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Jun 30, 2020

Approx. 14 min. read

What Is Employee Wellbeing and How to Launch a Wellbeing Program

Companies have been struggling to embrace employee wellbeing in the workplace for a long time now. Historically, wellbeing initiatives were...

What is employee wellbeing and how to implement a wellbeing program

Companies have been struggling to embrace employee wellbeing in the workplace for a long time now. Historically, wellbeing initiatives were considered as not so important, and they were not a priority for many employers. However, things are changing.

As these challenging times are having a significant impact on employees’ wellbeing, this is a wake-up call for many employers to consider investing in wellbeing initiatives. 

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In this blog, you will learn about what employee wellbeing is, why is it important and how to launch and manage a successful employee wellbeing program with a proper internal communications strategy.

What Is Employee Wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing, employee happiness, employee engagement, employee experience, employee satisfaction... these are the terms often used interchangeably. While they are related, they don’t mean the same things, and the strategies around how to improve them can be significantly different.

So, what’s the difference?

When talking about employee wellbeing, think about it as the way employees’ duties, expectations, stress levels and working environments affect their overall health and happiness.

Organizations need to understand that employee wellbeing encompasses much more than just physical health. Moreover, it is about less tangible factors, your employees' mood and cognition. Above all, employee wellbeing is about understanding your employees from a holistic perspective which can only be achieved within organizations that are employee-centric. 

Even though it may not be easy to become an employee-centric company and put your people first, these unprecedented times have shown us that such approach is not an option any more, it’s an absolute must!

When people are in a state of wellbeing at work, they’re able to develop their potential, be productive and creative, build positive relationships with others, better cope with stress, and make meaningful contributions.

7 Dimensions of Employee Wellbeing

According to Prowell, the world’s famous methodology for assessing employee wellbeing, there are 7 major components of employee wellbeing in the workplace which fall into 3 domains: mental, physical and social wellbeing. This is important to remember as many people  associate wellbeing with physical health only while wellbeing is much more than that

employee-wellbeing-dimensions

Take a close look at the image and take a second to think about which of the components are impacted by the current pandemic. 

You quickly realize that all of them are impacted by the crisis. 

Regarding physical health, it is clear that our employees’ health is at risk and many organizations have, therefore, implemented new initiatives and communication programs to protect their employees’ health. Additionally, affected by quarantine, many people were also struggling to maintain their healthy life habits. 

With the shift to remote work, working environments have also been disrupted. Many employees don’t have adequate remote working conditions, which may affect their employees' productivity levels

Mental health, with an enormous increase in stress, fear and uncertainty in the workplace, has also been disrupted by the current pandemic. Finally, with social distancing and isolation restrictions, this pandemic has also had a huge impact on our employees’ social wellbeing

Therefore, employee wellbeing has naturally beccome one of the main priorities for organizations across the world!

9 Steps to Launch and Manage a Successful Employee Wellbeing Program

Similarly to any change that happens within organizations, implementing a successful employee wellbeing program needs a structure, planning and a proper employee communications strategy. In order to get the best out of your new initiative, employees have to be aligned, they have to understand its benefits and they need to have support from their superiors and leadership. 

Let’s take a look into the crucial steps for implementing and maintaining your employee wellbeing program. 

1. Get executives’ buy-in and support

Getting executive buy-in is the first step to getting started with your employee wellbeing strategy. Whenever there is change happening, it’s important to maintain executives’ buy-in and support over time. More than ever before, leaders need to act as role models to the entire company.

They need to understand the importance of their role in situations such as this crisis. Leaders are the ones from whom employees expect support, they expect them to be authentic and approachable. Communication that emphasizes that leadership cares about employees' wellbeing can go a long way in encouraging employee engagement and participation in wellbeing programs.

employee-wellbeing-leadership-communications

Therefore, it is important to enable leadership to gain more visibility from the entire workplace

However, great communication takes time time that executives don’t always have. Luckily, technology can ease the pain by streamlining the communication process and bringing every employee, from head office to the front line, closer to leadership.

2. Send a company-wide wellbeing survey 

Many organizations that want to implement an employee wellbeing program simply don’t know where to start. Start with your employees!

In order to build the best program, you first need to understand your employees’ fears, needs, wants, problems and concerns. Only then you can really make sure that your program will be efficient, and that it will deliver the expected results. 

However, many employers struggle to collect feedback and survey responses from their employees. This happens mostly because surveys get delivered to the channels that employees may ignore, and because organizations don’t have an easy way to consolidate all their communication channels into a single platform. 

Employee-Wellbeing-SurveyIf you are looking for some wellbeing questions for your survey, start with simple and straight-forward open or scale questions such as:

  • My company demonstrates a commitment to the wellbeing of employees
  • I believe employee wellbeing is a priority at my company
  • Our culture encourages a balance between work and family life
  • My manager genuinely cares about my wellbeing
  • With the emergence of remote work, I often feel lonely and left out
  • When I feel stress and anxiety, I feel supported by my employer
  • I tend to bounce back quickly after challenging times
  • My work has a big impact on my wellbeing
  • Name a few ways you believe your employer can improve wellbeing of its employees

3. Create a wellbeing program based on your employees’ feedback

Use employee feedback captured in your surveys to better plan for your wellbeing program. Based on the insights collected, you can make a better decision on what your program should contain. 

For example, if you find that your employees feel disconnected due to social distancing, the social component of their wellbeing may be hurt. If true, one component of your wellbeing program should be to improve workplace communication and implement digital solutions that can help your employees stay connected with their peers and managers.

If you find that your employees are stressed or experience health issues, your wellbeing program should focus on providing some mental health benefits. 

In other words, don't guess! Make smart decisions based on your employees’ feedback. 

4. Define the goals

As you will see later in this article, there are numerous benefits of investing in employee wellbeing. Based on the challenges your organization is facing, some of your goals may be:

  • To increase staff satisfaction
  • To increase staff morale
  • To improve staff retention
  • To increase productivity
  • To reduce absenteeism
  • To foster better relationships between staff and management
  • To increase open communications

5. Launch your wellbeing program and make the company-wide announcement

This is a crucial step!

The effectiveness of your new program will greatly depend on your ability to spread the word across your entire organization and reach every employee with the news. As mentioned earlier, organizations need to ensure the right flow of information by consolidating different communication channels into a central communications platform. 

What’s the primary communication channel used at your company? Do people use email, Slack, the company's intranet or something else? Within large organizations, it may be hard to fully understand how employees use those various channels. As a consequence, important information is likely to get lost

corporate-communication-emails-1

In addition, communication has to be personalized and relevant. To ensure relevance and avoid information overload, target your communications to relevant employee groups based on their locations, demographics, job functions and interests. One size does not fit all!

6. Promote your wellbeing program and communicate its benefits to build internal awareness

If employee wellness programs are built to achieve desired outcomes, effective internal communication to drive employee participation is a must. Employees need to understand the benefits of wellbeing for both them personally as well as the organization as a whole. Only then you can align your workplace to work towards the same wellbeing goals that you have previously identified. 

Unfortunately, in today’s environment of information overload, cutting through the noise of competing messages and workplace priorities can be very challenging.

To encourage your employees to participate, you need to inspire them with useful and engaging internal content. For example, you can publish a seasonal wellness announcement with helpful videos, share employee stories, promote wellbeing training sessions, deliver free resources and other related content to keep wellbeing on top of your employees’ minds

Again, such information needs to be relevant, beneficial and delivered in a timely manner. Employees that work in the United States are likely to have different employee wellbeing programs than the ones working in Asia or some other continent. Their cultures are different, they are facing different challenges and they are also located in different time zones. 

Your internal communications platform should enable you to create various internal audiences and schedule your wellbeing communications to be delivered at optimum times for a maximum readership, including regular prompts and reminders to maintain the momentum.

7. Get your managers on board

Managers are the ones that usually have the strongest connections with their teams and, therefore, serve as an important source of information about company’s news and updates. 

Therefore, managers must see the connection between employee wellbeing and the company success, and they have to be enthusiastic about supporting employee wellbeing.

In addition to making company-wide announcements, managers should continuously remind their teams about the benefits of wellbeing and ensure that employees have access to important information. Before anything else, they should always encourage open and empathetic conversations with and among their teams. 

But employers also need to make sure that managers get proper training and have an easy access to all the wellbeing materials they need such as guidelines and toolkits. 

8. Continuously encourage employees to participate and solicit their ideas

Employers should continuously encourage their employees to participate in the wellbeing programs and make suggestions for improvements. This approach helps employees better understand their role in creating a culture of wellbeing.

When you spot those employees that are actively engaged, make them your wellbeing champions and ambassadors. 

Those employees who are passionate about creating happier, healthier, and more resilient work environments can also help you spread the word and even help you launch the program in new office locations. These people, however, should be recognized in front of your entire organization to also encourage others to join the program with their share of voice.

employee-wellbeing-share-of-voiceYou could, for example, using your internal communications platform, implement Wellbeing Ambassador Spotlights to show the workplace about the ambassadors’ successful initiatives. To drive even more engagement, your ambassadors should always be able to connect with one another from around the globe, share insights, offer encouragement, and ask questions.

9. Measure the impact

Even though employee wellbeing is not easy to measure directly, there are ways to measure your employees’ engagement with it. If you are using a modern employee communications software solution, reporting should provide insights into readership at employee or campaign level, providing assurance that everyone was reached.

Take this communication data and combine it with some other in-house data on employee absenteeism, turnover or health claims. This approach can help you develop an overall picture of your employee wellbeing campaign effectiveness.

The Growing Importance of Employee Wellbeing

According to a recent research on employees’ mental wellbeing, over 1.3M people in the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 363,800 people in the U.S. U.S. unemployment is at its highest ever in record history at 6.6 million. This unprecedented pandemic has had a sudden impact on our society, people’s mental health and it has completely transformed Human Capital Management

To add, The American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-Being Survey, “More than a third of working Americans (35%) reported experiencing chronic work stress, and less than half said their employer provides sufficient resources to help employees manage their stress.”

Moreover, a recent study shows that 69% of workers claimed this was the most stressful time of their entire professional career. To mitigate the consequences of the current situation, many employers are implementing employee wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. 

employee-wellbeing-current-state

Now, more than ever, organizations are looking for tools to help cope with this crisis and build resilience for the uncertainty that lies ahead. 

The Current State of Employee Wellbeing

This situation has had a sudden and dramatic impact on our society including our mental health wellbeing. Feelings of isolation, fear, family concerns, financial stress, and health-related anxieties are disrupting people’s lives

According to research by Ginger, before the onset of COVID-19, nearly 60% of workers shared that stress had brought them to tears at work, a-23% increase from 2019. Surveyed following the onset of COVID-19, workers report that their stress levels are significantly higher: 

  • 88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress 
  • 69% of workers claimed this was the most stressful time of their entire professional career
  • 91% of employees working from home reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress 
  • 43% of employees have become physically ill as a result of work-related stress 

However, while 53% of workers said their company has increased its focus on employee mental health as a result of COVID-19, the research shows that there’s room for improvement: 

  • 63% of workers reported that their company could do more to support their emotional and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Within this group, 22% of workers said their company’s response was “barely adequate”, “a disaster” or “non-existent”
  • Only 35% of people strongly agree that their employer is taking more of an interest in the emotional and mental health of employees now than in the past 
  • 93% of employees believe that companies that survive COVID-19 will be those who support their employees’ mental health

The Benefits of Investing in Employee Wellbeing

Prowell’s workplace model presented earlier also did an extensive research on the benefits of investing in employee wellbeing. The five benefits include: healthy culture, higher productivity, improved individual health and safety, enhanced company reputation, and financial savings. 

employee-wellbeing-expectations

One study on the financial return from wellbeing programs demonstrated that for every dollar spent, medical costs decrease by approximately $3.27 and by $2.73 for absenteeism. Therefore, employers who adopt wellbeing programs are likely to see substantial positive returns within a few years.

Gallup’s research that connects employee wellbeing with employee engagement, also found many benefits of investing in employee wellbeing. The research showed that employees who work at companies that invest in their wellbeing are:

  • 42% more likely to evaluate their overall lives highly
  • 27% more likely to report "excellent" performance in their own job at work
  • 27% more likely to report "excellent" performance by their organization
  • 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change
  • 37% more likely to report always recovering "fully" after illness, injury or hardship
  • 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months
  • 18% less likely to change employers in a 12-month period.

Now is the time to seriously think about implementing an employee wellbeing program at your organization! If you are looking for an internal communications solution that can help you launch and manage your employee wellbeing program, schedule a Smarp demo today!

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Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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