The importance of workplace wellness – how to create happy & healthy workers

Joe Wedgwood | 26th October 2018

What’s more important than being healthy and happy at work? If you’re instantly thinking of profits, customer service and market share, then you must read on…

We spend a shockingly high percentage of our lives at work. If your people are unhappy, unhealthy or have any other issues surrounding wellness – then you must address this! Failure to establish a culture that encourages wellness will lead to your people having wandering eyes and your business being less attractive to the next generation of workers, who often value happiness over pay and benefits…

You might have spent time and resources on building a strong vision and brand, improving your product/services and investing in new tech. But that overlooks the most important element of your business… your people! What have you done to improve their wellness? I thought it was timely to highlight the importance of a happy and engaged workforce as it’s “Cranky Co-Workers day” tomorrow!

The importance of workplace wellness

We recently compiled our own research into what factors most affect the happiness and well-being of people at work. We surveyed over 2,500 employers and employees around the globe. Our results highlighted that factors like enjoyment of role, trust and work-life balance are more important to employees than salaries – when it comes to feeling happy at work.

(To read our whitepaper which outlines all our research Click Here)

Workplace wellness is critical to your business due to the huge cost implications related to employee illness and stress. According to the 2017 Health and Safety Executive report, “37% of all work-related sickness is due to stress, including anxiety and depression; costing UK employers an estimated £3.7 billion a year in absenteeism.”

So what sort of initiatives should you implement to improve workplace wellness within your business?

Tips to improve workplace wellness:

Emotional Intelligence training

Superior emotional intelligence (EQ) improves your worker’s performance, wellness and stress levels. Sounds too good to be true, right? To effectively develop a culture of mindfulness and self-reflection it is important to have training sessions or even ”lunch ‘n’ learns” that provide practical exercises and takeaways to help improve EQ.

Here at The Happiness Index HQ, we have an in-house specialist who has empowered us to diagnose our EQ personality types:

  • Emotional – expressive, empathic, creative, energetic…
  • Instinctive – knowing decisive, territorial, conviction, certainty…
  • Rational – logical, organised, objective, process-driven…
  • Reflective – intuitive, self-aware, insightful, visionary…

This helps us understand how to communicate with each other and work collaboratively. This is an effective technique for wellness, as we modify our behaviours to ensure we complement each other’s working practices. We also know when to take our foot off the pedal if someone is more sensitive to certain behaviours, or personality types.

Ask daily wellness questions

An effective technique is to ask your people questions daily that make them consider how they approach their day in terms of healthy mind, body and working practices. You don’t necessarily need written or verbal answers. Simply asking the questions will lead to the individual considering their choices and answering internally. This will help your people to think positively and tailor their working practices.

Example questions:

  • “What are your personal goals toward your own health and well-being today?”
  • “What form of exercise will you partake in today?”
  • “What can you do today that will make you happy?”
  • “What can you do today to improve someone else’s day?”

Focus on flexibility

“Working nine to five” may have been a big hit for Dolly Parton but for most of us, it’s archaic. It’s also a very unattractive prospect!

Thanks to technology people expect to be able to fulfil their duties away from the office. People can work in any country and at any time – day and night. Assuming everything gets done, does it really matter if everyone is chained to a desk all day?

It goes without saying that not everyone can work from home effectively, so it’s important to get to know your people and learn what works best for everyone. For those who do work well from home, it will lead to a boost in performance and offer a break from a grim commute and the stresses of office politics.

Consider The Losada Line

We borrowed this strategy from workplace psychology guru Shawn Achor and his incredible book The Happiness Advantage. The theory is centred around focussing on the number 2.9013. Don’t worry I’ll explain…

According to mathematician Marcial Losada, this is the ratio of positive to negative interactions required to make a workforce happy and ultimately successful. The idea is that it takes about three positive comments, experiences or even expressions to fend off feelings of negativity and sadness. If you drop below this ratio your worker’s wellness and performance will drop and if you rise above it at a ratio of 6 to 1 – you are in the golden range where performance is highest and workplace wellness improves massively. Start complimenting your people and getting them to “pay it forward”. What have you got to lose?

Sleep happy, wake happy

Another powerful approach is a self-reflection exercise that encourages positive thinking. This is also a by-product of The Losada Line. The practice involves reflecting on your day just before bed and thinking of three positive things that happened to you in the last 24 hours. This ensures you scan your memories with a positive filter and start to see the good in things… even if they are minute and your day was particularly bad! Eventually, this way of thinking will be instilled and you will start to think more positively in general.

By encouraging your people to do this, you will create a team of happy workers who look for the best in every situation.

“It’s better to give than to receive”

Businesses are quick to invest in perks in their mission to boost wellness and productivity. The reality is that it takes more than that to make a sustainable difference.  By partnering with charities or local environmental drives you will allow your people to actively help others and witness how their efforts create positive outcomes for more than just a balance sheet.

This will improve staff wellness and happiness, as they will have more of a sense of purpose and will be proud to work for a business that genuinely cares about real-world issues. We recently partnered with Hope for children – a charity that helps to enrich the lives of underprivileged children around the globe. From a personal viewpoint, I find it very motivating to know that the harder I work, the more we can contribute to this great cause.

If that didn’t convince you, it will also bolster your customer relationships. This is demonstrated by The UK Small Business Consortium; “88% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society.”

Use your space cleverly

We spoke with Head of Design at Studio 11, Paul Bateman to discover what are the best office designs to facilitate collaboration, health and productivity, “Companies are trying to attract and retain talent straight out of university and many students are used to the modern hot-desking approach that promotes flexible working. These non-corporate office style designs are increasingly more popular because businesses need to be agile to keep up in competitive markets.”

To further promote this flexible approach, you can make small tweaks to your existing office to maximise your space, whilst encouraging collaboration and catering to different working styles/needs. Some examples could be interactive walls that people can draw on, offices that moonlight as break-out areas or even nap rooms when not in use! Turn the conference room into a games room so people can take short breaks or have a game of table tennis during a meeting. Consider getting power sockets installed in comfy chairs, so people can work from a laptop in comfort.

Health and fitness is another huge area that can be incorporated into office design. By installing furniture that doubles as exercise equipment you will encourage people to be less sedentary at work – which is a major health risk.  This can involve standing desks, exercise balls for chairs or treadmills with laptops attached so you can take a light stroll whilst you fill out your pivot table.

The options are endless. Find solutions that align with your budget and culture, then ask your people what changes they want to see. This is a huge step towards creating an environment where people will be excited to come to work.

Fill their stomachs

The way to a worker’s heart is their belly. Your office should provide access to organic, healthy and tasty foods at affordable prices. This may also encourage workers from different departments to eat together and socialise.

Depending on budgets you can even provide complimentary meals, or at the very least healthy snacks like fruit, salad bars and possibly the occasional sweet treat for morale! You could also install a drinks fridge for after work socialising.

Provide advice and healthy eating programmes to educate everyone how to eat healthily and the positive implications it will have on their work and personal lives.

Provide financial and retirement education

A necessary employee wellness initiative is providing financial education that is based on different stages of everyone’s life and career. For example, new starters you can explain about investment and how pension schemes work. Whereas for older workers you can provide retirement coaching to alleviate concerns. This will help prepare them for a future where they won’t be employed.

This will encourage mindful career planning (and beyond), be a catalyst for positive change and most importantly demonstrate how much you care about everyone’s well-being.

Communication is key

Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy and happy workplace. Create an environment that encourages and empowers everyone to share their feelings and vent any concerns. This is a very healthy technique. By implementing a flexible feedback programme that allows everyone to voice their concerns and express sentiment – you can start to create action plans to remedy concerns, build on successes and promote a happier workplace where everyone has a say! This will ensure that “Cranky Co-workers Day” is nothing more than an abstract concept for you, your workers and all your stakeholders.

Here at The Happiness Index, we are advocates of our happiness formula: Happiness + Engagement = Productivity. Workplace wellness is synonymous with high performance, high retention rates and high revenue.  By following the above tips and concentrating on your people and their wellbeing, you will create a culture of health, happiness and productivity. This will boost workplace wellness, make you more attractive for new talent and help you become a workplace for the future.


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