Managing the health and wellbeing of your people not as simple as free fruit and gym memberships

05/02/2024
Helen Mill (TAB)

by Helen Mill, director of The Alternative Board North East Scotland

BUSINESS leaders know their role goes beyond profitability and strategic decision-making. You’re responsible for a team – a group of individuals whose work-life balance and overall wellbeing matter to you.

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That responsibility may seem daunting and a heavy weight to carry, but there are strategies to help lighten the load. And it’s fair to say that’s not as simple as free fruit and gym memberships.

A poll by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health found that over 50% of respondents felt their employers engaged in ‘wellbeing washing’ instead of genuinely addressing workloads and burnout. 

Things have changed… As more of ‘Generation Z’ come into the workplace and in the wake of a global pandemic, attitudes towards workplace health and wellbeing have changed. There is now more attention being paid to it, and it is quite clear, too, that mental health issues have increased because of the pandemic. 

Of course, if you have a thriving and healthy team, your productivity levels and profit margins are more likely to reflect that. New team members want to know they’ll be supported. There is also a growing expectation amongst candidates that the company they work for must support their well-being. 

They will expect a meaningful response to a question along the lines of “what do you do to safeguard the health and wellbeing of your employees?” 

Why is the health and wellbeing of your people so important? 

  • Good for productivity 
  • A stronger company culture
  • Happy and fulfilled employees 
  • Higher staff retention 
  • Greater growth 

Here are six ways you can effectively manage your team’s health and wellbeing:

1 – Be vulnerable and available

Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to your employees. While we’re not suggesting spilling your deepest secrets or woes, do be honest with them and relate to them on a personal and vulnerable level around safety and wellbeing issues.

You can do this through several ‘check-in’ meetings with each employee. These meetings are an opportunity to share and collaborate with your employees about health and wellbeing in the workplace. 

What more could you be doing as their employer? Take that feedback, good or bad, and do something with it. 

On the topic of feedback, open yourself up to criticism by producing regular employee surveys and ensure to include questions around health and wellbeing. 

2 – Consider health and wellbeing in an employee’s decisions 

If an employee has made an unusual or questionable decision, don’t produce a knee-jerk reaction. Take a step back and think about whether there’s something bigger going on. Be understanding first and act rationally, asking them where the decision came from and why. This will help maintainyour strong working relationship and show you want to support them.

3 – Look out for the warning signs 

A key part of managing health and wellbeing is understanding the signs of when someone might be struggling. Here are some key signs and indicators that it might be time to reach out:

  • Tiredness 
  • Distance 
  • Withdrawal from interactions 
  • Poor work performance 
  • Poor attendance 
  • Unfamiliar behaviours

4 – Encourage employees to pay attention to their own health 

With the day-to-day running of the business, it would be impossible for you to ‘spot’ everything. So, a key way to manage this is to stress the importance of all your people looking out for each other. 

5 – Be willing to adjust and invest

You need to be willing to adjust and invest money in some health-related issues. These may be reasonable adjustments you could make:

Homeworking; adjusted hours; different working environment; quiet space; increased training and support; changed communication methods; the addition of specialist equipment.

6 – Look after yourself 

How can you expect to look after others if you’re not looking after yourself? ‘Put your oxygen mask on first’. Here are some ways to make that happen:

  • Get plenty of sleep 
  • Schedule some exercise 
  • Regulate your screen time 
  • Spend some time outside each day 
  • Eat a balanced diet

Managing the wellbeing and health of your people is not something to be tackled through sporadic interventions. It requires a permanent change of attitude and behaviour from you as a leader but also within the whole business. 

Helen Mill, who is based in the North-east of Scotland, is director at The Alternative Board (TAB), which helps business owners run their organisations more strategically. Her boards cover the Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Angus and Perth areas. TAB helps business leaders by offering them a powerful, streamlined programme that includes monthly peer advisory boards, one-to-one business coaching and workshops. Helen is a former director of commercial innovation at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University. There are more than 500 TAB boards worldwide.

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