Workplace Wellbeing


Workplace Wellbeing

Workplace Wellbeing

Common wisdom holds that worker productivity is one of the key factors in a company’s success.

While this is obviously true, this fact can often be dangerously misinterpreted, even by highly qualified managers and business leaders.

This can ultimately lead to harmful management practices which seek to squeeze maximum productivity out of workers at the expense of their happiness. Productivity itself can be quantified, but many of the factors behind it cannot be so easily measured and managed. One such factor is employee and workplace wellbeing.


Conceptualising wellbeing

If you’re familiar with general health and wellbeing discourse, you might have already heard of the term ‘subjective wellbeing’ (or SWB). This is used to refer to ‘a person’s cognitive and affective evaluations of his or her life’. An extensive government report on wellbeing in the workplace explains the two broad approaches to subjective wellbeing.

The first kind, ‘hedonic’ approaches, focus on the affective feelings a person experiences in the course of their job – such as anxiety or contentment – as well as the adequacy of those feelings. An example of a hedonic approach to subjective wellbeing would be job satisfaction surveys or ratings. Evidence shows that these ratings have an influence of employees’ decision-making and behaviours, such as whether to find another job or not. The ‘eudemonic’ approach to SWB, on the other hand, ‘focuses on the extent to which a person experiences feelings that are considered to demonstrate good mental health’, such as feeling a sense of purpose in a job.

What’s important to take away from this is that wellbeing is not simply the result of material factors such as pay, hours worked or physical illness; it is also comprised of subjective categories of mental wellbeing and self-image – the psychosocial.


Building wellbeing in the workplace

A report from NEF compiles the vast array of evidence on the factors influencing wellbeing at work. The evidence suggests that there has been a shift in what motivates people to work; from a maximisation of income and job security, to a growing insistence on work that is meaningful and purposeful. In other words, eudemonic factors have come to dominate subjective wellbeing.

They conclude that businesses must do the following:

Improve people management and employee engagement
This could involve empowering line managers to give employees a voice in the way the business is run. It also involves a certain number of managerial behaviours, such as how managers “express and manage their own emotions, manage conflict, are accessible and visible, and manage workload and resources”.

Construct positive organisational responses
These include policies relating to stress management and ‘unsociable’ shift patterns. It also relates to hiring processes for management, such as hiring those who are good at people management, rather than simply good at their jobs. Finally, this could also include evaluating existing wellbeing initiatives.


Stronger wellbeing = stronger business

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 137 million work days were lost due to sickness or injury absences in the UK in 2016.  It’s clear that the lack of a comprehensive wellbeing scheme can significantly damage output; the effort of putting a strong scheme in place might seem like a chore, but it will ultimately pay off for you and your employees. Focusing on the three key areas of leadership, culture and communication, the Workplace Wellbeing Charter offers guidance, auditing services and accreditation for businesses interested in improving workplace wellbeing. As Professor Dame Carol Black, the Expert Adviser on Health and Work says, “The positive impact that employment can have on health and wellbeing is now well documented. There is also strong evidence to show how having a health workforce can reduce sickness absence, lower staff turnover and boost productivity – this is good for employers, workers and the wider economy.”

The holistic assessment offers businesses the opportunity to understand their employees health and wellbeing and support workplace wellbeing schemes which, encouragingly are beginning to gain traction with UK businesses.



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