Over the course of the past few years, it has become apparent that working life has evolved from being traditionally office based with fixed working hours, to something much more flexible.
There are now many aspects of working life, such as remote working, which should be considered, which have also paved the way for other factors, such as continuing with remote working while on leave (leaveism) or even continuing to attend work while ill (presenteeism) which must be accounted for in order for employers to assist their employees in achieving a clear work-life balance.
The recent CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey, in partnership with Simplyhealth, shows that while most organisations now see the value in engaging in activities to improve employee wellbeing, there remains a clear division in the way that the approach adopted by most businesses remains ad hoc, rather than strategic, as only two fifths have chosen to implement wellbeing strategies.
While recorded absence levels are at their lowest, mental health is currently the most common cause of long term absence and so it is important that employers adopt a more proactive approach in ensuring line managers feel equipped to provide the support their employees need, as well as finding value in providing some sort of mental health/mindfulness training to provide the tools required for employees to actively manage their mental health and wellbeing. There are lots of possible causes of stress in the workplace but the main factors seem to be workloads or volume of work, management style and relationships at work. Never being able to switch off can also lead to poor sleep, which leaves employees less inclined to make positive choices about diet and exercise, and more prone to feeling unable to cope with day to day pressures.
French legislators have attempted to tackle leaveism head on by introducing a legal right for employees to disconnect from work by switching off their work phones and email accounts outside working hours and during holidays. There have also been reports of employers agreeing to cut email connections in the evenings and at weekends, or while employees are on leave.
Around fifty percent of employers have bought into the importance of employee wellbeing, with many UK employers implementing initiatives designed to tackle employee wellbeing, encouraging employees to take a break from their screen during the day, or making it more appealing for employees to eat lunch away from their desks. Larger organisations are also able to provide complementary gym memberships, on-site yoga classes, visiting therapists and the engagement of sleep consultants are also popular.
Reducing interruptions can also have a positive impact on employee wellbeing, as this can cause loss of momentum, errors, stress and fatigue. Possible solutions to combat this problem could include working towards a culture where employees understand the importance of setting time aside when they will not be interrupted by email, phone calls or physical interruptions. For instance, encouraging staff to use “out of office” notifications or to divert emails when they are working to a deadline can help to create the space employees need to concentrate on one task at a time, or manage the workload they already have before taking on anything else.
Getting wellbeing right can improve productivity, absence rates and morale. Getting it wrong can be costly and, in extreme situations, can give rise to claims for discrimination or personal injury. It can only be a positive thing that employee wellbeing is starting to rise to the top of the HR agenda.
If we can help you with this or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610