Wellness is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal”. Employee wellness therefore is the mental and physical wellbeing of each employee within the workforce and the organisations interest to make this a priority.
“A happy mind is a healthy mind”
as the Dalai Lama XVI said.
It is then unsurprising when you analyse how the word meditation has been taken from the roots of ancient Buddhism and now finds itself embedded amongst other terms such as wellness in our 21st-century vocabulary. So healthy employees are happy employees? To put it simply, yes, and an organisation can find ways of supporting this without enforcing a militant lifestyle approach.
For example, putting your workforce on a strict diet is probably not appropriate, whereas starting up an optional running club, or incentivising your employees with group activities and building a sense of community out of the office, could be. More generally, the overarching themes of employee wellness focus on mental health, work-life balance, eliminating unnecessary or prolonged stressors, and avoiding workplace conflicts.
A lot of these issues we consider to be the black and white, right from wrong, employee handbook type rules and regulations, which protect employees and are dealt with by HR. However, a lot of them fall in a grey area. We’re all human, and as much as we may try to keep personal issues from affecting our working lives, the day-to-day stresses can often carry over and manifest from minor mood swings into more serious problems.
Employee wellness programmes can be adopted by any business and implemented to whatever degree deemed necessary by the employer, acting as an intervention before serious problems ever arise. These programmes can take many different forms. The increased exposure around wellness as a buzzword has led us to move away from the classic textbook method of a speaker and a room of note-takers, towards mediation rooms, yoga pods, social support, fitness challenges, and team building days out.
These programmes don’t claim to offer a quick fix to an individual employee’s complex mental health diagnosis or solve turbulent personal problems at home. What they do offer is the starting block; the point at which employees can seek further help and discuss how their issues may affect their working life whilst simultaneously showing that the organisation views this as a priority.
To some, this hyper-modernised millennial style approach will be slated as pandering to snowflakes, however the reality is that evidence really does support the benefits. A study by the CIPD found that 56% of long term, unplanned absences were due to mental health alone. By utilising employee wellness programmes, companies could look to lower this figure.
These benefits aren’t just a charitable pat on the back for organisations either. Employee wellness is deeply rooted in employee productivity too. Therefore, it should be viewed by a business as an investment. Yes, potentially an upfront cost, but something that is valued by the workforce and organisations can reap the rewards well into the future.