People are always treated with kindness, empathy and compassion. They understand that they matter and that their experience of how they are treated and supported matters. Their privacy and dignity is respected. Every effort is made to take their wishes into account and respect their choices, to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. This includes supporting people to live as independently as possible.
What is wellbeing at work?
Promoting and supporting employee wellbeing is at the heart of our purpose to champion better work and working lives because an effective workplace wellbeing programme can deliver mutual benefit to people, organisations, economies and communities. Healthy workplaces help people to flourish and reach their potential. This means creating an environment that actively promotes a state of contentment, benefiting both employees and the organisation.
Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity. However, wellbeing initiatives often fall short of their potential because they stand alone, isolated from the everyday business. To gain real benefit, employee wellbeing priorities must be integrated throughout an organisation, embedded in its culture, leadership and people management.
The people profession is in a unique position to drive forward this agenda, to convince senior managers to make it a priority, and ensure that line managers are confident and capable to support their team’s wellbeing.
A holistic approach to wellbeing
Employers should ensure they have a holistic framework in place to support people’s physical health and safety, and mental health, and offer sources of help such as counselling, an employee assistance programme and occupational health services where possible. They need to ensure line managers in particular have the ongoing guidance needed to support their teams, so they can have sensitive conversations with individuals and signpost to expert help where needed. All employees should be encouraged to have a good self-care routine including a healthy approach to diet and sleep.
There’s been a rise in the number of reported mental health issues over the past 10 years, and it’s well recognised that many risks to people’s health at work are psychological. This has led to a growing recognition of the need for employer wellbeing practices to address the psychosocial, as well as the physical, aspects of health and wellbeing. Our 2022 Health and wellbeing at work survey report shows that organisations’ wellbeing activity is increasingly focused on mental health with most organisations taking steps to support mental health and address workplace stress.
The survey also found evidence of a range of unhealthy working practices such as ‘presenteeism’ (people working when unwell), with 81% of organisations reporting presenteeism among people working from home and 65% in a physical workplace. Two-thirds (67%) have also observed some form of ‘leaveism’, such as using holiday entitlement when unwell or to work, over the past 12 months.
These findings are not signs of a healthy workplace. Employers need to look beyond absence statistics to understand the underlying factors, such as unmanageable workloads, that are driving unhealthy working practices and influencing people’s wellbeing.
Our 2022 Health and wellbeing at work survey identified the top three benefits of employers increasing their focus on employee wellbeing:
Health and wellbeing shouldn't be treated as an ‘add-on’ or ‘nice-to-have’ activity by organisations – if employers place employee wellbeing at the centre of their business model and view it as the vital source of value creation, the dividends for organisational health can be significant.
The UK government has launched a Voluntary Reporting framework to support employers to report on disability, mental health and disability. This will help to ensure that an employer’s approach to inclusive employment and progression is integrated across the organisation and taken seriously be managers and employees.
The CIPD's role in fostering employee wellbeing
We have set an aspirational agenda for workplace health and wellbeing. An effective employee wellbeing programme should be at the core of how an organisation fulfils its mission and carries out its operations, and should be strategic.
To create a healthy workplace, an employer needs to ensure that its culture, leadership and people management are the bedrock on which to build a fully integrated wellbeing approach.
The key domains of wellbeing
We've identified a range of inter-related 'domains' of employee wellbeing, guided by the principle that an effective employee wellbeing strategy needs to go far beyond a series of standalone initiatives.
There’s no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to designing a health and wellbeing strategy; its content should be based on the unique needs and characteristics of the organisation and its workforce.
The underlying elements include examples of workplace initiatives and activities to support people’s health and wellbeing.
Everyone has responsibility for fostering wellbeing
Adopting an organisational approach to employee wellbeing carries with it distinct responsibilities for particular employee groups.
People professionals have a lead role to play in steering the health and wellbeing agenda in organisations. They need to ensure that senior managers regard it as a priority and integrate wellbeing practices into the organisation’s day-to-day operations.
They need to communicate the benefits of a healthy workplace to line managers, who are typically responsible for implementing people management and wellbeing policies. They need to work closely with all areas of the business and provide practical guidance to ensure that policies and practices are implemented consistently and with compassion.
Lack of senior management commitment to wellbeing can be a major barrier to implementation. Senior managers are crucial role models, and line managers and employees are more likely to engage with health and wellbeing interventions if they see senior leaders actively participating in them. Senior managers have the authority and influence to ensure that wellbeing is a strategic priority embedded in the organisation’s day-to-day operations and culture.
Much of the day-to-day responsibility for managing employees’ health and wellbeing falls on line managers. This includes spotting early warning signs of stress, making supportive adjustments at work, and nurturing positive relationships.
Yet our surveys consistently show that ‘poor management style’ is a main cause of work-related stress. In our 2022 Health and wellbeing at work survey, around a quarter (26%) of respondents blamed management style for work-related stress. Managers are important role models in fostering healthy behaviour at work, and this finding shows how harmful the impact can be if managers aren’t equipped with the competence and confidence to go about their people management role in the right way.
Managers also need to understand the impact their management style has on employees and the wider organisational culture at work.
Our guidance for managers on preventing and reducing stress at work outlines the key steps they should take.
Occupational health (OH) is a specialist branch of medicine focused on health in the workplace. For this reason, OH practitioners should work closely with people professionals and those responsible for health, wellbeing and safety in a workplace.
Employees also have a responsibility for looking after their own health and wellbeing, and will only benefit from wellbeing initiatives if they participate in the initiatives on offer and take care of their health and wellbeing outside work as well. Employers can encourage employees’ involvement by communicating how staff can access the support and benefits available to them. It’s also important that the organisation seeks employee feedback about its current offering so it can learn how to shape existing initiatives and plan new ones.