Last reviewed 1 July 2022

The wellbeing of employees has never been more important than it is now. After the difficulties of the pandemic, which is still not entirely behind us, many employees have been left feeling drained — mentally, physically and financially. Employers are recognising the impact of this on the performance of their workforce, and targeting policies, benefits and working practices at helping employees to recover and thrive.

But it’s not just employees who have struggled. Businesses are faced with a number of problems, including rising energy prices, increased costs, lack of supply of goods, and funding problems due to inflation, amongst other issues. They may have the best of intentions to promote and support staff wellbeing, but what if there are not the funds spare to do this?

In this article, we look at wellbeing on a budget: simple measures employers can implement for the better health of their staff that won’t break the bank.

Focusing on wellbeing

The CIPD 2022 Health and Wellbeing at Work survey identified the top three benefits of an increased focus on employee wellbeing as:

  • a healthier and more inclusive culture

  • better work-life balance

  • better employee morale and engagement.

Therefore, employers have a lot to gain through better employee wellbeing.

According to the CIPD, there are seven key areas of employee wellbeing. Highlighting these as areas to focus efforts on, we offer ideas to increase wellbeing in your business.

1. Health

This encompasses physical and mental health and safety and can be supported by:

  • promoting healthy eating — sharing information about healthy choices, recipe swapping and tasting sessions

  • holding walking meetings — can employees that work remotely get out in the fresh air for the daily team meeting and use a handsfree device?

  • establishing mental health champions, mental health first aiders and encouraging conversations about mental ill health

  • enquiring with local charities what support they might be able to offer

  • introducing company exercise challenges — which team can travel the furthest using free distance tracking and logging apps? This not only encourages healthy behaviours but also healthy competition and teamwork.

2. Good work

Employees need engaging work that allows them to contribute and progress, that is balanced and manageable without unnecessary stress. This can include:

  • flexible working options to ease pressures from an employee’s personal life, such as commuting costs

  • management training to ensure good line management

  • internal development programmes and leadership training to support employees in their current roles and to work towards their future

  • starting an employee recognition scheme that employees themselves can contribute to

  • promoting work-life balance — leading from the front is beneficial to this, so encourage senior leaders to share how they achieve balance.

3. Values/principles

Environmental social governance is important to employees. They want to know they work for a “good” company, that shares their values, such as protecting the environment and charitable works.

Initiatives include:

  • developing a volunteering initiative — give employees a day off to participate in charitable works and set up a charity committee of employees to find ways staff can volunteer or arrange charity events

  • backing diversity and inclusion with diversity training days and diversity-friendly workforce policies, such as hours which suit working mothers

  • holding a staff wellbeing day with ideas on how to improve wellbeing.

4. Collective/social

Employees who feel comfortable with those around them, are included and able to be their authentic self are more likely to thrive. Initiatives to encourage socialisation amongst colleagues include:

  • setting up opportunities that encourage employees to mingle informally. Authentic friendships at work can be a big contributor to wellbeing, so think of ways that can encourage these to form, such as shared interest groups and after-work meet ups

  • team hikes

  • a board game tournament

  • a sports tournament

  • running an open forum to hear employees’ feedback when making a decision that will affect everyone in the business.

5. Personal growth

Naturally, people want to grow and develop themselves. Enabling staff to do this can significantly contribute to employee wellbeing, and can include:

  • arranging topical webinars and inviting guest speakers to deliver them, and also contacting prominent figures in your industry to give talks or run seminars

  • mentoring from peers or employees in other departments, allowing development, knowledge sharing or upskilling

  • holding resilience training to improve personal development.

6. Good lifestyle choices

Good lifestyle choices contribute significantly to wellbeing, and employers can support employees (in a non-patronising way) to achieve significant health and wellbeing benefits.

Here are some ways to encourage staff wellbeing.

  • Offer a space for group workout sessions — perhaps a room with a video display for YouTube fitness videos.

  • Provide bike parking and changing facilities to encourage taking a bike to work.

  • If there is a canteen, offer and promote healthy choices.

  • Run weekly/monthly cooking or recipe sharing clubs.

7. Financial wellbeing

A person’s financial situation will have a huge impact on their wellbeing, and stress from money worries can have a significant impact on job performance.

As well as paying their wages, you can go a step further and support employees in making sensible financial decisions. Some ideas are:

  • holding workdays focused on finances and saving

  • signposting debt counselling services

  • setting up “swap shops” where employees can swap goods they no longer want or need, such as clothes or furniture, with their colleagues.

Implementing your plans

Having ideas is one thing; implementing them is the crucial step. Effective take-up of wellbeing initiatives will come from engaging employees with these ideas, promoting what is available and making sure everything is in place for the initiatives to be successful.

This will not need a significant financial investment, but it will take time to do properly, which can take employees away from their day-to-day jobs for a short time. The gains to be had from increased health and wellbeing, however, are more than likely going to outweigh short- term disruption caused by staff working on, or using, your wellbeing initiatives.