3 new ways to think about workplace wellbeing in your business

Wellbeing and work-life balance have become an important discussion point over the last few years.

There may be various reasons for this: Generation Z recruits entering the workforce with different workplace expectations; the COVID pandemic resetting expectations about work-from-home (WFH); and general higher levels of awareness and advocacy for wellbeing reforms among high-profile public figures, celebrities, and business leaders.

But there is something that is often overlooked from this discussion. One of the biggest drivers of wellbeing reform over the last 12 months has been businesses themselves starting to recognise the direct value of building a more positive, healthy workplace. And the direct economic impact of these changes.

In this article, we look at some of the biggest positive impacts of starting a concerted, thought-through wellbeing effort and programme within your business, including how it can enhance your employer brand through a strategic use of CEO branding and positioning as well as how it can drive higher levels of engagement.

1. Driving productivity and engagement

Strong wellbeing reforms in a workplace can lead to higher levels of productivity and engagement in the workplace. This might be obvious today, but even just 5 years ago, many managers saw wellbeing as a ‘cost centre’ rather than a profit base.

In fact, even today, while this truth is widely accepted by larger, multinational businesses, within smaller, start-up firms there is still a misguided belief that wellbeing is sometimes a luxury. Or a nice-to-have. Or that the impact of wellbeing reforms can only be felt by larger businesses with truly global workforces.

But, even for SMEs, the grounds for the claim that wellbeing boosts productivity is now solidly evidenced. In fact, wellness programs can increase employee retention by 5% in small and medium-sized businesses. And a study from 2021 found that 60% of SMEs reported that wellbeing initiatives had a high impact on productivity.

So, why aren’t more smaller businesses realising the potential of introducing wellbeing initiatives? On one hand, often, smaller businesses are so overwhelmed by the day-to-day that their management does not have the time, nor perspective, to think through team health and morale, even if they would like to implement changes.

These business leaders need to be encouraged to set aside the time to take wellbeing seriously, and recognise that it will save them a lot of time in the long-run. For example, if a wellbeing initiative reduces churn, then this will ultimately save a business leader a lot of time on recruitment down the track.

On the other hand, many SMEs don’t properly think through their wellbeing initiatives, and end up investing in short-term gimmicks, such as bean bags and table tennis tables, without thinking through what their team really needs. These business owners are then surprised, and sometimes disheartened, by the fact that they have not seen the promised productivity gains.

Instead, it would have been better to have directly asked their team what would have the greatest impact on their wellbeing and health. This might be something as simple and low-cost as giving team members the opportunity to start their working day at 10am rather than 8am. Effective wellbeing initiatives need to be founded on solid team member insight.

2. Securing great talent

It goes without saying that wellbeing initiatives can boost a company’s ability to attract and, indeed, retain top quality talent. But not always directly (and exclusively) for the reasons that you might think.

In particular, many business leaders see wellbeing initiatives solely through the lens of a list of benefits that they might be able to add to the ‘Culture’ section of their websites or to include in an extended Job Description. There is no doubt that if you have launched a genuine wellbeing programme, then this is an added advantage to your business that you will want to showcase to potential recruits.

But here’s the big thing that many employers miss: a properly thought-through and coordinated wellbeing initiative will incorporate positive reforms to make a workplace more accessible and inclusive. It might mean incorporating flexible working hours to accommodate working parents, giving complete flexibility around WFH for team members who have caring obligations, and making equipment and workplace accommodations for people with different needs.

And this isn’t just mere words. There is strong evidence to show that work-life balance initiatives are not only helpful but absolutely essential in attracting these talented professionals to your business. As a case in point, a recent survey showed that more than 9 in 10 working parents said that knowing that a workplace was supportive of parents was important or very important when considering a new job and employer.

This is a powerful way to build a strong, diverse, and positive workforce because it means that the pool of talent that can work with your company is much wider, broader, and bigger than your competitors. It means that you can tap into talented groups of people who are currently excluded from 9-5 office-based workplaces.

3. Enhancing your employer brand

Finally, positive wellbeing and workplace initiatives provide a powerful tool to positively enhance your employer brand.

By way of disclaimer, it must be said that wellbeing programmes must never be pursued directly (and only) for an employer brand boost. If this is your primary motivation, then you are not implementing wellbeing initiatives for the right reasons, and they are almost certainly doomed to fail.

Teams are very good at seeing (and, indeed, feeling) when initiatives are authentic and genuine versus image-enhancing initiatives. In fact, if your wellbeing programme is misinterpreted solely as a reputation-building exercise, this will usually backfire on your company: team members within the company will see your efforts in a cynical light, and actually assume that you don’t care about wellbeing at all. It will have the reverse impact to what you might have first intended.

So, how do you ensure that your wellbeing initiatives are perceived in the right way? It all comes down to effective communication. Most importantly, while your HR team might be the best people to implement and execute your wellbeing programme, wellbeing initiatives should not be seen as belonging solely to ‘HR’. Instead, then initiatives need to be seen and owned by those people at the very top of organisations.

In particular, the leadership team themselves, and specifically the CEO, should be an active part of communicating the importance and gravity of the reforms to the team. Your team needs to see that the leadership takes these reforms seriously, and they strike at the heart of an organisation and its culture itself.

What does that mean in practice? One of the best ways to get this message out is to use the CEO’s own communications channels: get the CEO to talk about the wellbeing initiatives on their LinkedIn; get the CEO to speak about the initiatives at industry and team events; and, in fact, get them to speak on camera about the programmes.

This type of activity will show that buy-in for the initiatives is sincere, deep, and authentic. This public commitment will also reassure team members that it’s not a flash-in-the-pan PR initiative. This approach also has the additional benefit of building your CEO’s personal brand and positioning in a positive way.

Wellbeing in the workplace is not going away anytime soon. This article not only shows the positive impact that it can have on your business, but some of the overlooked advantages of thinking of wellbeing through a different lens.



About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4262 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.