Mental health is an essential topic within the future of work and, according to Glandore’s Clare Kelly, it seems that workplace wellbeing is on the rise.
In the early 2000s, the practice of workplace wellbeing was often viewed as a ‘nice to have’ but not a necessity.
Over the years, more and more companies have begun implementing programmes, which have grown from healthy snacks or health insurance to much more.
Today, businesses of every size acknowledge that they can create and sustain a successful workplace health and wellness programme.
Workplace wellbeing on the rise
The growth in workplace wellbeing is evident in the annual National Workplace Wellbeing Day. The initiative, which celebrated its fourth year in April 2018, means Ireland is the first country in Europe to put in place a day devoted solely to workplace wellbeing.
At a national level, we’ve also seen positive prioritising of workplace health from the Irish Government through the development of the Healthy Workplace Framework as well as the Healthy Ireland Network.
Last year, the Irish Government also launched the Work Positive initiative to help organisations improve employee wellbeing by making resources and information on workplace stress and employee wellness available to any organisation.
This emphasis is crucial in influencing local Irish companies to be proactive about workplace health and wellbeing. If it’s not encouraged and embodied from the leadership level down, it won’t get the traction to succeed.
The influx of FDI companies into Ireland has also influenced the way in which companies approach workplace wellbeing, as well as having had a direct impact on its growth in popularity in Ireland.
With the growing competitiveness in recruitment and the search for talent at an all-time high in Ireland, SMEs and other companies have had to assess their workplace wellbeing values and initiatives in order to recruit and retain top talent.
Looking after your mental health, I believe, will be one of the biggest trends we will see in the coming years.
There is a growing awareness of mindfulness and mental wellness, and companies will go further into managing workplace mental health and employees’ mental wellbeing.
Mental health, wellbeing and stress are all major concerns for those working in any industry, but in particular in the industries where long working hours are prevalent, such as the professional and financial services.
Another trend that will evolve from companies promoting workplace wellbeing will be changes in workspace design, which can also have a positive impact on workplace wellness.
Employers will need to specifically focus on elements such as ergonomic office furniture, light settings, natural light points, thermal comforts, and water and air quality.
Encouraging flexible hours and regular breaks as well as offering and creating breakout and social spaces to encourage employees to take time away from the desk are also some ways in which companies will foster wellness.
How can you implement workplace wellbeing?
Aside from simply offering health insurance benefits, nutritious food or fitness classes, there are further ways in which employers can promote wellbeing in the workplace.
For it to work effectively, employers could choose a ‘wellness champion’ team to lead the brigade. Leadership is key when implementing any new workplace scheme or structure.
Allowing that responsibility to be taken on by an individual or team rather than an employer will help to create a more natural, inclusive approach to developing a company’s workplace wellness goals.
Companies could offer a ‘quiet zone’ within their workplace or rent a hotdesk at a nearby co-working space. This is a place to work that is isolated to a point where employees can think in peace but not too far away from colleagues in case they need a quick brainstorming session. It can be extremely beneficial to have that space available, even if the employee just wants to have a quick mindfulness session to reground themselves.
Employers also need to promote wellbeing as a key factor in their company culture. Company culture is more than the personality of a company – it defines the environment in which the team works.
Wellbeing is now becoming a staple aspect of any modern working environment and therefore it is essential that wellbeing is made a priority when discussing and developing an organisation’s company culture.
What are the benefits of workplace wellbeing?
Society today is becoming increasingly more health-conscious. Personal and professional stress, combined with long working hours and constant multitasking, is making it more difficult for people to find the time to act on wellness in their daily lives.
This is where employers can take on the responsibility of promoting workplace wellbeing, and create a workplace wellness programme.
The majority of an employee’s time is spent in the workplace and it is a significant part of an individual’s life. The average adult spends as much as a third of their waking life in work.
Workplace wellbeing programmes can be extremely effective in helping employees look after their mental health and sustain a healthy lifestyle, while also having significant benefits to the organisation.
Failing to take time to create a happy and healthy workplace can put employees at risk of absenteeism, high stress levels and a decrease in productivity.
Recognising potential health and wellbeing issues in the workplace, and addressing them before they become a serious problem, is essential. This is why it’s hugely beneficial to create an environment where employees feel confident and secure.
Promoting a culture of wellbeing in the workplace doesn’t only benefit employees when they’re at work. It will give employees the incentives, tools, strategies and support to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours both in and out of the office.
By Clare Kelly
Clare Kelly is the director of Glandore, which offers fully fitted, flexible workspaces in Dublin and Belfast.