If you look at how dictionaries define the concept of “well-being”, you’ll notice that the definition varies slightly from one dictionary to another. For example, Oxford says that “well-being” is “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”, while Merriam-Webster writes “well-being” is “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous”. One accentuates the “comfortable” part, that makes us think about the physical aspect, the other highlights “prosperous”, which insinuates a financial welfare. Neither is wrong.
While you can dissect the concept of well-being in the workplace at length, there’s no need to split hairs. What it all comes down to is two elements: physical and mental health. These are the pillars that support well-being, not only in the workplace, but in general.
However, when talking about supporting well-being in the workplace through organization, it might be useful to divide the task at hand into components; this way, it will be easier to tackle. Considering this, here’s one way of deconstructing the two main features.
1. Physical health
Health is the greatest asset. (Some would argue that time is, but you can’t have time without health now, can you?) And since your company’s health depends on that of your employees, you should make sure they’re very well taken care of.
1.1. Healthcare plans
Prevention is better than cure. Sure, but treatment is better than doing nothing. In a world where we’re surrounded by threats to our health, we have to be prepared to do both – prevent and treat. One of the steps to be taken in order to support employee well-being is to offer them health insurance. You’ll have to put some work into it – finding out what your employees need exactly, researching the available offer to select fitting plans, that cover sought-after benefits, balancing costs etc. The reward, though, is worth it – healthier, more relaxed employees, which translates into increased loyalty and productivity.
1.2. Pleasant environment
Biophilic design is a rather recent idea (if you consider the ‘70s-’80s as recent), that has constantly gained popularity. And while using indoor plants to clean the air might not be an effective way – since apparently you’d need 1,000 houseplants in a 10-foot-by-10-foot office to get the same result as a basic ventilation system – they sure do brighten up the office space, inducing a state of calm. Who wouldn’t prefer a green leafy, mossy, branchy environment, instead of a grey, stiff, stone cold one?
Additionally, the biophilic trend has been backed by a number of studies, so it’s not just “nature fever” that’s compelling companies to redesign their office space. For example, a recent study has shown that children who grow up in greener conditions experience up to 55% less risk of developing various mental disorders later in life. Having this in mind, giving biophilic design a chance for the sake of mental health is definitely worth it.
Another thing to take into consideration when creating a pleasant environment for your employees is to make sure they receive as much natural light as possible. This, combined with the colour scheme throughout the office building, has a direct impact on the employees’ mood, and therefore productivity. Hence, go for extra-wide windows and fitting colours (both for walls and furniture).
1.3. Activity-based working
Activity-based working (or ABW) proposed the division of workspace in zones with specific functions. For example, you could have rooms specifically designed for collaborative tasks, or spaces that permit only individual occupancy. Another way to put ABW into effect is by splitting the available space into work areas and relaxation ones. This way, those who populate them get to fully immerse in what they are doing, be it something work related or taking a power nap.
Implementing ABW is a win-win solution. It allows people to focus on their tasks, without bothering others. Having this advantage means lower stress levels, and increased productivity. Happy employees, happy company.
1.4. Ergonomic workspace furniture
A full-time job implies 8 hours spent at the work location. Multiply that by 5 days a week, around 30 days a month, and (approximately) 250 working days per year, and you might get to a vantage point from which you can put things into perspective. With thousands of hours spent at the office, it’s wise to invest into good furniture to maintain body health.
The main “point of interest” is obviously the desk. And everything around, on, or under it. First, there has been growing interest in “standing desks”, which allows workers to perform their activities while standing, instead of being seated. Some prefer this type of desk in order to avoid risks associated with seating, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc.
While standing desks are the craze right now, few people (if none) can go a whole day without sitting at all. Thus, the second most important piece of furniture you should invest in is a good chair. Ergonomic chairs are built to support the user’s body in a healthy posture, that reduces pressure on the neck, spine, and hips.
Sprinkle these two vital pieces of furniture with all sorts of additional accessories, such as back rests, foot rests, wrist rests, raised keyboards, and so on, and you’ve got yourself some really cozy, health-supporting work stations for your employees.
2. Mental health
To put into place support mechanism to assist employees with their health problems is not that difficult. The tricky part comes when dealing with their mental health. People are complicated, diverse, and complex. And if you truly want for your company to have its employees back (or, rather, mind), you’ll have to go all out.
2.1. Less stress, less mess
Stress in the workplace is such a common phenomenon, that it even received its own name: occupational stress. Causes are numerous and varied, starting from workloads that do not match the employee’s resources, to having to work with a psychopath (an uncommon circumstance, indeed, but one that can cause tremendous damage).
There’s so much that can be done in the matter of mental health, that books have been written about it. Since we don’t have that space, we’ll keep it simple: prevent, treat, follow up. To prevent, look out for any warning signs, such as loss of interest, irritability, fatigue. If you’re open to make it a joint effort, encourage workers to speak up and voice their complaints; this way, you’ll know precisely what’s bothering them. To treat, hire a certified psychotherapist, to be at the disposal of the employees free of charge. Also, if possible, choose a healthcare plan that includes mental health coverage. Following up can be as simple as having a watercooler conversation or sharing coffee one morning, to test the waters.
To take on the task of lowering the employee stress level is such a monumental task that it can become in itself a stress generator. But at the same time, it’s such a vital requisite for mental health in today’s workplace, that all efforts poured into it are entirely rightful.
2.2. Employee support
An employee’s path inside a company can be winding and lengthy. Any company that wants to look after its employees must be ready to do so in any moment of their journey. While every professional path is different, there are three all-present necessities – the need for motivation, recognition, and development. There are plenty of tips on how to instill motivation, a plethora of ideas to show recognition, and multiple programs to enable employees to develop, both professionally and personally.
2.3. Office culture
Another thing worth mentioning is that basic employee perks are no longer cutting it in today’s workplace. Sure, benefits such as those mentioned above (e.g. healthcare, development programs, recognition awards etc.) are welcomed, but they aren’t the ones to make the difference when it comes to career decisions. The thing workers are after nowadays is a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging. This can be embedded through a steady, positive workplace culture. This brings with it a most desirable set of employee attributes: engagement, productivity, loyalty.