In today’s workplace, employee mental, physical and financial wellbeing is an increasingly important consideration for Irish employers.
Competition for talent is high in many sectors. Organisations that demonstrate that they care about their employee’s wellbeing both inside and outside of the workplace can enhance their ability to attract and retain talent.
But what steps can employers take to promote employee wellbeing within their workplace?
That was the key theme explored at the recent Employee Wellbeing Summit
In this blog we will share some of the strategies deployed by industry experts to manage employee wellbeing and discuss:
- Why employers must modernise their wellbeing programs
- The practical steps employers can take to embed a culture of workplace wellbeing
- How to help employees feel comfortable in returning to the office
- How to adapt the hybrid approach within your organisation
- What employers can do to help reduce employee stress
Panellists at Employee Wellbeing Summit included:
- Claire Hellen, HR Strategy Specialist, Ibec
- Fania Stoney, CEO, Healthy Place to Work
- Rachael O’Shea, Head of Employee Experience, Taxback.com
- Triona Desmond, Senior HR Professional, AIB
1. Why employers must modernise their wellbeing programs
Employees want work-life balance
Much change has taken place for employees who were typically located in offices before the pandemic began. The most obvious change is of course remote working.
Fania Stoney, the CEO of Healthy Place to Work, believes that having worked from home for more than two years, many employees now want to continue working from home for at least part of the week (the hybrid approach to the working week) as it allows for a more flexible schedule and work-life balance which is important for employee wellbeing.
“COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a massive impact on the world of work.
“Employee expectations have really ramped up - they are actively seeking out organisations that are willing to invest in employee wellbeing by providing flexibility and allowing workers to work from home for at least part of the week.”
Employees are seeking organisations that offer a holistic approach to wellbeing
Many industries are now experiencing substantial competition for talent and it’s becoming significantly more challenging to retain and attract staff. This is because employees are now looking around to see what other employers are offering and comparing it to their own situation - this includes more than just salary.
Where employers can demonstrate that they genuinely care for their employees - for example by implementing substantial wellness programmes - they can garner loyalty amongst staff and boost motivation levels.
Step one is to ditch the mindset of the past. According to Stoney, a tick the box approach to wellness will no longer cut it in such a competitive talent market.
“For too long, organisations got away with having a fruit basket and the odd yoga session and calling it ‘wellness’. But employers should think of wellness as a 365 day a year issue. Alongside diet and fitness, wellness should also include being a good value fit, having the ability to learn and building connections, since these factors can impact workers' health.
“Having a holistic approach to workplace wellbeing will make organisations stand out and keep the talent that they have. After all, employees who are happy in their workplace are more inclined to stay (with their employer).”
In support of a more holistic approach in workspaces Triona Desmond, a Senior HR Professional at AIB adds that organisations should also ensure employees have a purpose, objectives, and constructive feedback.
“We need to think more holistically about workplace wellbeing by ensuring employees feel that their role in the organisation adds unique value. We also need to provide constructive feedback so employees know how they are performing and where to improve and also set out objectives for employees so that they’re clear on what they are working towards.
“Ensuring that employees are clear in all these areas is just as important as eating well and having a routine.”
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2. What practical steps can employers take to embed a culture of workplace wellbeing?
Have a holistic approach
In practical terms, what does it mean to have a holistic approach to wellbeing in the workplace?
Desmond says organisations must ensure that management is properly trained and prepared to support their teams.
“Thinking more holistically about wellbeing in the workplace includes considering if employees are productive and if leaders are being supportive enough and are listening to employees' needs. That way if an employee is struggling with mental health or any problems they have either at work or personally and it’s affecting their work they feel they can talk to management.
“So in this case it’s important for employers to introduce leaders and advocates in their organisation that have accreditation in wellbeing, that way leaders will be able to understand what normal stress is (since some pressure in work is normal) and then be able to identify when stress is too much and is actually affecting mental health and when an employee could do with some extra professional help.
“Another great option would be for employers to provide leaders and advocates with the opportunity to get accredited for wellbeing while working in their organisation”.
Leaders should set an example
Many employees feel that they are under pressure - either directly or indirectly - to work after hours. This has led to a ‘burnout culture’ developing in many Irish organisations. However, employees now have the right to switch off from work after hours and this should be embraced by organisations, but it all starts with senior leaders setting an example.
“It is very important that employers lead by example when implementing a culture of workplace wellbeing.” says Desmond.
“Let's take the issue of disconnecting from work after hours as an example. Senior leaders cannot be having meetings at six o’clock in the evening as that wouldn’t be setting a good example of work-life balance. Otherwise, employees could feel under pressure to stay and work after hours if they feel their manager expects it of them.”
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3. How to help employees feel comfortable in returning to the office
Reach out to employees and consider their concerns
Some employees are concerned about returning to the office after the pandemic. One common concern surrounds the prospect of re-establishing in-person relationships again after solely liaising with colleagues on a screen throughout the pandemic.
As an employer, it’s important to acknowledge that some employees find this overwhelming and reach out to them.
“Reach out to those that have anxiety about returning to the office and ask them: What could we do to help you? Do you want to come in and have a walk around? Essentially introducing these employees back to the office slowly and asking what they need to ease the process because once they’ll get over the hump of it, it can be really nice,” says Claire Hellen, a HR Strategy Specialist at Ibec.
Have a purpose for employees coming into the office
Employees may also be concerned about returning to the office and ending up doing the same tasks that they feel they could have completed at home just as well. Helle suggests that it’s important for employers to organise something different for employees when they come to the office.
“Make sure that when employees are coming back on-site it’s purpose-driven. So that employees are not just coming in to plug their laptops in, but that instead, they get to meet the team, network, meet their mentor or get some coaching. The experience of coming to the office needs to be different than working from home.”
Reintroduce employees to the office etiquette in a playful way
“When returning back to the office it’s important to remind employees of office etiquette but at the same time not to be forceful with it and make it fun if possible. Something that stood out to me was an organisation made an infographic of the do’s and don’t’s in their office that said ‘we don’t wear ties but we do wear good shoes’. It’s all about having fun with it so that it translates well to employees,” says Stoney.
4. How to adapt the hybrid approach within your organisation
New International Workplace Group (IWG) research reports that 72% of employees would like to permanently work remotely at least part-time, and so organisations should consider embracing a hybrid model, where employees will work for part of the week from home and part of the week from the office.
Know your legal obligations as an employer
Hellen advises organisations to do their homework on the legal aspect of working from home before rolling out remote working on a permanent basis. Companies need to consider the legal aspect and that they are responsible for the safety of their employees even if they’re working from home.
“First things first! It's very important that employers are familiar with their legal obligations. For example, employers will need to be familiar with the 2005 legislation on health and safety regulations before implementing a hybrid working policy. It’s really important that companies are au fait with their obligations because what’s very important for companies to be aware of is that they’re responsible for the safety in the workplace, even if that workplace is the person’s home.
“So I’d refer anybody to go onto the HSE website. They have a really good guide in relation to remote working. There’s also a checklist from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment which is very comprehensive and covers all the kinds of employment law obligations. It covers equality, workplace bullying and working alone.”
Keep the people working from home in mind
Another important point Claire makes is that organisations that will allow employees to work mostly from home need to make sure that they won’t forget about those employees and that they keep them in the forefront, even if they’re not in the office.
“It’s important that people who are working from home more often aren’t forgotten about because it could be those groups that are at risk of already being overlooked. So we need to be very clear and track our data, just to make sure that over time the hybrid model doesn’t somehow have any unintended negative consequences.”
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5. What can employers do to help reduce employee stress?
Ensure employees know their right to disconnect and have a balanced workload
There are many tactics employers can deploy to reduce employee stress. Firstly, employers should stress to staff that they have the right to disconnect outside of working hours, as this is important for work-life balance.
Additionally, employers should ensure that employees have a balanced workload and have enough people on their team so that the tasks can be distributed evenly to avoid stress overload on one person.
“To reduce employee stress I think employers should ensure employees know that they have the right to disconnect after work so that there is no pressure for employees to respond to emails or join meetings that are outside working hours. Additionally, leaders should ensure that employees have a balanced workload and enough people on the team,” says Desmond.
Stoney adds, “placing too much work demand on employees and not managing it well can cause an unhealthy amount of stress for employees.”
How employers can help with employee financial wellbeing
Another topic discussed at the Employee Wellbeing Summit 2022 was financial stress.
Dealing with financial issues can often cause stress for employees. As a result, employee productivity at work can often be affected.
As an employer you can relieve this financial stress for your employees by helping them to claim the taxes they are owed.
The average Irish tax refund is €1,880 - this is an amount that would certainly make a big difference to employees' lives and as a result, relieve some of their financial stress!
At Taxback.com we know that financial wellbeing is important for employees hence why we offer a Financial Wellbeing Service that businesses can implement.
How would this benefit employees?
With this service, we create a dedicated portal for you to share with your employees and we
help employees complete a four-year tax review!
We also submit the tax refund on behalf of the employee so it’s an easier process for them.
Why apply with Taxback.com?
- Maximum legal refund guaranteed
- 24/7 live chat support answering any tax questions
- Ensure any tax relief and benefit are applied to the return
- Online service, so no need for all the long paperwork!
- Will ensure employees remain tax compliant
Want to improve employees' financial wellbeing?
You can contact Barry Cahill, our Business Development Director at Taxback.com (email@example.com) for more information today.