Managing wellbeing in the workplace

Managing wellbeing in the workplace

Louise Aston, Workwell Director, Business in the Community, gives her views on why a positive culture of wellbeing is vital for all organisations… 

Supporting employees to be happy and healthy at work is one of the most important ways that an organisation can ensure sustainable high-level performance, and there is an inextricable link between the two.

When we talk about ‘wellbeing’ we’re referring to the mutually supportive relationship between a person’s physical, mental and social health. Business in the Community’s Workwell model 1 provides a framework for organisations to embed a strategic, proactive and integrated approach to support employee engagement and wellbeing. A positive culture of wellbeing in the workplace doesn’t just benefit people on an individual level; it’s good for business too. Benefits include better engagement, better attendance, better retention and recruitment, better brand image and higher productivity. Engage for Success 2 has recently shown that engaged employees are 35% more attached to their companies 3 than those with lower wellbeing.

Right now, mental ill-health is one of the biggest threats to the wellbeing of business and society and it has been a core focus for Business in the Community’s efforts over the past year. Employees are working longer and harder and are under more pressure than ever before, and 1 in 4 people experience a mental health condition 4 such as stress, depression and anxiety each year. Yet there remains a culture of silence around mental health, both on an individual and organisational level. People are afraid to speak out for fear of discrimination and this is resulting in suffering and inequality for thousands of employees across the country.

This culture of silence contributes to the estimated £70bn UK cost of mental ill-health each year, equating to £1,035 per employee, per year. This is an issue that all organisations need to take very seriously and we need to see a greater effort to help normalise the issue and make transparency around mental health business as usual. It’s not possible to manage what you can’t talk about.

There are lots of ways in which organisations can take simple steps to promote a positive culture of wellbeing amongst their employees. These could range from social activities for employees to coincide with events such as World Mental Health Day, to offering written guidance and tips on building emotional resilience to help employees manage everyday pressures more effectively.

Line managers also play an important role in helping to monitor and support the performance of their team, and as such are often best placed to spot the warning signs of employee stress or anxiety, signposting to the right support accordingly. This isn’t about expecting line managers to be experts on mental health, but equipping them with the key skills to feel confident making proactive interventions and become more attuned to the mental wellbeing of their staff.

However, it is vital to understand that fostering a positive and sustainable culture of engagement and wellbeing is a collective responsibility in which everyone has a role to play. Business in the Community’s (BITC’s) Workwell programme 5 is a collaborative business-led movement which has been developed by international business leaders with the core purpose of creating happier, healthier and more productive workforces. Last year, this group produced a landmark report on the need for business-led transparency around mental wellbeing at work, called ‘Mental Health: We’re Ready to Talk’ (6). We will be presenting a second report charting the progress of these organisations 1 year on, during our annual Responsible Business Week in April.

To coincide with this, we will also be unveiling a new Workwell membership offer, which will provide businesses with unique insight and best practice from organisations who have implemented wellbeing strategies successfully

Louise Aston

Workwell Director

Business in the Community (BITC)

Tel: +44 (0)207 5666 6641


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