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How to improve wellbeing at work

Employee engagement strategies to help build wellbeing across all areas of people's lives.

Written by
Juri Han

There’s never been a greater focus on wellbeing at work. During Covid-19, investing in staff changed from a nice-to-do activity to one that leading employers must do to attract the best candidates.

If you’re looking to invest in your staff to not only attract new talent but also to keep top employees, here are some of the key areas to focus on.

1. Improving physical wellbeing

One of the first notable wellbeing programs in the workplace was led by Johnson & Johnson’s Live for life campaign in 1979 that included a physical assessment and then preventative measures. As a result, they were the first company to be tobacco free and also have a global HIV prevention program – according to Peter Fasolo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer,Johnson & Johnson.

Physical wellbeing programs changed a lot in the decades that followed and, with the transition to working from home, have recently gone through another shift. As offerings like fruit and other healthy foods in the office kitchen have become less of a perk, so employers are considering what they can provide remotely.

Team health challenges

Team health challenges like STEPtember are a way to promote physical activity that can be done individually or as part of a wider team – meaning they work both in-person and when people are working remotely. They also generally raise money for a good cause, providing increased motivation for team members.

Subsidised gym memberships and health insurance

Two of the more traditional wellbeing offerings have been popular amongst larger organisations for years. Corporate health insurance policies and membership packages are a way to reduce some of the financial burden on employees and promote healthy behaviours.

2. Improving mental wellbeing

A recent report from AON found that employee burnout is most prevalent in the Asia-Pacific (including Australia) region when compared to other regions around the world. From yoga days to shorter working weeks, there are a range of initiatives businesses are trialling to tackle this problem.

Flexible working arrangements

A lot of businesses have begun to consider the way the roles they offer are designed – modifying workloads as well as creating flexible working hours so that employees can better juggle their lives and work.

At the end of 2020, Unilever announced a year-long 4-day week trial in New Zealand among its staff – who are still paid their full salary. “Maintaining competitive edge, increasing productivity and improving wellbeing sit at the heart of the four-day week,” said Nick Bangs, Unilever New Zealand’s Managing Director, at the time.

Mental health support

According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 4 Aussies will experience anxiety in their lifetime, while 1 in 7 will experience depression. Creating an open and supportive environment where support services are clearly sign posted can make a big difference, as can running programs with expert partner organisations that normalise talking about mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

3. Improving financial wellbeing

Research from EY found that 7 in 10 employees regularly face financial stress – making it the number one concern of employees in the workplace. Half of these employees often experience a financial shortfall between pay periods – facing this issue approximately three times a year.

According to AMP, employees that are financially stressed are ineffective for 7.7 hours a week and absent for a further 1.2 hours a week through sick days – this costs the Australian economy $30.9bn a year.

Earned wage access

To solve the pain caused by the extended locked pay cycles, some employers have implemented earned wage access – a solution that enables employees to access a percentage of their pay as they earn it. This flexibility means that people are less stressed and reduces their need to borrow – as well as pay interest. Results from a recent impact assessment found:

  • 77% of people using earned wage access reported reduced stress
  • 72% of people reported increased confidence and feeling more in control of money, while 2% struggled to adjust
  • 55% of people reported their budgeting improved
  • Reliance on high-cost credit reduced by 88% for payday loans and 39% for credit cards

See the impact assessment.

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