Creative Finance 4: Invest in Employee Wellbeing

DISCLAIMER: Yes, this is a lengthy article, but it’s a big topic, and one that we hope you will agree deserves at least a few minutes of your time.

Would you rather have a reliable, happy, healthy and motivated team of individuals who feel like a valued part of your brand, or a group of disengaged, stressed, and unhappy people who just so happen to work for you for the time being? Surely, it’s a no-brainer.

Employees are simultaneously the frontline and the driving force behind your organisation, and their mental health and emotional wellbeing should be as important to you as their physical health.  Unfortunately, recent statistics show that 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Not only that, 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

“Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. But for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get back £5 in reduced absence, presenteeism, and staff turnover.”

Deloitte, 2020

In this chapter of our Creative Finance series we explore the many reasons to invest in employee wellbeing, as well as some tips and ideas that might inspire you to get started today (and not a bean bag or pool table in sight).

Why Invest in the Wellbeing of Your Employees

Retain your experienced and skilled staff

Unhappy, stressed and/or disengaged employees are more likely to leave for another job, taking their skills and experience with them, leaving you to spend time and money recruiting and training new employees. This is not only a financial drain, but may also affect your quality of service during the transition.

Prevent absenteeism

According to Mind, employees take an average of 7 days off work each year for health reasons. It is estimated that mental health issues are responsible for at least 40% of this figure. In 90% of cases, employees do not feel able to be honest about why they are taking time off.

Prevent presenteeism

Employees who come to work but are not able to perform well because of mental health issues cost the UK economy around £15.1 billion, or £605 per employee, each year (CIPD/Mind, 2011).

Show your commitment to corporate social responsibility

Businesses have a corporate social responsibility to be conscious of the impact they have on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. Your company should operate in ways that enhance society and the environment, not damage them.

Create a more engaged and motivated team

The number of employee grievances (problems, complaints, concerns) being raised with employers is rising, and 60% of employees say they’d feel more motivated if their employer took action to support mental health and wellbeing.

Increase employee loyalty

When employees feel valued and supported, their loyalty to their employer increases leading to a more productive and positive approach. This has a direct impact on a business’ performance from revenue to the quality of their customer service. It can also make it more likely that they will become a brand ambassador for your business even they’re when not on the clock.

Protect your business from legal action

When a mental health issues affects a person’s ability to perform their job, they are considered to have a protected disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers have a legal duty not to discriminate against employees with mental health issues and also to make reasonable adjustments for staff in the workplace.

How to Invest in the Wellbeing of Your Employees

Whether you are coming at the issue from a humane angle to help people, a commercial desire to improve or protect your brand’s public image, or you are concerned about the cold hard numbers, it clearly makes sense to look after your employees and their mental health.

How can business leaders and managers make their employees’ wellbeing a priority?

Changing the culture

Educate yourself

Organise some training for leaders, managers and employees on mental health in the workplace. Make the effort to learn more about the most common mental health issues associated with work (such as depression, stress, and anxiety), how they affect people, and that they are not signs of weakness.  

Struggling with mental health does not just mean feeling sad from time to time. Having said that, it can be an intermittent problem (pointing out that people “seemed happy” yesterday or last week is relevant), and individuals may have different coping strategies. Mental health issues can affect anyone and will manifest in very different ways, including physical symptoms.

Don’t force it

Being a responsible employer does not mean forcing your employees to discuss their personal lives or asking potentially invasive or discriminatory questions. The key is to create an environment where employees feel able to share if they want to, and are supported if they do.

Work on your culture

This won’t change overnight, but it is important that leaders set an example of openness and understanding about mental health, and that they do not encourage unhealthy working habits. Stress and exhaustion should not be held up as a sign of dedication or success. There should be no stigma around taking time for mental health issues just as there would be no stigma around taking time off for physical illness or injury.

Don’t praise (or incentivise) unhealthy work habits like working late or never taking holiday, and encourage people to take their full entitlement for a lunch break or annual leave.

Be more social

Make time in the working day for your employees to socialise with each other and build deeper connections. This can range from showing an interest in the personal lives of your employees and encouraging them to be social and open, to organising social events and activities (either in-person or online). Be sure to have regular one-on-one meetings with employees where they can bring up worries or concerns. This is particularly important for employees who work remotely or are isolated in their work.

However, bear in mind that not everyone in your team will feel comfortable taking part in all types of activity, e.g., they may not wish to go out drinking or take part in physical challenges. Saving all your team’s social interaction for one or two nights per year which revolve around alcohol will not do much to deepen relationships between your team members, and some employees may have personal commitments that mean they cannot make it to events outside of work hours.

A variety of smaller activities conducted on a regular basis often work best. Possible ideas include lunch dates, quizzes, competitions, charity fundraising projects, bake sales, board games, etc.

Offer some flexibility

If the business’ setup and their role allows, consider more flexible working arrangements. Flexible working policies help employees balance family commitments and their work schedule. While it may not work for all workplaces, more and more are inviting their employees to bring their well-behaved dogs to work occasionally which can bring a surprising lift to the atmosphere.

Changing the work environment

A complete interiors fitout project could transform a dull and cramped space into a light, energised, and modern space where people can work, collaborate and communicate with their colleagues more effectively and more comfortably. UK Coaching made the decision to move to a newly refurbished office space as the COVID-19 lockdown eased in 2021.

“It was important for us to create a ‘sense of place’ and improve the wellbeing of our team, and a workplace that assists in the attraction and retention of talent and makes us stand out from the competition. We needed to provide flexibility for staff to work individually, collaboratively, and innovatively, but also provide privacy when needed.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

Click to read more about UK Coaching’s new offices.

Ergonomic furniture

Standing desks and ergonomic chairs for the office and/or home working can enable employees to adjust their work position to their preference depending on the time of day or task. This can have a positive impact on their physical health, preventing long-term injury, as well as their mental health.

New technology

Using outdated, inefficient and unreliable machinery and technology is frustrating, stressful, and can have a big impact on a person’s level of job satisfaction. Investing in newer technology can make the lives of your employees much easier and improve their quality of work.

Lighting, noise, heating and air conditioning

Think about how it feels to be in your offices. What do your employees hear? What can they see? Is there adequate natural light? Are they often too hot or too cold? Is there a lot of noise pollution from outside? It may be time to invest in a new HVAC system, insulation for the windows, or new LED lighting.

Make space for down time

Try to ensure that your employees have comfortable space where they can enjoy their breaks and socialise with colleagues for more than a couple of minutes by the water cooler. If your premises are not big enough for this, consider increasing the length of employee breaks so they have time to go further afield and get a real change of scenery away from their desks.

Create dedicated wellbeing spaces

If an employee is feeling stressed, worried, could do with a breather, or wants to talk privately, where can they go to be alone? One of our partner companies, Thirdspace Solutions, has developed wellbeing pods which can be installed in offices as solo relaxation spaces or small private meeting areas.

Exercise equipment

More and more companies are investing in gym equipment for the office, or they are subsidising gym memberships to encourage their employees to take care of their physical and mental health. Studies have found that physical exercise can help to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, and can boost energy levels for several hours afterwards. Some companies also invest in gym equipment for their home-based employees to use like dumbbells treadmill desks, bike desks, or under-desk ellipticals.

Make home working easier

Employees who work from should be treated exactly the same as employees in your offices. This means investing in the same desks, chairs, technology, and software to make their work as enjoyable and productive as possible.

Your workplace and the individuals that make up your team are unique, so of course there is no silver-bullet solution to improved wellbeing and mental health in the workplace. What you can do as a responsible employer is make it clear that you want to work with them to make improvements and that mental health issues are as valid as any physical health problem.

From improving engagement, productivity, and increased revenue to feeling that you have done the right thing for your employees, you will see a return on your investment in more ways than one.

Funding options for your wellbeing project

If you want to make improvements to your workplace and/or invest in new technology or furniture to improve your employees’ working environment, we can help you to fund it in a cost-effective and tax-efficient way.

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