How to improve wellbeing in the workplace
In our previous blog looking at the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, Medigold Health’s new Director of Wellbeing, Dr Amrita Sen Mukherjee, explored the concept of workplace wellbeing and why investing in it can deliver multiple benefits for businesses. In this next instalment, she looks at some of the common barriers to workplace wellbeing and the different initiatives organisations can implement to successfully overcome them.
What are the barriers to workplace wellbeing?
The three key barriers to workplace wellbeing are:
Heavy workloads and ambiguity around task objectives are often a source of stress and worry. These additional pressures may be caused by resourcing issues (e.g. staff shortages) or pending deadlines. Regardless of the source, workload can often lead to fatigue, stress, anxiety and, if not addressed, burnout. The impact on an organisation is often a deterioration in the quality of work or even the loss of valuable staff.
Lack of psychological safety
Psychological safety is defined as a work climate where employees can trust their colleagues and feel safe to be and express themselves and to speak up and share their ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes without fear of being shamed, humiliated, shouted down or punished. A lack of psychological safety within the workplace can lead to a climate of toxic competition amongst employees and personal battles with motivation and self-esteem, which can have a significant, negative impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Employee stress and feelings of low self-esteem and incompetence amongst the workforce are often directly related to poor leadership style. Leadership qualities that cause increased stress include poor communication, micromanagement, and high levels of delegation. Paternalistic, authoritarian and transactional leadership are all examples of poor leadership styles.
What can organisations do to improve wellbeing in the workplace?
When looking to improve workplace wellbeing, organisations should consider these three areas and focus on introducing healthier practices and initiatives to support employee wellbeing. This will help ensure the development of healthy environments in which employees can thrive, thereby promoting organisational success.
The simple, evidence-based PERMA model devised by Martin Seligman can offer insight into how wellbeing can be cultivated and motivation and commitment can be enhanced, and can be used at both individual and organisation level. PERMA represents: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.
The daily practice of gratitude, i.e. acknowledging and reflecting on the things we are grateful for in our lives, either through writing in a journal or through conversations with others, has been shown to boost health, improve sleep and cultivate positive emotions. Not only do positive emotions support a positive mindset, they also enhance goal development. Goal development is an important motivator, which can make us feel more engaged and connected with our environments.
It is this connection and enjoyment of the task at hand, as well as the longer more sustained engagement, that supports positive wellbeing. At organisation level, efforts should be directed at cultivating an open culture and a supportive, positive work environment where employees and teams feel valued. Showing appreciation of employees and celebrating their achievements and success has also been shown to improve stress levels amongst the workforce and contribute to the development of better team relations.
Give your staff a reason to excel at work. Studies have shown that employees who are given the opportunity to utilise their personal attributes and strengths are more committed and engaged with their professional role and more energised by their professional environments. Employees who take pride in their work and the role they play within their organisation are more inclined to deliver high quality results.
There have been many lessons learnt from the pandemic and one of those is how important our relationships are to our wellbeing. Our personal and professional relationships can influence our mood and engagement. Workplaces that foster supportive relationships through regular catch-ups and briefings have been shown to have increased productivity. They have also been shown to support employees who are going through challenges and stress at work through sharing stories and experiences.
Does your organisation have a shared mission statement, sense of values and an aligned purpose? Working towards a common goal can support a workforce to understand their professional purpose, which can help enhance employees’ sense of meaningfulness and make work far more enjoyable for them as they develop a sense of being part of a ‘tribe’.
Visible recognition of individual and team success through praise or reward supports the development of trust, value, and respect amongst staff. The demonstration of such behaviour not only fosters positive emotion but also makes employees work harder and feel valued. Staff learn through shared experiences, good and bad, which promotes a culture of psychological safety. Such a culture generates pride and enhanced motivation amongst employees, supporting them to do the best for themselves, their teams and the wider organisation.
In summary, workplace wellbeing is affected by a multitude of factors, but while the exact approach you take to enhancing wellbeing will depend on the specific needs and goals of your organisation, some basic principles will always apply. Positive leadership styles, healthy workplace environments, supportive relationships, a common purpose, frequent recognition and celebration of individual and team success and an open learning environment can all go a long way in cultivating great levels of wellbeing amongst staff and will ultimately help them and your business to not just succeed, but thrive.
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