Before looking at the bookish definition of employee wellbeing, let’s look at a short story.
Have you got any idea of this magical place called a freaking ‘Restaurant’?
If you spend a lot of time eating outside, I am warning you right now. Please do not go there unless you are prepared to get hooked and give them all your money. Here’s how it generally works. A nicely dressed person takes your order and brings it to you. With lovely music in the background, you throw yourself into the food and feel bliss. The price is generally reasonable, and post-COVID, you can even bring your laptop to finish some work. Yep. That’s heaven, and we all have our particular spot.
There is this pizza place I go to all the time. It’s my favorite place because the music is fantastic, the food is sublime, and the view of the hills is something to behold. Most importantly, the staff is always having fun. Everyone feels good the moment they walk through the door.
That is, except for this one time.
I went to the restaurant one day not long ago, there was no music playing. The staff was quiet, and everything seemed a little tense. Immediately, a man I had never seen before greeted me. But I knew that he was the owner.
There was something about his presence that didn’t feel right. The staff’s behaviour confirmed it all.
The story isn’t over yet. I happened to hear a conversation between the owner and a waiter who I think is magical.
The conversation went something like this:
Owner (O): So, X, how long have you been with us?
Employee (x): 6 months
O: 6 months is a long time, Isn’t it? It is why I am disappointed.
The owner reaches his phone and proceeds to show X a picture of the customer’s food.
O: Do you see the food? There is no presentation, and we promise that. I had to give her a refund.
I know you’ve worked at many restaurants, but you need to do better.
X nods his head. I could see he wants to go home. I haven’t seen X taking any orders since. I presume he quit, and if he did, I don’t blame him.
What went wrong here?
Quite a few things, actually.
Clearly, the owner has some growing to do in the leadership department.
Now, think of this the same situation at your organization. Your employees may or may not make mistakes. How do you react? Do you regularly check on them? Do you take care of them, especially during tough times?
The point here is simple. Because we all want to suppress the topic, organizations misunderstand or don’t care about employee wellbeing.
What is Employee Wellbeing
In short, employee wellbeing is the way employees’ work, expectations, workplace affects their overall health and happiness.
Employees might not feel well, even when you treat them like gold. Even when your organization has clearly defined goals or when you pay them money, bonuses, and titles. Not everyone will, but some employees will not feel good. It’s because wellbeing has so many elements.
Here are few dimensions of employee wellbeing:
In simple words, it’s about connecting with other people at work. Building and maintaining positive relationships should happen consistently as that makes employees feel involved with the community.
Organizations need to help their employees cope and deal with the challenges at work. Long hours can affect anyone. Frequent breaks to help people out should be the focus. Acknowledging mental health at work should be the start, as most organizations don’t even do that.
The work environment affects everyone. A toxic environment makes employees run for their lives whereas an open and flexible culture increases employee satisfaction.
Sudden health emergencies can derail an employee’s journey at the company. It is connected to mental health as well. Lack of sleep gives way to fatigue and in turn, leads to low creativity and productivity.
Reasons For Your Employee Well Being Initiative Going Wrong
Reasons are plenty. Here are some of the important ones:
- Employee engagement isn’t a thing at the organization.
- Communication is not transparent. Remember it’s not about the sender’s satisfaction, it‘s about the receiver’s clarity.
- One size doesn’t fit all. Similarly, one initiative will not suit every employee. Every employee can have a unique challenge, and that needs to be solved individually.
- Your leaders talk big but never walk the talk. Initiatives, plans don’t work if they aren’t put into action.
- No measurement leads to zero improvements. Are you regularly measuring insights that matter?
- No active listening strategy leads to empty rooms. If you can’t find your employees, then maybe you weren’t listening when they talked.
How to Effectively Run an Employee Wellness Initiative
It is simple. Focus on the small things and connect the dots.
- Mandate a health check for your employees. Include mental health too.
- Request everyone to spend 5 minutes with themselves and be silent. Just be in the moment.
- Try and notice the feelings of your employees. So, you can do something about them.
- Wellness starts with self-awareness.
- Create opportunities for casual conversation between teams.
- A company doesn’t do anything, people do. Get out, talk to your people and see what you can do for them.
Examples of Organizations Getting Employee Wellbeing Right
Recently, LinkedIn announced one week off for its entire workforce to give them a mental break from work. The company wants employees to spend time re-energizing their minds and body.
Chegg provides its Indian employees a one-week Diwali off just like the Christmas break in the U.S. The idea is simple. Let people enjoy the festival with ease.
New Zealand recently passed a miscarriages bereavement leave law. It gives mothers and their partners the right to paid leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth. All organizations in NZ will have to follow this law.
Zomato introduced 10 days of period leaves in a year for its female staff. According to the company, menstrual health is a component of their employee wellness strategy.
Perhaps if the restaurant owner had followed the above advice, there would have been a different outcome. Perhaps, X would still be working at the restaurant. Perhaps not. But one thing’s for sure: We must get better at caring for our people. There are plenty of people who go home from work feeling hurt and devalued because of wellness initiative going wrong, and that shouldn’t be the case.
I hope this resonated with you. If it did, then go out and notice how your employees are doing and most importantly, do something about it.