Employee Wellbeing: Making It Central to Organisational Culture

Sep 21, 2023 | Performance Management Discussion

wellbeing at work - group of happy employees

In today’s fast-paced corporate world, focus on employee wellbeing isn’t just an afterthought—it’s a top priority. There’s a growing emphasis on wellbeing at work. Companies are now recognising its long-term advantages.

The growing emphasis on wellbeing at work is rooted in more than just care for employees; it delivers tangible results for organisations. Companies that prioritise their employees’ mental and physical health often see increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Here are some key facts from a recent Gallup study looking at the costs associated with poor wellbeing:

  • 75% of medical costs are due to preventable conditions
  • Average $2k of lost opportunity cost per employee
  • 15%-20% total payroll cost due to burnout


Organisations see the importance of ensuring both mental and physical health for their staff. And yet, there’s more to it than just offering gym memberships or organising wellness workshops. For lasting impact, it’s vital to weave the essence of wellbeing into the very fabric of the company culture.


Why Employee Wellbeing Matters

Employees’ overall wellbeing directly influences their engagement and performance. Companies are now focusing on the mental and physical health of their workforce. They aren’t merely promoting wellbeing as a token gesture. They’re investing in a long-term strategy that yields dividends in productivity, morale, and retention.

Managing stress and regulating working hours are important. However, the bigger goal is to create an environment where employees feel valued. They should also feel supported and motivated.

Stress management and physical activity are, without doubt, crucial pillars of any employee wellbeing strategy. Encouraging regular breaks is beneficial. Providing avenues for exercise helps too. Simply ensuring employees don’t work beyond their regular hours can also boost their morale.

However, there’s an underlying aspect that often gets overlooked: the company culture.


Company Culture and Employee Wellbeing

A positive work culture promotes an environment where employees feel they belong. This feeling of inclusion and acceptance can significantly reduce stress. On the other hand, a toxic work environment can be harmful.

Poor management can also have negative effects. These factors can overshadow any health services or employee assistance programmes a company offers.

Therefore, it’s imperative that promoting wellbeing is not just an HR task but is intertwined with the company’s core values. A tangible employee wellbeing strategy must include aspects such as flexible work policies and proper stress management training. A culture that prioritises wellbeing will naturally improve employee engagement and overall happiness.

However, employee wellbeing doesn’t stop at reducing stress or promoting physical activity. It’s a multi-pronged approach that considers various aspects of an individual’s work life. This could involve offering mental health services tailored to employees’ unique challenges. It might also mean providing an employee assistance programme. Such a programme would help those needing extra support in personal or professional matters.


Example Employee Wellness Programs

Understanding and promoting employee wellness has become an essential aspect of modern organisational culture. When employees are healthy, both mentally and physically, they tend to be more engaged and productive.

Here are some examples of wellness programs that organisations can implement to foster employee wellbeing:



Remote Working Arrangements:

  • Description: Letting employees work from home or another location outside the office.
  • Benefits: Provides a comfortable environment, reduces commute-related stress, and allows for a more flexible schedule.

Flexible Working Hours:

  • Description: Allowing employees to adjust their working hours based on personal needs or preferences.
  • Benefits: This can reduce stress, improve work-life balance, and cater to personal responsibilities, such as childcare or education.

Celebrate Employee Successes:

  • Description: Recognising and rewarding employees for their achievements, whether big or small.
  • Benefits: Boosts morale, encourages motivation, and fosters a positive company culture.

Employee Autonomy:

  • Description: Giving employees the freedom to choose how they approach their tasks and manage their time.
  • Benefits: Increases job satisfaction, boosts creativity, and empowers individuals to take ownership of their roles.

Promote Work-Life Balance:

  • Description: Encouraging employees to balance professional responsibilities with personal life.
  • Benefits: Reduces burnout, enhances job satisfaction, and leads to a more refreshed and focused workforce.

On-site Fitness Accommodations:

  • Description: Providing facilities such as gyms, yoga classes, or relaxation zones within the office premises.
  • Benefits: Promotes physical health, reduces stress, and provides a break from the regular work environment.

As a side note here, at Cogendo, we have just installed a rowing machine and have a multi-gym on order. They are in a meeting room for any employee to use. I personally use them for a quick bit of HIIT training – great for clearing the mind between tasks! 

Collaborative Workspaces:

  • Description: Designing open spaces where employees can work together, share ideas, and brainstorm.
  • Benefits: Encourages teamwork, boosts creativity, and fosters a sense of community within the workplace.

Mental Health and Counselling Services:

  • Description: Providing access to professional counsellors or therapists, either on-site or through partnerships with external agencies.
  • Benefits: Helps address and manage stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Employees feel supported in their mental and emotional well-being.

Nutritional Workshops and Healthy Snack Options:

  • Description: Organising workshops on nutrition, offering diet consultation, and ensuring the office pantry is stocked with healthy snack options.
  • Benefits: Encourages a balanced diet, educates employees on healthy eating habits, and provides nourishing options that can boost energy and concentration.

Regular Health Check-ups and Screenings:

  • Description: Arranging for medical professionals to visit the workplace for routine health check-ups or specific screenings like eye exams, cholesterol checks, etc.
  • Benefits: Early detection of potential health issues, promotes general health awareness, and conveys to employees that the organisation genuinely cares about their well-being.


These are just a few examples of wellness programs. The best approach is to tailor these initiatives to suit the specific needs and preferences of the workforce, ensuring a happier and more productive environment.


Embedding Wellbeing in Daily Interactions and Operations

Every interaction, every policy, and every decision in a company can have subtle implications for employee wellbeing. For example, long, inflexible working hours might signify an expectation of constant availability, which can weigh heavily on an employee’s mental health. On the other hand, a flexible work policy suggests an understanding of individual needs, promoting a balance between work and personal time.


Regular Check-ins and Employee Wellbeing

Regular check-ins, often known as one-to-one meetings, are crucial touch points between managers and employees. They offer a platform for feedback, clarity, and personal connection. Integrating discussions about wellbeing into these meetings can yield several benefits:

  • Open Dialogue: By making it routine to discuss wellbeing, it creates an open dialogue. Employees might be more forthcoming with concerns or challenges they’re facing, knowing they have a platform to do so.
  • Immediate Support: If an issue arises, it’s identified quickly, and necessary support or interventions can be provided in real-time.
  • Building Trust: Showing genuine concern for an employee’s wellbeing can foster trust. Employees will likely feel more valued and understood when they know their managers genuinely care about more than just their work output.



Performance Reviews and the Holistic Approach to Wellbeing

Performance reviews, traditionally, have been centred around targets, achievements, and areas of improvement. But integrating wellbeing adds a more rounded view:

  • Identifying Patterns: By considering wellbeing, managers might spot patterns. Maybe an employee consistently meets targets but often reports feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Recognising these patterns can lead to better support structures or even workload adjustments.
  • Encouraging Healthy Performance: When performance is tied only to outcomes, some employees might sacrifice their health to achieve targets. By integrating wellbeing, organisations send a clear message: it’s not just about what you achieve, but how you achieve it.
  • Reducing Burnout: Burnout is a genuine concern in many sectors. By considering the signs early on during performance reviews, organisations can take proactive measures, ensuring their employees remain healthy, motivated, and productive in the long term.



Collecting Wellbeing Information in Appraisals

The appraisal process, traditionally a platform to evaluate performance and set future objectives, can be an invaluable tool for understanding and promoting employee wellbeing. By embedding wellbeing-focused questions within the appraisal form, organisations can achieve two main objectives: sparking essential wellbeing conversations between managers and employees, and collecting crucial data for central analysis.


Sample Wellbeing Questions for Appraisals:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your current overall wellbeing?
  2. Have you experienced any work-related stressors or challenges in the past six months that you’d like to discuss?
  3. Are you satisfied with the work-life balance you currently maintain?
  4. Do you feel that the organisation provides adequate resources and support for your mental and physical health?
  5. Are there any additional measures or resources you believe would enhance your wellbeing at work?
  6. How frequently do you take breaks during the day, and do you find them refreshing?
  7. Have you ever felt hesitant to discuss wellbeing concerns with your manager or HR?


Central Analysis and HR Actions:

Analysis of data collected in performance reviews: By collecting and centralising this information, HR can:

  • Identify common wellbeing concerns or stressors across departments or roles.
  • Track the effectiveness of existing employee wellbeing strategies and interventions.
  • Understand the relationship between reported wellbeing scores and performance metrics.


Potential Actions From Analysis:

  • Targeted Interventions: If a particular department or role consistently reports lower wellbeing scores, HR can deploy targeted interventions, such as additional resources, stress management workshops, or workload assessments.
  • Policy Adjustments: Based on feedback, policies around flexible working hours, vacation time, or break periods might be revised to better cater to employee wellbeing needs.
  • Resource Allocation: If many employees indicate a need for specific resources, such as counselling services or ergonomic office equipment, HR can consider budgeting for these.
  • Wellbeing Workshops: If data suggests a lack of knowledge around available resources, HR can organise informational sessions or workshops to ensure employees are well-informed.

By actively seeking, analysing, and responding to wellbeing information from appraisals, organisations ensure that their strategies are both proactive and reactive, creating a work environment that genuinely values and promotes employee health and happiness.



Promoting Wellbeing Initiatives

While having a strategy is vital, promoting it effectively is equally crucial. Holding regular workshops on stress management is beneficial. Promoting physical activity in the office, such as walking meetings or stand-up desks, helps too. Collaborating with health services for regular check-ups is another important step.

An employee assistance programme is another excellent avenue, providing employees with access to counselling, legal advice, or other essential services. These programmes show employees that their employer doesn’t merely see them as a resource but values their overall wellbeing.



The Pitfalls of Neglecting Wellbeing

Neglecting employee wellbeing can lead to a range of issues. Poor management decisions, like overloading an employee with tasks without support, can lead to burnout. Wellbeing needs to be a part of the organisation’s core values. Without it, even the best health services might not make employees feel genuinely cared for.

A work culture that doesn’t prioritise wellbeing might achieve short-term gains. But in the long term, it risks high turnover rates, decreased productivity, and a tarnished company image.




For modern organisations, it’s clear: a holistic approach to employee wellbeing is not just beneficial—it’s essential. By building and promoting wellbeing initiatives, and by weaving them into the very fabric of the company culture, organisations not only ensure a happier workforce but also secure long-term growth and success.


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