The culture of engagement is becoming increasingly linked to mental health, wellbeing and stress in the workplace. Fitbit’s offices in Dublin was the very appropriate location for our recent HR leaders roundtable on this engaging topic. It was with some relief that the roundtable participants weren’t required to run on the Fitbit’s office treadmills during the event!
Health factors are becoming a growing concern owing to the fact that both working hours and workplaces are becoming increasingly fluid. This fluidity is exacerbated by the technological double-edged sword. Technology now allows us be constantly connected to work and be contacted anywhere at any time. While this means we are less tied to having to be in the office, it also makes it difficult to shut off and recuperate.
The HR leaders at the roundtable event all felt that employee engagement and health need to be very much at the forefront of a HR (and business) leader’s planning for the future.
Why is Workplace Wellbeing So Important?
Managing health conditions affecting employees and their families is causing employer healthcare costs to spiral out of control. A report from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) estimated that worldwide, the cost of unwell workers represents 10-15% of global economic output. Smart employers know that healthier employees take fewer sick days, perform at their best and go the extra mile to improve their company’s performance.
More and more, the workplace environment and how this aligns with wellbeing and health in workplace are being considered by emerging talent when they are making the decision on their next career move. Many people are now looking to develop their careers within credible organisations but equally align this with work/life balance, values and a desire to make world a better (and healthier) place.
A further challenge is that our definition and criteria for wellness or wellbeing at work differs between generations, so creating a one-size-fits-all approach is difficult. Some millennials want to know their company (and managers) care about their personal wellness and that their work has a positive impact on people’s lives. Gen X/Baby Boomers on the other hand are more concerned about things such as being able to choose their own projects and work paths, having childcare assistance, and nutritional counselling. Monetary reward and retention programs are no longer the sole drivers for employees and ensuring loyalty.
Some of the initiatives discussed at our HR roundtable included:
- increasing exercise options at work, including onsite fitness classes, walking meetings, office treadmill desks, even creating cross-regional step challenges
- offering flexibility in working hours
- providing onsite food options that support healthy food choices
- changes to workspace design, including natural lighting, breakout rooms, ergonomic furniture, quiet zones and even nap or meditation rooms.
Even smaller initiatives can make a significant difference to employee wellbeing. For Fitbit in particular, they are trying to realise their external consumer promise internally. Everyone agreed that whilst these steps are helpful, they are also naturally more geared to those working in a corporate office environment and may not benefit those working remotely or on the road, for example. And the tangible offerings such as massages at your desk are great, however addressing emotional and mental wellness is equally important.
How Can Organisations Create an Environment of Wellbeing?
Some of the more forward-thinking companies focus more on output rather than hours spent physically at the office, creating no boundaries on how people organise their day. This can work well for those based in the office, but how do you translate that ethos back to those who work in a factory setting, in a shift environment, or when you need to juggle time zones to communicate with other regions?
Using technology in the form of apps and wearables is increasingly being utilised to provide feedback and wellbeing platforms, helping to create a sense of community, belonging and social connection. This is something that can benefit all employees and improves employee engagement, no matter their location, and helps employee engagement.
What does the Future of Workplace Wellbeing Look Like?
Wellbeing challenges are likely to evolve and look different to some of the issues today with technology like artificial intelligence and robotics increasing.
The GWI report gives some insight on how this future will look: “Hierarchical management structures will be replaced by models giving employees greater autonomy and accountability. Long-term, stable jobs (at set locations/hours) will give way to an increasingly virtual and “free agent” workforce. As older workers retire later, the workforce will be intensely multigenerational: by 2020 teens and employees over 70 will work side-by-side. The most profound shift: The Information Age will be succeeded by a “Wisdom” or “Human” Age: as robots and Artificial Intelligence co-opt many work tasks, qualities not replicable by machines (collaboration, creativity, empathy, constant learning, etc.) will be in high demand. And these qualities demand the highest level of mental and physical wellness.”
The need for flexibility from employers will continue to grow in importance as dual-income families continue to become the norm, and increasing pension ages mean people are working longer than before to achieve financial security. Employers will need to increasingly provide flexible working to meet both professional and personal commitments of their employees.
As our world continues to change – with technology driving improved efficiency, workplaces embracing AI, and working days no longer have clear beginnings and ends – HR leaders and their organisations need to continue discussing how they can support their employees. This includes the need to balance work responsibilities, family commitments and personal lives to create a culture of wellbeing and engagement that ensures a happy, healthy and productive workforce.
Read more from ChapmanCG on wellness and the workplace here.
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