We spend a considerable portion of our waking lives at work, and companies that are acknowledging this fact know that it’s not just the right thing to do, but also a good business decision.
In recent years, the concept of “wellness” at work has come a long way from fruit in the lunchroom and subsidized gym memberships.
Forward-thinking leaders recognize that employee wellness means more than physical health; it’s a series of experiences and supports that improve quality of life overall.
After all, your company isn’t the product you make or the services you sell — your company is your people.
What is Employee Wellness?
Terms to define employee happiness like “employee engagement” and “employee wellbeing” are often used interchangeably these days. While they’re related, they mean different things and require different strategies.
The difference is that employee wellbeing is about the job — the duties, expectations, stressors, and the physical environment in the workplace — and how the combination of these factors affects overall health and happiness.
While wellbeing can include things like exercise and nutrition, it’s more about mood, the emotions associated with work, and personal factors such as feeling a sense of purpose.
How to Help Employees Thrive at Work
Below are six powerful ways to boost employee wellbeing and create a positive, thriving culture at your organization:
Make recognition and praise part of your company culture
In his famous self-help book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie said: “be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
Though our phrasing may have changed in the decades since the book was first published, the advice still holds true today: one of the best ways to make people feel good is to recognize their efforts and achievements.
In fact, a recent survey showed that 70% of employees say that recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to their peers, while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home — extending wellness from work into their personal lives.
Some ways you can increase recognition and praise could include:
- Delivering a handwritten note
- Issuing a department-wide “thank you”
- Offering a formal recognition at a meeting
Encourage employees to practice gratitude
Studies have shown that gratitude has a strong positive correlation with happiness, better relationships, and overall better mental wellbeing.
Encouraging employees to recognize when their peers helped them out or went above and beyond has a double benefit:
On one hand, encouraging team members to recognize each other’s “wins” helps them focus on the positive and keep an eye out for things to highlight. This mindset can be transformational for teams and can encourage a “winning” attitude in the workplace.
On the flipside, when employees are on the receiving end of praise and gratitude they feel better and more confident since they know that their peers see and appreciate their hard work.
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Encourage workplace friendships
Building strong, lasting friendships is one of the best things we can do for ourselves mentally, and it’s one of the best wellness strategies we can foster at work.
Not only do workplace friendships impact people’s lives as a whole, but a study from Ohio State University found that friends coordinate tasks more effectively because they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so they break up work in the most effective way.
One of the study’s co-authors, Robert Lount, stated that “working with friends is not just something that makes us feel good – it can actually produce better results.”
Some ways to encourage friendships to blossom at work could include:
- Implementing a buddy system for new hires
- Having an office-wide Slack channel dedicated to sharing personal interests
- Encouraging coworkers to take a full lunch break
- Building team traditions and rituals
- Hosting yearly offsite events
Have “walking meetings”
An easy way to “hack” your team’s way to better health is to go for a walk instead of sitting around the boardroom.
There are numerous benefits to “mobile meetings:” walking improves productivity, boosts energy levels, and enhances general well-being by incorporating regular movement and fresh air.
Being outdoors also increases brain function, which can help stimulate creativity, innovation, and memory.
Increase work/life balance by instituting flexible hours
As we talked about at the start of this article, workplace wellness isn’t just about physical health; it’s about overall life quality.
Allowing employees to have flexible work schedules does two things:
- It empowers employees to adapt their work habits to fit their family needs, and
- It sends a signal that you trust your employees
This last point is perhaps the most important: when you allow employees to set their own schedules as long as they hit deadlines and deliver results, they feel more like partners than cogs in a larger wheel.
Invest in affordable training and exercises
One of the best ways to encourage employees to invest in their wellbeing is making training and self-development courses available to them.
Whether they’re self-paced or instructor-led, programs designed to help employees manage stress, increase their resilience, and develop their “soft skills” can make a meaningful impact both in and outside of the office.
Help your employees thrive
Investing in employee wellness is an ongoing process, but one that’s proven to help employees feel happier, more productive, and (most importantly) feel like they work for someone who is invested in helping them thrive and succeed.
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