“Employee wellbeing” is a broad topic and one that’s at the forefront for employers and their teams alike. Traditionally, wellbeing in the workplace focused on dimensions such as an employee’s physical health, financial security, career opportunities, whether they enjoyed a feeling of community with their coworkers, and experienced the social benefits of the workplace, such as friendships and support from others. The connection between wellbeing and employee engagement was similarly linear: career development and connection to one’s peers, for example, are also two core drivers of engagement.
However, the pandemic greatly expanded what comprises wellbeing at work, increasing the focus on safety, and accelerating the normalisation of conversations about mental health, stress, work-life balance, and support for parents and caregivers. Additionally, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace are also top of mind and are all inextricably related to an individual’s employee experience, engagement, and wellbeing.
The definition of employee wellbeing is evolving
Unsurprisingly, the definition of wellbeing is rapidly evolving away from the traditional definition (how a person’s job impacts their overall health and happiness) to a more holistic definition that considers the state of a person’s mental and physical health, and the impact upon it of factors inside and outside the workplace. In short, today’s definition of employee wellbeing recognises that who we are at work is affected by our experiences both on the job, and at home.
The rapid shift to working from home in 2020 that blurred the lines between the workplace and the home forced many employers to consider employee wellbeing more holistically, as the impact employees’ personal circumstances have upon their engagement, productivity and performance were magnified by the effects of the pandemic.
Employers are increasing their investment in wellbeing
Employee expectations are also changing, and one area in which that is particularly evident is in the myriad ways employees are looking to employers for support. In fact, according to employee wellbeing trends identified by the Academy for Innovation in HR, employers are increasingly offering more support for family wellness and non-work-related employee assistance, such as coordination of childcare, credit counseling, and basic legal services.
The fastest area of growth in employee wellbeing, however, is in support employee mental health. According to Wellable, employers are investing most in mental health (88%), with stress management/resilience (81%) and mindfulness and meditation (69%) not far behind.
“With three out of five rising stars closely linked to mental health, it is clear that companies are extremely focused on and dedicated to supporting mental well-being. These programs have been growing in popularity in recent years, and the unique challenges created by COVID-19 have only accelerated the demand for mental health solutions,” the company noted in its 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report.
Given the rapid evolution of employee wellbeing, assessing your own organisation’s wellbeing initiatives, and aligning them with employees’ needs, could seem daunting. First and foremost, remember that you don’t need to be all things to all people. Leaders should concentrate on the elements of wellbeing that align with the company’s culture and objectives.