We need to stop paying lip service to the issue of workplace wellbeing

Many people feel their employers are guilty of ‘wellness washing’, the practice of paying lip service to wellbeingIn the wake of Mental Health Awareness Week last month, now is a brilliant opportunity to take stock of impactful employee wellbeing initiatives. Many people feel their employers are guilty of ‘wellness washing’, the practice of paying lip service to wellbeing. However, the benefits of impactful wellbeing initiatives are clear – 89 percent of employees who have wellness programmes at work report being more engaged and happy within their roles. Taking a subjective approach by catering to employees’ needs can be transformational for employee satisfaction and, in turn, boost retention.

The implementation of wellbeing initiatives needs to run through the culture of an organisation and employers should ensure that wellbeing is at the heart of decision-making, instead of being a top-down strategy. Adopting carefully considered and communicated initiatives can add more value for employees than simply adding in amenities such as a bike rack or a breakout room and stopping there. Transparent internal communication and feedback are vital to allow organisations both to listen and adapt to individual employee needs.

Employee wellbeing should also start from day one to foster job loyalty and security. For instance, allowing flexible working requests from the beginning of employment and removing probation periods instils a crucial level of trust and care between employer and employee.


WELL Building Standard

So, how can companies go above and beyond lip service? The international WELL Building Standard provides an effective, robust framework for businesses to implement wellness initiatives that have a holistic impact. Rather than simply applying an objective approach to wellness, the standard provides a flexible framework that considers a wide range of factors such as light, air, mind and community, which collectively have a positive impact on employee wellbeing.

Recognising and adopting changes in line with this standard, such as engaging with an M&E consultant to ensure the correct LUX levels, investing in new air handling units to circulate clean fresh air around the building and remove particulates and dust, and assigning Mental Health First Aiders, are all factors that promote employee wellbeing. These could also be relatively minor amends – for instance the implementation of features such as plants and greenery is known to have a 15 percent increase in wellbeing. Wellbeing goes beyond simply providing mental health initiatives – wellness at work is also hugely influenced by employees’ external environments.


Above and beyond

Whilst the WELL Building Standard provides effective guidelines, there is scope for businesses to go further and look beyond their immediate office surroundings to their wider environment. For instance, by basing yourself in a well-connected location close to key amenities and transport links, you support a happier and more productive workforce, that interacts more thoughtfully with its surrounding community and has access to a range of external facilities nearby, such as GP surgeries.

Every organisation will have different employee requirements but applying a subjective lens to wellness and listening to employees will provide the best solution for all. Wellness extends not only to how employees are supported within the workplace, but also outside work. Offering bespoke wellbeing initiatives in direct response to feedback can be transformative for employees’ wellbeing and, in turn, increase workplace productivity.