Worker wellbeing is much in the headlines these days. Whether the concern is over possible rollbacks of employee rights in the event of a leave vote or the high number of annual sick days taken by UK workers, there’s a lot of hand-wringing about. The research from a variety of public and private sources makes clear: employees are more engaged, loyal, and productive when they feel they’re being looked after by their company.
Listen – and act
Not every work process can be solved by the digital world, but some certainly can. For instance, as UK accountants can attest, many businesses still use paper records or spreadsheets to record their expenses, while employees have to complete cumbersome paperwork to request reimbursement; it means that workers wait until the last minute to file requests, which creates a flurry of work at the end of the month, quarter and year for those in the finance department. Look at the processes that seem to be causing your organisation the most pain and see if there isn’t something you can do to alleviate it.
Listen to your employees, even if their complaints hit some tender spots. Then, go further and give them agency. Have they asked for better collaboration tools? Better accounting software? Or something softer like a volunteer program or pet days at work? Rather than using a canned “We can’t afford it” response, task a willing team member with researching possible solutions.
Showing a willingness to listen to your employees is nice, but showing that you will act on reasonable suggestions will yield better results in terms of workplace satisfaction.
Consider your office environment
In 2015, Public Health England published “The impact of physical environments on employee wellbeing”, which summarises recent literature on the topic. Unsurprisingly, research shows a link between environment and workers’ sense of wellbeing – and thus their productivity and dedication to their jobs.
Physical comfort is, of course, important, but arguable more so is workers having a measure of control over their conditions. Adjustable-height desks, choices in seating, and other factors in the immediate environment go a long way toward fostering wellbeing in the workplace. Discomfort, on the other hand, is a major contributor to absences and employee turnover.
A workplace should offer different types of spaces or at least the flexibility to seek privacy when necessary. For office workers, a lack of privacy and control has also been linked to absenteeism.
The PHE report also advises employers to go beyond surveys – which workers are both weary and wary of – and engage employees early in the process of making changes. Try creating focus groups or recruiting volunteers for committees.
Not every workplace can follow the lead of the Googles of the world, but most businesses have it within their power to provide more than the basics of a roof and a floor. And shouldn’t they want to, in the service of retaining valuable staff?