Why manage wellbeing?

Employers have a legal obligation to safeguard the health and wellbeing of both employees and those who may be affected by their work activities, eg visitors and contractors.

It is worth investing in employee wellbeing. Increasingly, organisations recognise that they need to put in place strategies to actively support and promote the health and wellbeing of employees. This generally results in better performance in terms of productivity, profitability, quality of output, employee morale and job satisfaction — in short, your best people stay and do their best work.

What is wellbeing?

The CIPD defines wellbeing as “creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation”.

Wellbeing initiatives will differ from organisation to organisation, depending on the company’s objectives and the key areas identified as offering the greatest returns on investment, eg musculoskeletal disorders, inactivity, or problems with drugs and alcohol.

Possible wellbeing initiatives fall into four groups.

  1. Those that ensure the workplace and the work itself are well organised.

  2. Those that ensure terms and conditions of employment are fair and contribute to employee wellbeing (generally the province of the HR department).

  3. Those that help employees with specific problems, eg drug rehabilitation programmes, GP services, grief counselling or return-to-work plans for those off sick long term.

  4. Benefits and policies to help employees to adopt healthy lifestyles.

If you haven’t thought about wellbeing before, perhaps start with a single focus, something highly relevant to your particular workforce, and then build up to a comprehensive, multifaceted employee health and wellbeing strategy.

What do you need to do as an employer?

  1. Make sure you are successfully controlling the risks to employee health arising from the organisation’s work activities. This might include hazards arising from chemicals, lead, asbestos, noise, hand–arm vibration or working at height. Clearly, it makes no sense to promote fitness programmes at work when health risks created by the organisation’s activities, such as dangerous dusts, are not adequately managed. See the topic Occupational Health: Principles and your sections on Workplace Health and Workplace Hazards for in-depth information.

  2. Assess the current state of workplace health and wellbeing and identify the key issues. This could be done through a risk assessment (see the topic Risk Assessment: Principles and Techniques for help) supplemented by consultation with employees, eg through focus groups or company-wide questionnaires. Alternatively, Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index is a good place to start.

  3. Decide on the methods to tackle your particular challenges. Who will be responsible for various initiatives, what action will be taken and when and how will you monitor and review the effectiveness of the measures? Will you do it internally or engage a consultant? Would an Employee Assistance Programme be one option?

  4. Use the assessment to draw up your Employee Wellbeing Policy. This should be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of your workforce.

  5. Consider to what extent your wellbeing policy applies to visitors and contractors, as well as groups of workers such as migrants, lone workers, disabled workers, older workers, shift workers, young and temporary employees.

  6. Communicate the policy and any new initiatives to your employees, giving training and additional information where required, such as the Workplace Stress Training Presentation. Emphasise what is being done in response to issues they have raised and establish the procedures for further employee involvement and feedback. See the Consultation with Employees topic.

  7. Evaluate the impact of your wellbeing initiatives. Where necessary revise or replace them, in consultation with employees.

Wellbeing issues to consider

  • Smoking cessation programmes, as part of the wider Smoking at Work Policy, can offer useful support for workers who wish to stop smoking, and boost employee wellbeing.

  • According to Acas, a third of employers say that alcohol and drug misuse is a problem at work. Your Drugs and Alcohol Policy needs careful management.

  • Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace today. Mental Health at Work involves putting in place a Mental Health at Work Policy and support to assist workers who are struggling with mental illness. See our Mental Health Toolkit for details.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common reported cause of occupational ill health in Great Britain. The topics Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work-related Upper Limb Disorders are full of advice on prevention and management.

Useful Q&As

  • Adequate work space: We have recently moved to a new location where the workstations are slightly smaller. Some employees have complained about the reduction — is there a minimum desk size?

  • Mental health first aiders: There has been much talk in the health and safety industry about training up mental health first aiders. Is this a requirement and who should be trained?

  • Wellness and recovery action plans: An employee has been diagnosed with a mental health illness. It has been suggested that we can develop with the employee a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan to assist them at work.

  • Provision of fresh drinking water: What are the options open to our business when providing fresh drinking water for our employees?

  • Sit-stand desks: Should we invest in sit-stand desks for our employees to promote better health?

  • Lighting levels: A member of staff has completed a display screen workstation checklist and has raised an issue with the lighting in the open-plan office.

Useful features

  • Mental Health Toolkit: Approximately one in six employees in every organisation is having mental health problems at any one time. Although employers cannot, of course, control all the factors that affect mental health, they have a key role in managing the working conditions that can have an influence on stress and mental wellbeing.

  • Help for your head — wellbeing and mental health: Wellbeing has consistently been shown to influence the efficiency of a workforce. The profile of mental health has risen dramatically over the past two years, but more needs to be done.

  • Achieving real returns on wellbeing at work: Wellbeing programmes at work such as those to encourage physical activity or healthier eating among staff, can be difficult to justify, particularly in challenging economic climates.

  • Investing in green offices to promote wellbeing: Organisations need to support and promote wellbeing — simply investing in green office initiatives can pay huge dividends.

  • Ways to eat well at work: Should employers be giving more thought to exactly what staff are eating during the working day, in the interests of boosting physical wellbeing, mental health and productivity?

  • Are you sitting comfortably? How to engage staff in improving musculoskeletal health.

  • How to administer psychological first aid: Psychological first aid can significantly reduce long-term emotional damage if employees are exposed to a traumatic event, such as a distressing workplace accident or a terrorist attack. Here we list the six essential steps to providing support after a traumatic incident.

Health Assured

If you need help on mental health and wellbeing issues, Health Assured offers the most comprehensive employee assistance programme (EAP) available today. Health Assured high quality counselling and specialist work–life support is delivered through an in-house team of 60 BACP accredited counsellors, supported by a network over more than 1650 active counsellors across the UK, with access to a further 4500 BACP counsellors. Their specialist service supports 9 million people throughout the UK, handling over 300,000 calls a year.

See www.healthassured.org.

Last reviewed 30 August 2018