The Occupier 2019 Predictions: Wellbeing = Performance and Productivity

This is the fourth in the 10-part series, The Occupier: 2019 Predictions.

Increasingly, employers are introducing new ways of working and new policies to not only support their employees but also to ensure their overall wellbeing. It is an area of company policy that is no longer just the remit of the HR manager, responsibility now falls to those in senior positions including Chief Operating Officers and Financial Officers.

Employee wellbeing is no longer considered an afterthought when problems arise but rather an integral part of running a business. A healthy and happy workforce breeds motivation, productivity and efficiency. It will even attract new talent to the business if employers are seen to be taking employee wellbeing seriously. As the employment market is set to get tighter in 2019, companies will be expected to introduce robust wellbeing strategies for the workforce.

It is no secret that companies such as Google were early adopters and are very keen to ensure their employees are motivated and happy. In 2013 the firm launched “Project Aristotle” which sought to improve productivity by introducing perks such as massage rooms, haircuts and outside space to grow vegetables among many other initiatives. Other large firms have introduced programmes, Accenture gets employees to set goals and offers rewards for meeting them and taking part in healthy activities. Elsewhere, software company Intuit reimburses expenses for meditation classes and actively promotes mindfulness by incentivising their employees to take walks, listen to soothing music and by posting “mindful moments” on whiteboards around the office. Whilst these are initiatives from large corporates and require a high level of investment from the employer, it is not a model that fits all. But other things can be done and we don’t see firms shying away from their responsibilities.

Initiatives that promote workforce collaboration can also be run from within a firm. Many companies run “Allies” schemes, both for mental health and LGBT+. These are usually volunteers from the workforce, and whilst they do not have to be medically trained or provide advice, they do provide colleagues with a person to whom they can go with problems to be heard without fear, judgement or pressure. One such example is employers like the University of Leicester who introduced a menopause policy, to support this significant but often taboo part of female employees’ lives. Whilst these do not necessarily relate to the physical space of a workplace, provision of areas and tools in which to facilitate these initiatives will be just as important as the space for a desk.

Employers have seen results where a push for both wellbeing and the work-life balance is led from the top down. These individuals are influential, and drive the direction of a business. Where senior members of staff such as the COOs, CFOs and beyond, embody, promote and support wellbeing of both themselves and their teams, this tends to filter down. Senior managers are therefore increasingly leading by example, rather than leaving employee wellbeing solely to HR. Marrying this up to a workplace and property strategy will be vital in engaging and retaining staff.

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