule of breaks, for rest, family time and exercise. This will improve their wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

5. Develop a Health and Wellbeing strategy - The Redwood Ellis approach

Only 45% of businesses in the UK currently have a Health and Wellbeing strategy. It may be tempting to dive straight in and introduce an off the shelf solution. However, if you plan and prepare your objectives and strategy with your employees it will be more effective and not be another HR strategy that sits in the draw.

Our approach:

1:1’s - Working directly with the whole team, we begin with a wellbeing 1:1 which encompasses a WFH workstation assessment, an introduction to MIND’s Wellness Action Plans and allows the individual the opportunity to give anonymous feedback to the business. This approach makes time for the employee to be listened to and the employer having evidence-based information on how teams are feeling, this can also provide insightful feedback not easily gathered via line management.

Although we understand line managers may conduct 1:1's regularly, some managers have demands on their time or aren't equipped to discuss wellbeing - or the individual may be concerned that by admitting they are struggling their job and reputation may be at risk. By speaking to a third party we fill that void and have that ‘how are you’ chat. We then offer wellbeing advice or, on the rare occasion, if required, signpost on.

Survey’s - We carry out an employment engagement and wellbeing survey followed by a comprehensive report, the results of which form the foundation of your bespoke Health and Wellbeing Strategy. This is a flexible evolving document shaped by outcomes and feedback from the 1:1’s that should be conducted bi-annually.

Strategy – We build a bespoke strategy, this should be seen as a long-term commitment to support your employee’s health and wellbeing, a strategy that is reviewed regularly and adapted as necessary. Your aim should be to create an open culture where colleagues feel comfortable asking for help with their physical and mental wellbeing. For employees to take this strategy seriously – they will want to see some real change being made in line with the initiatives. This means that all management levels need to buy in to the strategy and demonstrate ways of working to ensure their influences and behaviors are helping to create a culture of wellbeing awareness.

Historically employee wellbeing has taken a reactive approach. Post-pandemic a more proactive strategy is required. Be positive about what good working environment and behaviours are. It’s worth noting that many wellbeing initiatives often only require simple changes, making them relatively easy and inexpensive to implement.

Having a ‘Hands on’ approach to your employees wellbeing will improve employee engagement, attendance, productivity levels, reduce absence and presenteeism and ultimately attract and retain talent..

If you would like to chat further about your teams wellbeing please contact Emma Ellis, Director and Founder, Redwood Ellis.

Published in CIWM (Chartered Institute of Wastes Management) Circular Magazine and The IAL (Institute of Association Leadership)

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