4 ways to foster well-being at work

January 18, 2023

Fostering employee well-being has a critical impact on your team's satisfaction, motivation, and productivity. But what concretely can you do to improve it?

Gökçe Bulgan

Table of Content

Fostering well-being at work is a necessity considering the high rates of burnout and other mental health issues experienced in today’s workforce. For example, according to the McKinsey report, in which data was collected from 15,000 employees and 1,000 HR decision-makers in 15 countries, one in four employees surveyed indicated experiencing symptoms of burnout. Furthermore, the same report specified a 22% gap between employer and employee perceptions of mental health and well-being in the workplace with employers’ ratings indicating a more positive perspective than that of employees.

There are numerous ways to promote employee well-being and the most effective strategies for your company would depend on the needs and preferences of your employees. First, let’s start by defining what employee well-being is.

What is employee well-being?

Employee well-being is an employee's mental, emotional, and physical health and overall happiness. When an employee feels that the company, they are working for is actively supporting their mental, emotional, and physical health, they are more likely to work happier and contribute to the company’s overall mission.

How a company actively supports employee well-being could depend on the level of access to mental and physical healthcare they provide their employees with, the opportunities for professional development they offer, and what they are doing on an ongoing basis to support a healthy work environment.

Why does employee well-being matter?

A genuine focus on employee well-being can benefit both the employee and the company, such as increased productivity, lower absenteeism, reduced turnover, and improved work satisfaction.

For example, when employees are happy and healthy, they are more likely to be engaged with their work, which increases productivity. Similarly, when employees feel supported and valued by the company, they are more likely to stay with that organization. Now, let’s explore how to foster well-being at work.

How could we improve well-being at work?

1. Start talking about mental health and well-being as an organization. As a starting point, if you would like to improve well-being in a company, it first needs to be acknowledged by everyone involved. Let’s accept it, whether we are struggling with it or thriving, we all have mental health and well-being. Depending on what we are going through in life, our well-being fluctuates.

To improve employee well-being, everyone in the company needs to be on board with acknowledging and openly communicating issues related to mental health and well-being.

This could be as simple as asking our employees and co-workers how they are, what they are struggling with, and how we could help. Then, really listening to their response, being empathetic in our response back, and showing that we care by taking the necessary actions.

Sometimes we struggle to find the words or are afraid to say something wrong and end up not asking at all. In times like these, we could say something like: “I’ve noticed that you look upset today. Would you like to talk about it?” or “Feel free to tell me if I’m crossing a line, but I’ve noticed that you seem distracted lately. I could listen if you want to talk.” In other words, we could gently share an observation and extend an invitation to talk. It is up to the person to share or not.

Leaders and co-workers are not therapists. We all know that. The reason we are inviting people to share their struggles is so that they do not feel the need to pretend that everything is fine when it is not. We are human. It is okay to accept that we struggle from time to time. When we accept that, we have a higher chance of getting the help we need.

Similarly, when we normalize talking about mental health at work, we would be able to recognize that a co-worker might be struggling and help them get connected to the right resources much earlier. If you’d like to know how to hold conversations about mental health with employees, have a look at a blog post I have written earlier on how to support employees with their mental health.

2. Asking employees what they need and prefer when it comes to fostering well-being at work. Asking is a better strategy than assuming. Giving employees a needs assessment to measure what they are struggling with and directly asking which resources they prefer to support their well-being at work would be beneficial. Paying attention to anonymity while data collection through surveys would help the employees feel comfortable being open and honest with their responses.

Employees might be struggling with anxiety or depression and might appreciate paid mental health support. They might have a child and could appreciate the flexibility of their working hours allowing them to drop off their child to kindergarten or pick them up from school at the end of the day.

Others might need working arrangements related to helping them focus on their work such as meeting-free days, adjustments with sound or lighting, or a team-friendly ‘do not disturb’ sign when they are doing deep work.

3. Providing access to resources for improving well-being. As employee well-being requires an all-inclusive approach to the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of all members of the organization, providing access to relevant resources would be necessary.

For example, partnering with a company such as Likeminded for employee, team, and organizational level professional support for mental and emotional well-being would be the way to go.

For physical well-being, giving all employees easy access to healthy food in the office and gym memberships or pre-paid classes for their choice of sport would be helpful. There are multiple ways to promote well-being and asking the employees first and then collaborating with companies offering the best evidence-based resources to support their need and preferences would be effective.

4. Promoting psychological safety at work. As toxic work environments could lead to chronic stress for employees, it is crucial to promote psychological safety within the organization to foster mental health and well-being. Psychological safety in the workplace refers to employees feeling safe to express their viewpoints and concerns without fear of consequences. When employees feel psychologically safe at work, they are more open and honest with each other, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, innovate quickly, and better adapt to change.

Promoting psychological safety at work is an ongoing process such as building trust in a relationship. Factors that contribute to developing psychological safety in the workplace include but are not limited to having:

· open communication and feedback within the organization,

· transparency and clarity regarding expectations,

· leaders and employees working on their own mental health and well-being,

· collaboration over competition,

· respectful, professional, and supportive ways of addressing conflicts,

· training and mentoring to empower employees to develop their skills and competencies.

To summarize, fostering well-being at work is a collaborative process that involves everyone in the organization. Considering both the employees’ and leaders’ perspectives and coming up with solutions that incorporate everyone’s interests at heart would be worthwhile.

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