How to Create an Effective Employee Wellbeing Strategy in 7 Steps


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, September 26, 2022

Employee wellbeing has never been more important. If you’re hoping to get an effective employee wellbeing strategy in place this year, here’s how to do it.

Article 14 Minutes
How to Create an Effective Employee Wellbeing Strategy in 7 Steps

According to a study from Champion Health, almost two-thirds of employees have symptoms of anxiety, and just over half experience low mood. A further one in three (35%) report that they suffer from stress in the workplace and that this is having a negative impact on their lives.

This is obviously bad news for the professionals involved and can lead to them becoming overwhelmed, disengaged and eventually burning out. What’s more, did you know that disengaged employees cost US companies up to $550 billion a year? So it’s not just bad news for professionals, but organizations are being negatively affected as well. 

The message is clear - wellbeing in the workplace is important and something that businesses need to be prioritizing.

Although wellbeing initiatives are nothing new, the recent pandemic has catapulted these issues to the forefront. The sudden move towards remote work, coupled with localized lockdowns, started to take a toll on many professionals’ physical and mental health.

As a result, many organizations soon saw the need to focus on employee wellbeing.

But in order to embrace a truly effective wellbeing strategy, companies must move away from weak or ad hoc wellbeing activities and implement a holistic strategy that’s built into their culture. And HR needs to be a key driving force behind this.

In this in-depth guide, we’ll outline our 7 steps to creating an effective employee wellbeing strategy.

What is employee wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing is a combination of both the physical and mental wellness and health of a workforce and the individuals within.

Employee wellbeing can be influenced by a number of different factors, including salary, hours, workload and workplace safety. Their relationships with colleagues and the tools, resources and training they have access to can also impact their wellbeing.

Though workplace wellbeing will differ for each employee, every professional should have access to a balanced and healthy workplace that allows them to be productive and content, if not happy.

The 4 pillars of wellbeing

In order for a wellbeing strategy to be completely holistic, it must cover all the pillars of wellbeing. There are four key pillars that organizations need to be aware of so they can address them in the most effective way possible. These include:

1. Mental wellbeing

The phrase wellbeing has become synonymous with mental health in recent years, which is why mental wellbeing in the workplace is such a hot topic. This is the first pillar, and it’s a very important one as poor mental health can have many physical effects, too.

What’s more, depression, anxiety and stress make it harder for employees to concentrate and be productive. It’ll not only affect their working life, but it can also impact their personal life.

2. Physical wellbeing

Physical wellbeing might seem like a strange thing to prioritize when it comes to the workplace, especially if your job is already very active. However, as work is a big part of our lives, it also needs to be an important part of our physical health considerations.

Staying on top of physical wellbeing can have huge health benefits, like reducing stress and boosting energy levels. Therefore, this isn’t an area of employee well-being that organizations can afford to neglect.

3. Psychological/social wellbeing

As a general rule, humans are social animals and need a certain level of human connection and acceptance. This includes a sense of community, as well as friendships, bonds, empathy and compassion. And the workplace is no different.

Psychological/social wellbeing gives employees a healthy sense of self and a role within a social group. This is important for both physical and mental wellbeing. It also gives them an important way of dealing with stress or mental health issues, feeling like they’re being supported.

4. Financial wellbeing

Finally, our financial suitability and wellbeing can have a huge impact on all areas of our lives, particularly in these tough economic times. In fact, money is one of the leading causes of stress, with 72% of Americans feeling stressed over their financial situation.

Jobs are how we make money; therefore, it stands to reason that this will impact the financial wellbeing of employees and how this affects all other areas of their life. As such, businesses need to make this a priority.

Why is employee wellbeing important?

Basic health and safety procedures have been a part of the workforce for a few decades now. However, for a long time, little thought was given to the mental and physical health of employees outside the remit of basic health and safety.

This has changed drastically in recent years as thinking has shifted from simply keeping workers fit and safe enough to do their job to look at the benefits of actually caring for employees, making sure they’re happy, healthy and thriving in the workplace.

One reason why employee wellbeing has become so important over the last few years is that it impacts more than just a professional’s ability to do their job.

In fact, the vast majority (86%) of professionals say that happiness at work will affect their mood at home. They also believe it has an effect on their self-confidence, overall quality of life and career trajectory.

For this reason, many are now prioritizing workplace wellbeing and happiness above all else, that’s including their salary.

What’s more, from a business perspective, wellbeing is vital as happy and healthy employees will be more engaged with their work and, therefore, more productive. This, in turn, will lead to better and more sustainable business performance. It’s also likely that employees will require fewer sick days.

Why you should create an employee wellbeing strategy

If you’re still unsure why an employee well-being strategy is a must-have, we’re now going to dig a little deeper into why it’s so important.

Axios reported that in 10 years, almost two-thirds (61%) of workers won’t settle for a company that doesn’t prioritize happiness and wellbeing. Not only this, but they found that those who experience a lower level of wellbeing in the workplace are 84% more likely to leave their current employer.

Moreover, their data also shows that happier and more engaged workers could lead to 23% higher profits and better performance for your organization.

So as we can see from this, there are a number of reasons you should create an employee wellbeing strategy this year. These are:

  • To support employees in being happy, healthy and engaged at work
  • To ensure that workplace anxiety and stress don’t negatively impact their home life or any other aspect of their private lives
  • To increase staff retention rates and reduce absenteeism
  • To keep attracting the top talent into your organization, otherwise, you could fall behind your key competitors
  • To encourage productivity and innovation, ensuring better corporate performance and higher profits

7 steps to build your own employee wellbeing strategy

Now that you understand why it’s so important to create and implement an employee wellbeing strategy in your business, let’s look at how you can do this through these seven steps:

1. Get executive and leadership buy-in

You can’t create an effective employee wellbeing strategy without the right funds and resources. However, getting executive buy-in is often one of the biggest challenges facing HR teams and those hoping to implement employee wellbeing strategies.

It stands to reason that leaders want to know how investing time, money and resources in new programs like this will support the bottom line. So before you approach them, you need to understand what information executives want to see.

Carefully create a plan that highlights how this will fit the larger mission, vision and values of the business. Also, frame a wellbeing strategy as a way of increasing employee lifetime value (ELV), cutting down on hiring costs and having a positive impact on productivity and profit.

2. Review your current employee benefits package

Whether you’ve got some sort of wellbeing strategy in place already or you offer a simple benefits package, it’s important to review this. Does your package already have some good aspects that employers value? Or does it need a complete overhaul?

This could give you a possible starting place, or it might prove just how much work needs to be done to better support employee wellbeing.

3. Engage with employees

Next, it’s a good idea to reach out to employees to find out what means the most to them. You could arrange polls, surveys or group meetings to discover what your teams value. You can also ask them about current packages or initiatives and what they like/dislike about them.

This stage can also help you to uncover some of the initiatives that employees would like to see as part of your wellbeing strategy. Just be sure that communication is a two-way street and that you take their feedback on board.

4. Start creating goals and objectives

Armed with these insights, you need to start creating goals and objectives for your strategy. This, coupled with employee feedback, can help you to narrow down which initiatives are going to be best for your teams.

Be sure to make your goals and objectives as specific as possible; using the SMART method can help. For example, your objectives might be:

  • Offer regular training to managers to spot signs of stress and burnout among their team and also consider appointing a mental health champion within the company
  • Introduce new healthcare benefits, including access to free counseling

Your goals might then be:

  • Reducing employee absenteeism by at least 10% in one year
  • Connect employees with the right counseling program to reduce staff turnover over the next 12 months 
  • Increase the average happiness rating from 4 to 5 stars in the next employee satisfaction survey 

5. Address your workplace culture

Implementing new initiatives is one thing, but in order to make the strategy truly successful, employee wellbeing needs to be built into your workplace culture. This means empowering employees to communicate with one another or with managers, to ask for help when they need it and to support one another.

This could also require you to invest in regular training about health, particularly mental health, as well as thoroughly promoting any new health or wellbeing initiatives and benefits you introduce.

6. Find an all-in-one solution

Another way to make your employee wellbeing strategy a success is to integrate your initiatives into an all-in-one solution wherever possible. The good news is that there ‘s a plethora of employee wellbeing platforms out there that make this simple to do; you just need to choose the right one.

It’s also a good idea to have one place where employees can access tools and information about wellbeing, training and your initiatives. This could be on the company intranet or a cloud-based system.

7. Measure and review

Finally, you need to decide on your KPIs and how you’re going to measure the success of your new strategy. This will largely depend on the goals you set for your strategy, but we’ll look at this in more detail later in the guide.

It’s important to regularly review your initiatives and employee wellbeing strategy and update this whenever you need to. Use data and analytics to see how your initiatives are performing, but also be sure to collect feedback from employees too.

20 wellbeing initiatives you need to implement

We’ve discussed getting feedback from employees using surveys and looking for all-in-one well-being strategy, but what wellbeing initiatives should you consider in the first place?

Well, there are so many possibilities, but you want to introduce initiatives that your employees are going to benefit from.

So, we’ve pulled together a list of 20 wellbeing initiatives you should consider for your business. These include:

Mental wellbeing

Recognizing the prominence of mental health issues among professionals and destigmatizing these issues within the workplace should be a key priority. There are lots of ways organizations can support their employees, but some of the best mental wellbeing initiatives include:

  1. Setting up mental health resources for employees, such as counselors
  2. Educating all employees, particularly managers, on the signs of mental health issues and how to handle these
  3. Getting involved in mental health initiatives in your local community
  4. Introducing plants and greenery into the office or workspace and making sure there’s plenty of natural light
  5. Talking about the benefits of meditation and yoga and providing time and ways for employees to practice

Physical wellbeing

Staying physically healthy is just as important as having good mental health, and looking after employees physical wellbeing can reduce absenteeism. Some of the best physical wellbeing initiates you should consider are:

  1. Having a range of free healthy snacks and drinks available in the office or workspace
  2. Allowing employees to have walking meetings where they take a stroll around the local area as they discuss ideas
  3. Encouraging employees to take sick days when they’re unwell
  4. Offering free or subsidized gym memberships or having a gym installed in your workplace
  5. Trying out company exercise clubs, such as running club or raising money for charity through exercise challenges

Psychological/social wellbeing

Workplace relationships are important, and employees want to feel accepted and supported by their co-workers. This can also benefit the business, as friendly teams work better together and achieve better results. Some social wellbeing initiatives you could implement might be:

  1. Encouraging colleagues to mingle informally, perhaps setting up a break room or seating area where they can chat throughout the day
  2. Planning regular team-building activities, such as training sessions, cooking classes or after-work drinks
  3. Providing tools for self-discovery and helping employees to maximize their hobbies while also doing their work
  4. Celebrating events, achievements and special days such as birthdays or work anniversaries
  5. Encouraging teams to volunteer or raise money for charity together

Financial wellbeing

As we said earlier, money can be one of the biggest causes of stress among professionals. As such, financial initiatives can go a very long way, no matter how big or small. Some ideas for good initiatives include:

  1. Implementing flexible work hours so professionals can fit work around their life without having to take days off or unpaid leave
  2. Offering an employee purchase program that gives them money off useful items, such as office equipment, laptops, etc.
  3. Organizing regular pay reviews
  4. Giving workers a raise
  5. Investing in your employee’s professional development regularly, will help them progress to higher-paid positions and feel more valued

How to measure the success of your wellbeing strategy

It’s important that you’re always reviewing your employee wellbeing strategy to ensure it’s as successful as it possibly can be.

The challenge is knowing how to measure your initiatives and how to analyze your findings. The good news is there are plenty of facts, figures and metrics you can use to see if your wellbeing initiatives are a good fit for your workforce and if they’re being well received.

In the first instance, you should ask your employees for their feedback and to give your initiatives a rating. This will give you insights into how many employees are engaging with your new strategies and what they think about them, whether they’re genuinely useful or not.

Some other employee wellbeing metrics you should keep an eye on might include:

  • Productivity levels
  • Number of sick days being taken
  • Employee turnover and retention rates
  • Overtime
  • Employee satisfaction rates

Of course, which metrics you choose and how you choose to collect this data will depend on the initiatives you choose and the goals you have set for your business. This could also depend on if you’re using an all-in-one wellbeing solution or platform that helps to gather data easily. 

Final thoughts

Employee wellbeing has never been more important. Not only are professionals prioritizing this when looking for jobs, some are even prepared to leave their current employer if they’re not doing enough to support them.

What's more, prioritizing employee wellbeing is beneficial to businesses as it leads to increased engagement, productivity and profitability.

So, if your organization hasn't already started getting a wellbeing strategy in place, you need to make this a priority this year.

There are lots of ideas for the different initiatives you can implement, but ultimately it's best to get feedback from your employees to see what they value and what they would like your organization to offer.

Once you’ve begun to get a strategy in place, you need to be consistently reviewing and revising this to make it better. This will lead to increased retention rates, help you to attract the top candidates and lead to an overall more successful business.

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