A growing number of organisations are shifting their focus from ‘supporting the employee’ programs to initiatives that positively encourage well-being.
It’s all in a bid to tackle elements such as the workforce’s emotional and mental health which, in turn, feed into a sense of fulfilment on the job.
Why is this trending?
Because more programs that encourage well-being not only have a positive impact on employees’ well-being, they also lead to a significant increase in the team’s cohesiveness, engagement and productivity.
Research produced by Tower Watson[i] has determined that a healthy and happy workforce can reduce costs. By reducing leave days caused by disability or unplanned sickness, costs go down by more than $1,600 per employee.
Five Ways To Increase Health And Wellbeing In The Workplace
To reap the benefits of having a healthy and happy team, follow these five initiatives, all tried and tested in the workplace.
1. Cultivate A Deep Sense Of Purpose And Contribution
Growth, success and financial reward can seem meaningless when there's no purpose. A ‘Well-being Strategy’ that engages employees in meaningful causes that enables them to ‘give back’ creates a fulfilling work life.
The opportunity for employees to contribute softens the harder corporate culture and helps to encourage a more meaningful purpose other than just getting the job done and leaving on the dot.
An UK based bank employee Jude Thorn had his investment in voluntary work pay off. Jude volunteered as a mentor to low-income people in the South London area, by teaching them financial knowledge, once a week.
After one class a young woman went up to speak to him. She said that she was inspired by what he’d taught and, consequently, she had reorganised her finances, got herself out of debt and had launched a wedding cake business.
She was excited because she had her first job coming up that weekend. She went on to explain that she was trying to make a better life for her and her children.
Jude said that because she had taking everything he had taught her, she was able to step out of the poverty cycle. Not only was it a big change for his student but also for Jude. He explained that it was probably the high point of his life knowing that he’d actually made a difference in someone’s future.
Of course his knowledge and teaching skill had come from his profession. So, there’s the sweet spot for anyone wanting to find fulfilment and purpose through their job.
2. Create Flexible Working Arrangements
OMG, if I’d had flexible working arrangements at the company I’d worked for when my children were young, I would have been the happiest and most productive employee this side of the Atlantic.
Of course, not everyone can work from home effectively. But it’s so much easier now with real time communications, live video, cloud processes etc.
For those who can work flexibly it can lead to a huge boost in productivity. It also provides an emotional and a mental break from slogging on a long commute and being stuck in the office. And, as an employee, you feel valued and trusted.
If it's possible for your work culture, give your employees the option to work from home one day a week. It’s pretty traditional now for Fridays to see empty offices and this turns the drag of commuting five days a week to a manageable four. Then, be prepared to see both a boost in productivity and morale.
3. Mindfulness Training
Implementing mindfulness training for your employees can help them feel more balanced, relieve stress, enhance efficiency and – surprisingly - increase productivity as their focus becomes more attuned to day-to-day work.
We are all mindful to some extent i.e. bringing our attention into the present moment. But with practice we can increase that.
Mindfulness training literally re-sculpts the brain. It can help employees discover a state of mind in which they are present, focused and aware of what’s going on around them. It helps to clear the mind and focus on what’s important. Jobs that do a lot of mental thinking are particularly helped with mindfulness. The benefit is to everyone: the employee, their colleagues, the clients and to the organisation.
My mindfulness training offers tools to help you clear your mind; focus on what's important so you're at your best every day.
People who have experienced mindfulness training report that as a result they have:
Increased self awareness
Able to handle their moods more effectively
As a result become less emotional at work
Enhanced focus on the job
But have more energy
Enthusiasm and creativity are increased
Higher self confidence
Feel more in tune with a life purpose at work
Can you imagine if you implemented a mindfulness training program in your organisation that you could look forward to these results?
Mindfulness expert Mirabai Bush introduced it to Google. He sums it up:
"Introducing mindfulness into the workplace does not prevent conflict from arising or difficult issues from coming up. But when difficult issues do arise... they are more likely to be skilfully acknowledged, held, and responded to by the group. Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop the inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying, and stressful situations with more ease, comfort, and grace.
Becoming more aware of your own emotions as they arise gives you more choice in how to deal with them. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of an arising emotion by noticing the sensation in the body. Then you can follow these guidelines: stop what you are doing. Breathe deeply. Notice how you are experiencing the emotion in your body. Reflect on where the emotion is coming from in your mind (personal history, insecurity, etc.). Respond in the most compassionate way."
4. On-Site Fitness Programs
Millions of us spend half our waking hours at sedentary office jobs and its not good for us. The connection between illness and long periods of sitting first emerged in the 50’s, when it was found that London bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues.
It’s been suggested that excessive sitting slows the metabolism and this affects our ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. It also slows the way we metabolise fat and it weakens muscles and bones.
However, moving through the day can help to lower the risk of getting any of these health problems. Not only that but physical activity is brilliant for lifting the mood which helps increase both longevity and work productivity.
Any organisation that can incorporate some way for staff to get more exercise can expect them to feel better and perform better.
These can range from guided yoga classes, stress management seminars, standing desks to full-scale on-site fitness centres.
After a long day sat at the desk, a jaunt to the gym doesn’t have much appeal. Why not set up exercise programs and fitness centres in the workplace? Bringing fitness to the office makes good sense especially as millions of us work half our lives at the office and find it increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Putting such fitness programs into place encourages people to get active and improve overall health. By setting up group exercise at work, it becomes a great stress release as well as making more time for doing other things after hours.
5. A Gratitude Practice
If you’ve implemented a mindfulness program, it stands to reason that a “Gratitude In Action Program” (GIAP) is the natural follow on.
We’re taught to say this from the time we learn to talk. It’s as common as “Yes Please.” But nowadays many of us tend to dismiss it as an unnecessary gesture. So, how does this seemingly insignificant expression have the power to change employees or an organisation in a profoundly positive way?
Actually, it’s one of the easiest things you can do to transform your work environment. And that’s what this guide is all about.
Let’s define the terms. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, gratitude is “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” It’s a universally understood principle.
Gratitude is written about, discussed and focused on the impact of gratitude on individuals. However, gratitude can also play a fundamental role in energizing teams and organizations to produce these three benefits:
Develop a healthier corporate culture
Improve employees’ well-being, productivity and job fulfilment
Support manager/employee and peer/peer relationships
Here are three ways this can be implemented
Firstly, aim to nurture employee’s personal development and then celebrate their growth. Examples of this are to address knowledge gaps, enhance skills, learn new ones, tackle self-awareness or increase esteem at work. By celebrating employee’s growth and personal development as a show of respect and appreciation, this generates expressions of gratitude.
Secondly, honor employees who go over and beyond their job role especially when they’ve demonstrated a selfless act.
Thirdly, showing appreciation to other groups of people or organisations that have selflessly gone beyond the call of duty. This often happens with the Fire, Police and Ambulance Services.
By one organisation showing appreciation for another, this cultivates gratitude at the cultural core which, in turn, that increases positive employee engagement in the host organisation.
When employees show gratitude for a workplace, that celebrates gratitude from the ground up, you’ve cracked it.
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