Who is responsible for our wellbeing?

Liz-kentish3By Liz Kentish

We all know it’s important. We know both as employer and employee that we should acknowledge wellbeing in the workplace. We even know what it means, and represents. It’s more than just another workplace trend. But who looks after it, and who can we hold responsible for our wellbeing in the workplace?

The question is similar to that of ‘who is responsible for our health’? We have an NHS to effectively ‘look after us’ if things go wrong or if we need a check-up, blood test, vaccination, treatment or other health support. But our ‘health’ is down to us, surely? If we eat and drink the right things, exercise enough and don’t smoke – we have a better chance at staying healthier.

We can get our cars MOT’d and our laptops (and growing list of other devices) serviced. In a lot of workplaces we can even get wellbeing check-ups and, as we are increasingly seeing, surveys are being conducted to measure things like productivity and employee satisfaction.

The organisational philosophy of a company filters down through to all staff members and it all has an impact on how we do our work, how content we are, how we manage things and how we plan – quite literally everything. The truth is our wellbeing lies in the hands of all of us, as a collective. Both employers and employees are responsible for the entire workforce. At the end of the day, an organisation is made up of people, and we can all play our part. It’s through collaborative efforts we can make any real business growth and success. So of course it makes sense to treat the workforce’s wellbeing in the same way.

Just like being a student at school, we are responsible, in as much as we get out what we put in. Teachers only help and assist us in the end goal. They teach us what we need to know, and give us a range of tools to further our knowledge, but it’s our responsibility to do something with it and to use it to better ourselves. An employer can have wellbeing initiatives and benefits in place, but we need to embrace them and utilise them, it is our own personal responsibility, therefore, to maintain a good physical, social and mental wellbeing.

Apologies for another analogy but, most of the time, our wellbeing at work can be likened to an iceberg (no, it won’t sink any ships). You can see about a third of it, above water, and the other two thirds are buried, invisible. The below water elements are for us to manage and sustain; the visible, above water section, is where our employers can support us.

More and more organisations are accepting that wellbeing improves cognitive performance, and that less stressed and healthier employees are more productive (go figure!). The influx of campus style workplaces that seem to be popping up everywhere in recent years, tries (and seems to have succeeded) in making a business much more than just a workplace. They allow employees to eat well, exercise and even socialise – all things that help build employee engagement, ergo increased wellbeing and, finally, heightened productivity.

People tend to spend the majority of their time in the workplace, so it’s natural that positive changes in the workplace can have the most impact in helping people to live healthier and happier lives. The government has realised this, as have many external employee benefits practitioners and bodies.

Let’s be honest though, as an employer it makes good business sense to keep your workforce mentally and physically fit, as happy and healthy employees are more engaged, productive and loyal where they see the link between what their employer provides for them and improvements in their personal health.

It’s not about intruding on employees’ personal lives but more about giving them what they want, and might actually need. It’s about behavioural change and support. If they have access to services, such as coaching, and initiatives to help them look after themselves and embrace their wellbeing – more often than not, they will! By providing a variety of easy to access platforms, employees can be aware of their own health/wellbeing status, have the required support and positive environment that promotes healthy and positive, universally beneficial choices.

This article originally appeared in HR Review

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