How to trigger a wellbeing culture change in your organisation
- 6 Min Read
Ama Afrifa-Tchie outlines 3 ways HR can support employees work life balance and wellbeing, while meeting the needs of the business.
The pandemic exposed and exacerbated social, economic, and health inequalities for many of us. While some individuals were able to use the pandemic as a catalyst for positive lifestyle change, others faced and continue to face, concerns over job security and financial wellbeing.
As we navigate further into a hybrid world, HR’s top priority should be to create a culture of care that supports employees work life balance and wellbeing, while meeting the needs of the business. How do we create the right balance to help people, keeping policies that work and adapting and changing those that don’t? Employers and HR leaders have a responsibility to design working practices fit for a changed environment and create a culture of care that supports employees navigating the new working world. Employee wellbeing and organisational performance can and must, go hand in hand.
What factors are challenging employee wellbeing?
A recent WHO report discovered that the pandemic caused serious anxiety and depression in 25% of people worldwide. Women, who already face several other challenges in the workplace, were affected by this more than men.
People who are Black or from a Minority Ethnic background were also more likely to have had experiences during the pandemic that have contributed to poor mental health. South Asian and Black employees are more likely to have experienced a bereavement or traumatic personal experience (14%), while Black people are more likely to have had personal finance concerns (41%) In the UK alone, the number of adults who reported a significant level of psychological distress increased by almost 10% during the pandemic.
Mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £117.9 billion annually, according to a new report published by Mental Health Foundation and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). For employers, it has never been more imperative to create a culture of wellbeing at work that supports people as they adapt to working life in 2022.
1 – Encourage teams to communicate openly and frequently
Many employees have decided to go back to the office, having missed the collaborative and social atmosphere that comes with being in the workplace. Others still choose to work from home. For employers, it can be a challenge to maintain a consistent, collaborative atmosphere when they do not know if their employees will be in the office or not.
It is important for organisations to encourage teams to communicate openly and frequently. Making the time to socialise with people from across the organisation can help people see the bigger picture, stay connected, and boost morale. Events such as coffee mornings, or virtual team activities such as a Desert Island Favourites team session can work well.
Our own MHFA England research found that 44% of employees found team building activities – such as group quizzes and virtual social gatherings – helped to improve their wellbeing. There is also research that has found that employees are 13% more productive when they are happy, so boosting team morale benefits businesses too.
Regularly checking in with employees on an individual level is also key in keeping people happy, healthy and productive. Despite this, our research found that nearly half of all employees (48%) had no wellbeing check-in from their employer in the past year. The My Whole Self MOT is a simple, free tool to help people look after their own and others’ mental health and wellbeing.
2 – Remain agile
If there is one thing HR leaders have learnt from the pandemic, it is that circumstances can change at any moment. The way people are choosing to work continues to change. Organisations must ensure they are continually evaluating how they operate, to understand if their ways of working are keeping up with those of their employees.
For HR leaders being agile means listening to what employees and managers are telling you about their working experiences and adapting company policies accordingly. Staff surveys can be a useful tool for understanding the current picture from hybrid and flexible working, to social events and the induction process, gathering opinion is important as is having open and honest conversations.
Create dynamic working environments
Not all workplaces are able to offer hybrid working, but this does not mean that a flexible and dynamic work environment cannot be created. Offering flexibility with things such working hours can help build trust between employer and employee and allow people to work in a way that suits their needs.
As every organisation is different, it is important for employers to engage, consult and review with staff every step of the way, making the framework for flexible working clear, and talking to employees about what works best for them while balancing the organisation’s needs.
3 – Create a culture of wellbeing
Creating a working culture that prioritises mental health and wellbeing is key to retaining and attracting the best talent. Any significant culture change in an organisation needs to start from the top. It is the responsibility of senior leadership to lead the way in creating a safe, supportive and healthy working environment. No one should feel like they must hide parts of their identity at work– be that their cultural or ethnic background, gender identity, caring responsibilities, sexuality, disability, or health.
Things will not be the same as they were before. This gives us a huge opportunity to change things for the better. Being adaptable, listening to your people and trialing new things will be the key for any business that wants to thrive long into the future.
Our new workplace diagnostic tool, Startwell helps organisations unlock the value of positive employee mental health. We work with businesses to understand the nuances of their workplace and give an honest evaluation of company culture and the collective mental health of employees. We then build a roadmap of actionable and achievable recommendations to help you motivate, train and educate your people.
For further support and advice, visit MHFA England’s website: https://mhfaengland.org/
Ama Afrifa-Tchie – Head of People, Wellbeing & Equity at MHFA England, is a valiant cultural builder, whose specialism spans across people experience, workplace culture, diversity & inclusion, mental health and wellbeing and corporate responsibility.