What is HR’s role around Health and Wellbeing at work?
Promoting and fostering employee health and wellbeing is good for both employees and the business they work within. Given the challenges posed by the Covid 19 pandemic, health and wellbeing is very much at the forefront of peoples minds these days and they perhaps have a higher expectation of their employer around what they might provide to them by way of support, especially around mental health (all references to health in this article include mental health).
Promoting employee wellbeing can help prevent stress and burnout and create a positive work environment and culture. In this article I will explore employee wellbeing in the workplace, explain what it is, why it is so important and the role HR plays in promoting, steering and supporting both the strategy and activities associated.
What is employee wellbeing?
Well, this can relate to all aspects of working life including the environment employees work in, workplace culture, job contentment, relationships with colleagues and how they feel about their work in general.
Why is employee wellbeing important?
Taking time to create and invest in a holistic health and wellbeing strategy can lead to increased resilience, improved employee engagement, reduced sickness absence levels, higher productivity, improved performance and happy contented employees. However, introducing wellbeing initiatives in isolation often fall short because they are disconnected from any overarching strategy and, as such, people may not engage as they do not understand the purpose of isolated initiatives. Therefor employee wellbeing needs to be integrated within an organisation and become embedded in its culture, leadership and people managers if it stands any chance of being successful and achieving the benefits already mentioned.
Employee wellbeing should not be seen as an addon or nice to have – it needs to be a central part of a business for optimum effect.
The role of HR – Often it will be down to HR to ‘champion’ the business case for Health and Wellbeing and as such it is essential for HR to get top level buy in and outline clear expectations of managers. Having to construct a business case for something so fundamental as employee Health and Wellbeing might sound a bit odd, after all why wouldn’t you want your employees to be happy and healthy?!
However, as with many things, there is likely to be some cost associated with implementing such a strategy, so it is useful to point out the risk of not putting initiatives in place – for example increased sickness absence levels and therefore increased sick pay levels, cost to cover key roles, lost time and productivity.
It is also worth reminding the senior team, as part of the business case, there is also the risk of hefty fines (not to mention reputational damage) if the business does not comply with the law in relation to reducing health and safety risk within the workplace – stress is one of these risks. More so, there is a moral obligation to protect employee’s health at work.
HR has a key role to play in formulating and steering any Health and Wellbeing strategy in an organisation, supporting managers to embed it into the business’ day to day operations. It is also key HR ensures managers understand why it is important to have healthy teams and the benefit they bring to the business. HR is not (and should not be) solely responsible for employee wellbeing – everyone has a role to play!
So, you can see the business case for Health and Wellbeing is somewhat compelling!
Once the business case is approved how does HR move things forward?
A useful starting point may well be to carry out staff survey to understand what your employees are looking for. HR can initially carve action plans around the results of the survey and potentially involve the employees themselves to develop and implement these plans with the ownership and accountability for the same being shared amongst the senior team.
The actions plans will vary from business to business, dependent on the priorities and issues identified.
Whilst action plans help businesses focus on the priorities, HR can support ongoing wellbeing by encouraging employees to talk more openly around matters to do with mental health and related subjects such as the menopause. Enabling these conversations and making them part of everyday life helps to remove the sigma and any taboo surrounding them. More importantly, it allows employees to open up and discuss issues that are affecting them, or even family and friends.
Finally, a major area HR can help influence is around training. It is critical line managers are able to recognise signs an employee might be struggling. HR can support managers with these conversations by helping to equip them with the skills they need to handle conversations in the right way.
So, to conclude, as mentioned earlier the business case for Health and Wellbeing is highly compelling – more so now than ever before.
The business case and strategy will look different for every individual business and HR will paly a key part in building the business case, shaping the strategy and drive implementation, all of which should be driven by the employee needs.
Tip, There are many free resources and tool kits available and some resources are included as part of your benefit providers offerings.... Even your Pension provider! So reach to them and find out!
Treenhill consulting can help businesses with creating the business case for Health and Wellbeing strategy and/or support in implementing same so if you need help please do not hesitate to get in touch with me to see how we can help!