The Occupational Health and Safety Act, of 1993, requires the employer to bring about and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers. Risks associated with the health of workers also include employee wellbeing - which is that of the physical, mental, and emotional state of individuals at work. Wellbeing in the workplace has a profound impact, not only on the job but on employees’ whole lives.
It is common that the effects of workplace stress spill over at home, in relationships, and in a person’s self-perception and esteem. The same applies when stress spills over at work. Caring for the wellbeing of employees can lead to an enhanced sense of self and enjoyment of life which will impact the working environment and professional relationships positively.
The benefits of employee wellbeing –
Employee wellbeing is linked with higher satisfaction at work, improved teamwork, and healthy social connections among the entire workforce. When employees are happy, their productivity increases. For an employer, this translates to a more stable workplace environment, reduces costs related to absenteeism and turnover, and better business continuity. There are many elements of running a business within South Africa today which has become challenging. These elements also impact the contractual obligations entered into by the employer and employees and implementing these 5 ways to improve employee wellbeing and enhance satisfaction and productivity in the workplace, can assist to mitigate the challenges faced by both the business owner and the individual rendering services.
1. Identify possible stress drivers
Determine how the workplace is stressing out employees. There are many causes of work stress, and some are easier to solve than others. Some commons drivers of stress in the workplace include but are not limited to:
· Boredom or unchallenging work
· Long hours
· Feeling a lack of autonomy or control
· Workplace harassment or discrimination
· Poor equipment or work environment
· Lack of opportunities for advancement or promotion
· Job security
2. Implement employee mental health programmes
Employers can be proactive about improving employee wellbeing by offering programmes specifically focused on mental health. This will assist in improved job satisfaction. This could be a mentorship programme, where employees pair up in a buddy system to support each other, or where employees are provided dedicated time off to focus on their mental wellbeing, without the risk of losing any benefits.
Stress management workshops can be provided during working hours, such as learning healthy communication skills, nutrition and fitness courses, or relaxation techniques, such as journaling or meditation. A mobile application can be used to track and facilitate calm breathing, lowering heart rate, and reduce the symptoms of stress during their workday.
3. Encourage mindfulness in the workplace
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps people become aware of their thoughts and feelings as they occur, and learn to calm the mind and have the physiological symptoms of stress. Mindfulness has become popular as a tool for wellness, and many workplaces encourage mindfulness to help boost employee wellbeing. A study found that mindfulness meditation in the workplace improved productivity by 120% and absenteeism dropped by 85%! Even just 10 days of meditation has been shown to reduce aggression by 57% and increase compassion by 23%.
Encouraging mindfulness in the workplace is one of the most effective ways that employers can help improve the wellbeing of staff. Employers can refer workers to free meditation mobile application subscriptions, meditation workshops, and sessions in the workplace, or subsidise employees to attend mindfulness courses outside of the workplace.
4. Offer fun activities to recharge employees
Offering fun activities for employees, whether it is a “chill-zone” in the workplace, a non-work related outing, or creative social gatherings is a great way to let employees unwind, recharge, and connect to one another outside of their daily and contractual responsibilities.
Having fun at work is really important to help create a healthy, balanced environment. Employees don’t want to feel that they are simply paid to render services; they want to be part of a workplace community and feel that their contribution is appreciated and rewarded. Laughter and light-hearted activity releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone, and helps to build creativity. It is a fact, people who enjoy what they do will naturally do it better!
5. Recognise employees for their hard work
There two things that all humans have in common – the need to belong and feel appreciated. This is also true and relevant in the workplace. While most employers assume that workers leave for a better-paying job, only a small fraction of workers get an increase at the new workplace. What’s more, a large portion of employees say that they would work harder if they were more appreciated.
Recognising employees for their hard work is the most essential thing an employer can do to improve wellbeing. Things like bonuses, gifts for employees, and “Employee of the Month” – type of awards are all important, however, there is more to it than that. Appreciation should be built-in into the workplace culture, meaning that employees must be recognised every day, even for the small things.
Seemingly fleeting gestures, such as a “You are a Super Star!” message or an impromptu meeting to thank the team, or even just looking an employee in the eye and asking how they are doing and whether there is something they need right now – all these are quick yet powerful ways to show recognition and make staff members feel seen and cared for.
Placing employee wellbeing at the top of the list of priorities is not just good for employees, it is good for business too!