• Sarah Fearn

What is Employee Wellbeing?

Updated: May 1, 2019

A look at what wellbeing at work is, and what it isn't... including where benefits like yoga or free gym membership can fit in.

What it isn't...

Employee wellbeing is a lot more than free fruit, cycle to work schemes, gym membership or yoga. For instance, employees usually understand where the stress and threat to their mental health is coming from within their roles. They feel it physically as much as emotionally or mentally. If they approach business leaders, their line manager or HR saying they are suffering with stress due to an unrealistic workload and the only response is a suggestion they take up free yoga classes, that's going to make it seem like the business doesn't really care about them.

There is nothing wrong with these sort of employee benefits or wellbeing programs, and many positives to them, but they should be the sprinkles to your wellbeing approach rather than the whole dessert. They can seem like quick wins but they lack substance in isolation. They have to be part of a whole business approach to wellbeing, or they can disengage employees.

What Employee Wellbeing Might Be...

The Oxford Dictionary definition of wellbeing is "the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy" and it defines an employee as "a person employed for wages or salary, especially at non-executive level."

In very simple terms, then, it can mean that the people businesses pay wages to are comfortable, healthy and happy. It's not just about one aspect of their lives or who they are, but the whole of what it means for someone to be "well." Because wellbeing covers all aspects of wellness, it is a very broad term. In practice wellbeing can mean different things in different settings, and to different people. It can be physical and emotional safety, mental health, physical health, human connection, stability, appropriate levels of challenge, being able to live according to key values, opportunities to develop and learn, that someone has your best interests a heart, access to the tools or resources needed for success, having a sense of control, that you are neither too hot nor too cold, breaks and time with loved ones...

If you REALLY want to improve employee wellbeing, then you need to both define in it in practical terms that make sense to employees and tackle the root causes within your organisation of poor employee wellbeing, accoding to this agreed definition. Most companies don't do this, because this can mean cultural change and they don't know how to achieve it, or it feels overwhelming, or too expensive and time consuming. Doing superficial things, such sticking up a few posters and increasing the benefit offerings are easier, but not only will this not genuinely improve employee wellbeing, employees will see right through this... Luckily, Psyche&Heart can help. We know how to support businesses to achieve meaningful wellbeing and mental health goals in the most time and cost effective ways. Ones that have real impact.

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