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Employee Wellbeing Q1 2022

Supporting a healthy and engaged workforce 

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Rachel Suff

Wellbeing Adviser, CIPD – the Professional Body for HR and People Development

Employee health and wellbeing has risen up the business agenda. But what do organisations need to focus on as they get to grips with new ways of working? 

The COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for more flexible ways of working, such as homeworking and hybrid working, which is of great benefit for many. However, remote working also brings potential risks for people’s health if they aren’t supported properly.

This includes ‘presenteeism’ – people working when unwell – which CIPD research shows was even higher last year among those working from home compared with those based in a workplace. The pandemic and new ways of working have also increased the risk of work-related stress and even burnout for some workers.

With many organisations adopting a hybrid working approach, there are a few key areas employers can focus on to maximise their wellbeing support.

Supporting mental health

With workforces increasingly spread across different locations and less face-to-face contact, it is important that organisations implement ongoing wellbeing support for remote workers.

Employee assistance programmes (EAP) and counselling services should be actively promoted and line managers should be encouraged to regularly check in on team members. This will hopefully give people the chance to discuss any problems and the organisation to intervene early with support or adjustments to help prevent any health issues from escalating.

Increased workloads are the top contributor to workplace stress.

Appropriate training for line managers

Line managers are usually best placed to spot when someone is having challenges with their health or experiencing stress. Increased workloads are the top contributor to workplace stress and should be overseen by managers and assessed regularly.

However, ‘management style’ also remains a common cause of stress at work. It is important not to blame managers for this – organisations should invest in appropriate training and equip their line managers with knowledge and skills on how to best manage people and support their teams. This includes making sure they have the confidence to have sensitive and empathetic conversations with people and signpost to expert sources of health support.

Fostering an inclusive and healthy culture

Our wellbeing at work is influenced by a wide range of factors, so organisations need to pay attention to every aspect of the working environment to ensure they are building healthy workplaces.

For example, leaders and managers need to foster a culture built on positive values such as dignity, respect and inclusion. They need to role-model a compassionate management approach and encourage healthy working habits. For those who are working remotely, this means proactively encouraging people to switch off at the end of the working day to enjoy a good work-life balance.

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