The four pillars of workplace wellbeing: What does it mean for talent in a hybrid world?
- 7 Min Read
In this article, we explore the four pillars of wellbeing in the workplace, including tips on how HR can offer support in today’s new hybrid world.
Wellbeing in the workplace is important because it helps employees feel supported and productive at work. Organisations that promote workplace wellness help to prevent stress and burnout, and often experience higher performance and results.
But the wellbeing offering has changed since the pandemic and introduction of hybrid work. Flexibility is voted to be the number one expected benefit to come after hybrid working. It means HR leaders must understand how to adapt and iterate their wellbeing programmes for a less restrictive, more autonomous world.
The challenge organisations face today is implementing workplace wellbeing effectively into a hybrid setup. Potential and existing talent now consider company culture, L&D opportunities and workplace wellness as greater contributors in their decision to stay or go elsewhere.
In this article, we’ll cover the four pillars of workplace wellbeing and how HR professionals can manage them effectively in today’s hybrid world.
How has wellbeing changed?
Workplace wellbeing has accelerated to the top of the business agenda over the last two years. From something historically considered a focus only within the HR remit, workplace wellbeing is now a company-wide focus and priority for all business leaders.
We are now in another transition period with the shift to hybrid working. But this time, there is a layer of post-pandemic fatigue to consider: burnout, stress and resistance to returning to the office.
There are four pillars of workplace wellbeing that make up the overall happiness of their employees. Each HR leader should focus on implementing all four across organisations to help attract and retain their talent.
- Emotional wellbeing
- Financial wellbeing
- Physical wellbeing
- Social wellbeing
According to studies, 60 percent of employees reported concerns of stress and burnout last year, shining a light on the post-pandemic psychological toll. Mental wellness goes beyond virtual yoga and the Headspace app. Instead it is a change inward: company culture, communication and leadership.
Creating an inclusive work culture helps to support mental wellbeing for employees. The Financial Times and Wikimedia have been doing a lot of work in this space, focusing on building an inclusive workplace to support their employees – both new and existing.
Communicating the available mental health support is also vital. According to SilverCloud Health’s 2021 survey, two-thirds of employees have noticeable mental health symptoms of anxiety and depression. Similarly, a survey by McKinsey found that 9 out of 10 employers reported that the pandemic had negatively impacted the behaviour health of their overall workforce.
Here are some key ways to manage and implement mental and emotional wellness into your organisation:
- Survey your employees – understand what employees currently think about the company culture around mental health, and ways they think it can improve.
- Reduce stress – use survey results to understand areas that you can help employees reduce their stress and workload. Implement flexibility, talk to managers and add resources.
- Encourage time off and ‘fun time’ at work – employees who take time to recharge and reset will be more engaged and productive at work. Also making time for fun and social activites outside of work is important in triggering a positive emotional response to work.
- Train leadership – equipping leaders with the know-how on how to spot and have mental health conversations is crucial. Not all employees will come forward, so offering them a safe environment and person to talk to will help.
- Employee assistance programmes – EAPs can be a powerful way to help employees reduce stress in their lives outside of work, for example juggling childcare responsibilities.
A well-thought-out financial wellbeing programme can offer many benefits. It can be a major contributor to attracting and retaining talent, and also be a key driver of productivity.
Studies suggest that 63 percent of employees say that their financial stress has increased since the pandemic. These same employees want support from their organisations. Without this support, 72 percent of people would apparently look for a role elsewhere.
What does financial wellbeing look like today?
Employees want support. A recent SHRM study found that only 1 in 4 organisations added or expanded benefits to help employees with their finances since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, 74 percent said there were no changes to benefits at all to help their employees.
This might be down to the fact that organisations are unsure on how to help. Here’s some financial wellness areas to focus on for this year and the future:
- Retirement – employees rank this as one of the most important financial wellbeing benefits that organisations can offer.
- Emergency funds – these can be things like payroll advances or emergency savings funded through payroll deductions.
- Education benefits – this covers areas such as tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment and learning and development budgets for employees to grow within their role.
- Financial planning and coaching – regular sessions can be a huge benefit to help employees focus on their financial future. It can cover areas such as investments, mortgages, budgeting, debt and credit management.
Physical wellbeing is intrinsically linked to other aspects of wellbeing, including mental, emotional and social. Improving it will help employees have a happier and healthier work-life balance, and be more productive, engaged and want to stay.
But after two years of home working, it can feel tricky to get right as people readjust to the office again. Here’s some ways you can promote physical wellbeing for your employees in a hybrid world:
- Ensure your office is well-equipped – equip the office with the correct equipment that helps people stay engaged and attracts them back into the office.
- Encourage meetings away from office desks – much like the last two years, ask if you can have walking meetings or meetings outside, and foster a culture where employees take the time to workout or go to the gym on their office days.
- Encourage healthy foods – as people return to the office, they no longer have their fridge within walking distance. Encourage healthy lunches and snacks in the office to promote healthier lifestyles.
Our shift to remote working in 2020 saw an initial but significant jump in productivity. People transitioned to home workspaces overnight, and switched to virtual communication platforms to both maintain social relationships as well as align together on work.
But as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted, this productivity jump was a result of social capital built up over time in the office pre-pandemic. Those social relationships set the floor for a smooth transition to remote working.
Now, that social capital has depleted with the lack of in-person interaction and relationship maintenance. Many feel disengaged from work, resulting in less productivity and results.
As we return to the office, it’s key for HR leaders to create an environment for meaningful relationships to grow. You can see this in both Hitachi and Audible’s switch to hybrid, where their focus on reimagining the workplace is aimed at both encouraging collaboration but also rebuilding social connection.
HR leaders must also be aware of the potential gap between people ‘in the office’ and ‘out of the office’. Hybrid working risks creating a dominant class of those who feel engaged with the office and those who prefer to work remotely. To combat this, leaders must think strategically about how they aim to rebuild social capital in a fair way, including existing, new and onboarding employees.
As we move further away from the pandemic and into the future way of working, the limelight will continue to shine on employee wellness. This time however, HR have more room and budget to play with than ever before.
It’s important that benefits that support workplace wellness aren’t just easy or temporary fixes. Instead, HR and business leaders should be looking at how to make the most impact. To do this, wellness programmes should be reflective of company values and employee voice, authentic and competitive if organisations are to continue to attract and retain talent.