Careers

The benefits of workplace wellness

Dec 01, 2017
Organisations big and small are realising the advantages of workplace wellness programmes, for the business and the employee.

Workplace wellness programmes can be extremely effective in helping employees look after their mental health and sustain a healthy lifestyle, while also having significant benefits  the organisation. Failing to take time to create a happy and healthy workplace can put employees at risk of absenteeism, high stress levels and a decrease in productivity. It’s for these reasons that investing in workplace wellness has become a common trend for many modern businesses. 

Benefits

In the past, corporate wellness programmes have often been viewed as something that is ‘nice to have’, but not a necessity. According to the ESRI, work-related stress, anxiety and depression is the second highest cause of illness in the Irish workplace. There is a greater risk of this for those working for extended periods, in particular those working over 50 hours per week.

While a professional services career is extremely rewarding, those rewards often come with hard work which include long hours, hectic periods and heavy workloads. Wanting to do their best for their clients while still being able to switch off when not at work, is a balance many employees struggle with, particularly those in junior positions. For these staff members, it is not just about the hours they put in, but also the need to experience fulfilment and job satisfaction throughout the workday. Studies show that there is a strong link between workplace well-being and employee productivity, retention and all-round happiness. Focusing on workplace wellness, offering employee perks and additional well-being benefits is a key growth driver in recruiting and retaining top talent.

Workplace well-being

Recognising potential health and well-being issues in the workplace and addressing them before they become a serious problem is essential. This is why it is so important to create an environment where employees feel confident and secure.

Earlier in the year, speaking on the on the new National Healthy Workplace Framework initiative, Biddy O’Neill, Health Promotion Manager in the HSE, said, “The concept of a healthy workplace is coming up more and more in the corporate social responsibility and health and safety areas.... We want to look at the culture of organisations. It is a question of trust and ethics – where on the agenda is health and well-being? There are benefits for both employees and employers but the challenge is to get it embedded.”
Wellness initiatives should offer a variety of programmes which can include yoga classes, lunchtime seminars addressing everything from nutrition to stress management to financial well-being, first-aid classes, fitness challenges, meditation, and counselling or health screenings and assessments.  

At Glandore, we have found that changes in workspace design can also have a positive impact on workplace wellness. Focusing on elements such as ergonomic office furniture, light settings, natural light points, thermal comforts and air quality are simple measures companies can take to ensure employee health and well-being. Encouraging flexi-hours and regular breaks, offering healthy food options and creating breakout and social spaces to encourage employees to take time away from the desk are also some ways in which companies can foster wellness. 

Getting it right

In recent years, some firms have taken a greater part in raising awareness. Mental health, well-being and stress are all major concerns for those working in the professional services industries, and more and more companies are starting to quantify the proven benefits of well-being for employees. 

According to Jessica Carmody, Chair of KPMG’s Be Mindful network, KPMG’s leadership team promotes open support, awareness, and learning in order to create change for the better. KPMG also offers access to BeWell, their employee assistance programme.

Deloitte is also on board. They recently published research which states that “greater public awareness, increasing political attention and an increased emphasis on employer responsibilities are driving an increased interest in workplace mental health and well-being.’ Their wellness programme, aptly named Unplugged, addresses the physical and psychological components of well-being by offering information sessions and programmes on a subsidised basis, while their Equilibrium programme aims to offer a more balanced working week for their employees.

KPMG and Deloitte aren’t the only companies acknowledging the significant part that employee well-being plays in the productivity and performance of a business. In January of this year, PwC launched their new employee health and well-being initiative, Boost. 

Michelle Heron, HR Consultant at PwC Ireland said, “PwC recognises that performance in work is directly linked to a healthy body and mind.” 

The case can be made that some companies only encourage wellness in the workplace on an occasional basis but Heron pointed out that their wellness programme is “ongoing throughout the year, not just for Workplace Wellness Day.”

Having a corporate well-being programme is also a driving factor when it comes to our future leaders deciding to which company they will work. A recent survey by PwC found that 95% of millennials listed well-being in a job as “very important” to them.
Companies like EY also recognise the importance of assisting their employees when it comes to financial well-being. According to a report published by EY in September 2017, 30% of employees said they think about personal finances while on the job and more than half of them said they would be more productive without such worries. Their survey showed that those who offer financial wellness plans saw a direct correlation to employee well-being, retention and productivity.

It’s not only multinationals who can implement a wellness programme within a workplace. Businesses of any size can create and sustain a successful workplace health and wellness programme that delivers results. Personal tax advisory company Fenero state that “although we deal in finance and figures, we are a very people-focused business.” Through initiatives such as offering employees monthly health checks, weekly fresh fruit deliveries, pedometer challenges and mindfulness sessions, Fenero was chosen as a Small Business Winner in the Nutrition & Health Foundation National Workplace Well-being Awards. 

At Glandore, we list wellness as one of our core values and completed a successful and balanced wellness programme for all of our member companies during 2017. We believe that working in an environment where one feels safe, respected, and valued, where the demands of the job are reasonable, and where growth and interpersonal development are supported are most important for well-being in the workplace. Because of this, we have achieved high engagement levels and increased productivity among members.

For organisations, it is crucial to give priority to health and wellness in order to move toward a culture that proactively manages mental well-being. When it comes to implementation, creating a company culture of health and well-being must come from the top down. A leader who is passionate and persuasive about the well-being of their employees will ultimately result in a more engaged workforce. If employees see their manager, partner or CEO getting involved in well-being initiatives, they will feel more encouraged to take part.

Clare Kelly is the Marketing and Business Development Director at Glandore.