Health and well-being in the workplace have received a lot of attention recently. In this article series, we will focus on the various factors that contribute to employee well-being and work-life balance. But first, let us have a look at the following statistics:
Thirty per cent of South Africans will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime, and 16.5% currently live with a mental disorder.
The World Health Organisation defines “health” as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. It is important for organisations to address employee health, well-being and work-life balance because it benefits both the employer and the employee. Unhealthy employees mean lower productivity, more time missed from work and even a possible increase in employee turnover.
The rapid changes and innovation due to the global pandemic, the internet age and the fourth industrial revolution have changed the way we work completely. According to a CIPD 2020 survey report, there has been a 37% increase in stress-related absences from work since 2019. The conclusion? Our employees are stressed and experience stress at work more than ever before. If this is not a call for help, then what is?
Being unhealthy impacts people on both physical and emotional levels. Employees may request sick leave to disconnect from their duties and recover. In other cases, struggling with bandwidth and work commitment, employees may feel an urge to work more despite feeling under the weather. As mentioned previously, this does not impact just the employees. It impacts organisations as a whole through decreased productivity and performance.
Securing employee well-being can translate to:
- Higher productivity: Employee well-being can increase productivity and performance. When well, employees display healthier behaviours and better decision-making.
- Higher morale: Employees feel more competent and valued when their needs are met at all levels – including physical, medical and financial.
- Better talent attraction: When your organisation has a reputation as an employer who respects and supports work-life balance, you are more likely to attract skilled candidates and retain your existing employees for longer periods.
Various organisations offer endless benefits to their employees. However, based on the discouraging statistics on burnout, employees still experience stress and burnout at work. Therefore, we should not face this problem as solely “benefit-related”. It is far more complicated than that. Well-being is more multi-dimensional than just the physical and emotional. The most common stressors that negatively impact well-being at work are:
- Leadership style: There is a saying that goes: “employees quit bosses, not jobs”, and that is exactly what our first stressor talks to. Poor management style can increase employee stress massively. Micromanaging, having to explain every single part of your daily activities and task deliveries to your manager is inefficient and quite exhausting. This can also make employees feel incompetent and unreliable.
- Workload: Employees with a heavy workload due to understaffing or urgent business needs are often stressed about getting it all done and meeting the deadlines. With less time to work on valuable projects, these employees can often sacrifice quality, and they worry that their results are inadequate. Helplessness, doubt and fatigue are associated with these conditions.
- Social support: For individuals to thrive, they need to be in a supportive environment that highlights the positive value of effective collaboration and individual contribution. A highly competitive environment with no compassion or support, where performance is always compared to that of peers easily leads to a lack in self-esteem and to toxic relationships, and it can be difficult to resolve. On the other hand, working from home, away from an environment of ready encouragement or where we see our colleagues daily, impacts the support we experience and impacts our well-being.
- Task clarity: Guidance, whether in the form of training or mentoring, is vital for employees to get the job done. Without clarity in work, employees may feel confused and struggle in determining priorities or setting their goals.
- Motivation: We sometimes overlook that work should be a positive experience. A monthly salary on its own won’t reinforce employees to keep up the good work. The more employees enjoy what they do and take pride in what they do, the better the results will be on what they deliver. If most of these employees’ daily tasks are things that they find dull, they may feel less motivated to go the extra mile. More regarding motivation and occupational health will be discussed in the article focusing on occupational health.
- Personal situations: Pregnancy, a relationship conflict, death of loved ones and so on may also indirectly affect employees’ well-being because it directly impacts the person. Our backgrounds, preferences and personal factors indicate the complex nature of employee well-being.
There are so many factors that can influence well-being directly and indirectly. However, there are steps that we can take to ensure a healthy work environment for our employees. We have established that well-being is much more than it appears. Well-being is a daily act of practicing healthy habits, and it should be viewed holistically.
Well-being refers to your body, mind and spirit. Focusing on your well-being can enable you to thrive and not only survive. Multiple dimensions contribute to your overall well-being. These eight dimensions are a way of incorporating all the various factors in our lives that can influence our well-being. The eight dimensions are:
- Intellectual wellness
- Environmental wellness
- Financial wellness
- Physical wellness
- Occupational wellness
- Emotional wellness
- Relational wellness
- Spiritual wellness
Throughout this article series, we will investigate the eight dimensions, the impact and importance of each and how we can create a work culture that prioritises well-being. If you provide your employees with a place where their well-being is valued as much as performance, their stress levels and burnout will decrease, making the probability of healthy, happy employees an almost guarantee.
By Zilmarie Carstens