Employee Wellbeing - the why, the importance and the solutions YOU can implement
Here at Parfournen, we try not to bombard you with reminders of the global pandemic we find ourselves in right now, but it really is important to acknowledge the effect that COVID-19 and its restrictions, could be having on you as an employee or employer. Several people I've spoken to describe how they are finding it difficult to stay focus on tasks when working from home, or that simple jobs take them twice as long, or that they are struggling to prioritise and cope with their workload when they would 'normally' (if you can even remember what the 'normal' times before COVID were!) have done so. Other describe a more emotional response to the situation; struggling to control emotions including stress, anger and anxiety. Yet others seem less affected.
Therefore, the short answer to the title of this article, is not that ‘more people have lower wellbeing’ right now, but that there is a greater mix of individual responses to the situation we find ourselves in today.
Explanation 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow created this triangle to help depict the rankings of an individual’s needs. In short, the individual cannot progress to the next ‘stage’ if the current needs are not met. At the bottom of the triangle are the basic physiological needs we need to survive, such as food, water, warmth, shelter, and sleep. And here is where we find our first problem:
During COVID-19 people have experienced shortages of food (or at least perceived there to be on), perhaps less sleep due to stress, and the tightening of purses.
This unique situation we find ourselves in shows how the basic needs of people, perhaps including some of your colleagues or employees, are not being met. For some, those needs were being met, and therefore their next stage of wellbeing was the feeling of safety and security. The pandemic took that away, or at least tested the boundaries or this stage, and so here’s our next problem:
The workspace is somewhere that can be controlled, to ensure employees feel safe with the regulations and restrictions etc, and therefore the employee’s wellbeing in terms of their safety is more important than ever.
And yet, as explained earlier, some people will have had their basic needs met and won’t have an underlying fear of COVID-19, moving them towards the higher stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy. This also moves workers towards aspects that are more controllable for you, and opportunities for you to facilitate their improved wellbeing.
Explanation 2: Forced Change
The second explanation for why employee wellbeing is so important right now is down to the fast pace changes we have experienced since March 2020, when, within a week, things can do a U-turn and we can find ourselves in a completely different situation. One major forced change is the adaptation to remote working with new technology. This has forced people into two realisations:
a) Their preferences over working life conditions; in the office, versus working from home in their own space, versus a mixture of both
b) Businesses realised the need for digital methods of communication with customers, suppliers, staff members and teams, as well as the fact that it can work.
However, these forced changes and realisations also came with many effects including instability (that of financial and job security), social isolation, and an increased fear for the health of themselves and loved ones. These situations of ‘acute stress’ can lead to long-term negative health outcomes that include depression, anxiety, pain and lower quality of life. With staff working online, it is more important than ever to provide health and wellness resources for your employees.
When it comes to the transition back to the office, encouraging resilience in employees is key. We don't know when or where or how the pandemic will be over, so you must emerge as a workforce that is strong, productive, and mentally and physically healthy. The more tools that employers can give their staff to navigate this forced change, the better for everyone.
Explanation 3: Money Matters
Low productivity is one of the largest impacting outcomes of poor employee wellbeing. In the UK, there was a rise in productivity loss among the 200+ UK employers that were surveyed (Van Stolk, 2020). In 2013, employees each lost an average of 9.3% of working days yet in 2019, levels were recorded to be at 14.7% of working days lost per employee – most of which was presenteeism (people are less productive at work while unwell).
Given these statistics, it is understandable that business processes, resilience and performance have suffered over the past 12 months. Therefore, from a business survival and growth point of view, employee wellbeing is essential at giving the organisation the change to access this growth. Building a sense of community among your workforce can not only lead to successful business outcomes but also help fight isolation and loneliness thereby helping your colleague's mental and physical health.
If the fact that happier employees and increased revenue come from improved wellbeing doesn't catch your attention, then maybe this will: putting the time into ensuring your employee's wellbeing is of good levels, will save you costs. Well-being programs that are well-organised and follow effective behaviour change models are the most effective at saving your business health care costs. Those behaviours can last years – a lifetime if regularly practised – meaning your employees spend less time off work and more time getting your business towards achieving your objectives.
So what’s the solution?
Well, in short, some form of tailored well-being program that Parfournen can help you provide, as employers.
- Working on the top two brackets of the Hierarchy of Needs
1. Control the controllable
COVID-19 is largely uncontrollable from an employer’s point of view therefore it is important to not rest too much emphasis on predicting outcomes. What you can do though, is encourage employees to share how they are affected by it, cope with it and made changes to their lives, so that everyone has a greater understanding on what they, as individuals, can control and do themselves to improve their emotional wellbeing.
2. Emphasise healthy habits – be proactive and preventative
Anyone can show healthy behaviours, but those who create healthy habits will have fewer health risks, chronic diseases and ultimately improved wellbeing. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that for every 1% drop in total cholesterol, the risk of having a heart attack dropped by 2-3%, and the healthy habits introduced by Parfournen around exercise and nutrition can help with this. You could also check out our previous blog about how to maintain your healthy habits!
Providing that routine structure can help reduce presenteeism. Therefore, rather than dealing with the effects and outcome of low levels of wellbeing, employers should focus more from the preventative side of negative health. The most common reason for an increase in the rate of high presenteeism is not eating healthily, followed by not exercising (Merrill et al, 2012). These findings demonstrate that poor health behaviours are causational factors of presenteeism, low productivity, and therefore low levels of wellbeing. The same study produced findings showing the health conditions that most affect the increase in the rate of high presenteeism. This data emphasises the need for wellbeing programs to be enrolled by employers. Parfournen can massively help to reduce these health conditions with the experience the company has and tools the coaches can help implement.
3. It’s about more than exercise and nutrition
Those who work remotely will already know this, but sometimes employers should emphasise this point more: a routine is everything. Making it easier for employees to schedule in movement, exercise, lunch breaks, time with family, drinks break etc is so important and easy to do. For example, a simple rule of their having to be a minimum of a 10-minute break between calls and meetings will allow employees to do this and prevent over scheduling. The sessions and talks could also be part of a routine that allows your workforce to regularly reflect and check-in with themselves increased the chances of them having high levels of wellbeing.
That's why employee wellbeing is more important than ever. If in the current uncontrollable and ever-changing circumstances we find ourselves in, you can maintain your employee's wellbeing, the business objectives, employee satisfaction rates, retention rates and employee productivity will all be better off for it. In other words, if your employees are okay now, your business will be okay later.
If this has been at all helpful or you’re interested in how Parfournen can help achieve the above, whether you’re an employee or employer (or self-employed even!), drop us an email or a LinkedIn message.
Check out our previous blog that explains how to make the most out of your employees this year!