Are you an employer wanting to incorporate a fantastic wellness initiative in your workplace? Maybe you’re an employee wondering just how vital workplace wellbeing is. Or maybe, you have no idea what workplace wellbeing is and stumbled across this blog accidentally.
We’re big on benefits, and with our new employee benefits initiative well and truly underway, we wanted to share the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.
We spend a large proportion of our waking lives at work, so it goes without saying that work is a substantial contributing factor in our mental health. With mental illness the #1 cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia, it’s time for employers to shine a spotlight on their work environment to determine what wellbeing initiatives can come into fruition for the benefit of employees – and surprisingly – for the business.
But what is “workplace wellbeing”?
Wellbeing (noun)The state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.
While some go their whole lives begrudgingly getting out of bed and whiling away the hours at work, others love their job and truly shine when they’re doing what they do best. But both types of people (and all those in-between) can benefit from a better working environment that takes mental and physical health seriously.
Dubbed the new “workplace safety”, workplace wellbeing provides a layer of protection over the mental health and wellbeing of an employee and not just their physical safety. When a workplace actively cares about the welfare of its employees, it can produce a better outcome for employees, employers (and if applicable, even their clients).
It’s obvious that improved morale will boost employee’s happiness, therefore creating better performance and lower turnover in staff – two things every company desperately wants to see. But will every company put in the initial work to get there?
Ultimate Edge Communications has recently launched an employee benefits plan which provides each employee with a mind-blowing $50,000 worth of benefits. That’s $50,000, per employee, per year – a yearly salary for many Australians.
So, why is an employee wellness program so important?
We take a look at three straightforward ways to bring wellbeing into the workplace, and what it will do for employees and employers alike.
Work / Life Balance
Sorry, Dolly, 9-5 is now a thing of the past.
Australia ranks joint 10th in the world, spending a vast 70% of our waking hours working every day. So how can we inject a little work-life balance into our daily routines?
The impact smartphones and laptops have had on the workplace is undeniable, making it easy for people to work pretty much anywhere (with an internet connection!). The internet has made flexible working the new norm in Australia, with up to 70% of Australians waving farewell to clock counting bosses.
Many employers are now able to give their employees flexibility, knowing that sometimes “life” happens and some things simply cannot be restricted to after-hours or on weekends.
Forward-thinking employers understand while some employees are happy to work during “regular” hours (think: your classic 9-5), others naturally work better on an earlier or later schedule. Removing standard business hours allows employees to find the hours that suit them best, making their time at work (and at home) far more productive and enjoyable.
With flexible working hours comes an abundance of opportunity:
- Say yes to that appointment at 9am – just adjust your hours to work later!
- If you are more productive at home, you’re trusted to get the job done.
- Don’t miss out on your child’s school play? Leave early and enjoy.
- Is getting out of bed at 6am killing you slowly? Change your hours to 10-7. Easy!
While flexible working hours benefits employees in many ways, it also works in favour of employers. Did you know a quarter of people put in up to 6.7 extra hours per week when not chained to a desk? That’s over 300 extra hours a year! A UK study saw the number of sick days fall from 12% to just 2% after the introduction of flexible working hours.
With more people working than ever before, workplaces must acknowledge that lives don’t stop from 9-5, and not everyone works on the same clock. Many companies work with contractors in other countries and time zones – it seems fair to provide employees with flexibility.
We at UEC know the importance of removing rigidity at work. That’s why we provide all employees with flexibility at work: employees are only required in the office during core hours of 10am-4pm Monday – Thursday. Early birds choose to come in at 7 and leave at 4 while others work more hours Monday to Thursday to spend less time working on Fridays – or better yet, they take Fridays off completely!
Of course, you don’t have to change your working week every week. Some employees choose to work standard hours ranging from 8-6 and then use their flex time when they need it. All employees are encouraged to find which working hours suit their levels of productivity or creativity, as well as fitting “life” into their weekdays.
While flexible working hours are bound to have a beneficial impact on employees, studies have shown that simply offering a flexible working environment doesn’t immediately equal better health and happiness.
So, what more can you do?
Mindfulness is a practise which helps you focus on the present moment, boosting concentration and productivity and alleviating stress. Used in Buddhism for thousands of years, it’s been somewhat relieved of its spiritual origins to fit into the ideals of the western world.
“[There’s] growing interest in using the practice of mindfulness in the workplace to provide a buffer against stress.” – Jason Marsh, Director of Programs for the Greater Good Science Center, University of California
In recent years, the topic of mindfulness has made headlines and is now incorporated into many employee wellness programs, helping employees learn how to build resilience, reduce stress and cope in difficult work-related situations.
The practice of mindfulness can promote a healthier work-life balance, prevent ill mental health and help employees perform with more focus. But it’s important not to treat mindfulness as a band-aid to cover underlying problems amounting to stress in the workplace. Mindfulness should instead add to a happy and healthy work environment.
Typically forward-thinking company Google includes a meditation room and onsite yoga classes in its Sydney office, where one employee, James Worsley, maintains “You would think taking 20 minutes to do nothing might slow you down, but it actually frees you up to get a lot more done.”
Ultimate Edge’s wellness program features a wellness, health or fitness activity every year, whether that’s a yoga retreat, a hot stone massage or a mindfulness program – it’s up to every employee to choose their calling.
Sport & Health
Keeping fit is hugely important, especially for desk workers. It’s all too common to put on weight when working in an office – show us someone who stays in shape by sitting down for 40 hours a week (please!).
Ultimate Edge CEO Aleisha McCall comes from a background in international junior figure skating championships, while several other employees share her competitive (and non-competitive) sporting backgrounds. Naturally, we know exercise doesn’t just keep you physically fit, it also improves your productivity. Dedication to sport also increases your focus, determination, commitment, teamwork and tenacity – but that’s another story!
Exercise increases the blood flow to your brain and in turn, keeps your awareness levels on high alert. It triggers a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which boosts your cognitive abilities. Increased energy, sharper focus and higher awareness equip you for a more productive day, enabling you to churn out high-quality work at a faster pace. Not to mention you’ll feel a whole lot better for it!
Long and short-term benefits of exercise are widely known, including staying in shape, increased energy and reduced risk of cardiovascular-related disease, but lesser known is it’s significant link to improving mental health.
Exercise releases a concoction of chemicals, including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Endorphins are the euphoria you feel after exercising, which provide prolonged benefits such as improving and regulating your mood and energy levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that sends a message to your brain to stimulate your mood and emotion, helping to control feelings of depression and anxiety. That’s why routine exercise is a pick-me-up recommended by Doctors as a natural supplement or even alternative to anti-depressants.
A stronger state of mind will not only improve your lifestyle but naturally better-equip you to handle any work or life-related stresses you may face.
As part of the benefits program, Ultimate Edge has partnered with East Coast Squash Academy, kitting out all staff with a yearly squash membership. With this, UEC staff are encouraged to increase their fitness levels, learn something new, blow off steam, enjoy a great rally and ultimately, squash some balls!
Wellbeing and the workplace can coexist
There are a myriad of ways to improve your lifestyle starting at work, and while you should place importance on taking care of your own mental and physical health, your employer also has a duty of care to uphold – namely to not let the workplace have a negative effect on your health and wellbeing, long or short-term.
While big conglomerates like Google, Microsoft and Virgin can find space for onsite running tracks or fund onsite clinics with full-time medical staff, a good wellness program doesn’t have to cost thousands.
Effective wellbeing initiatives can form through smaller gestures, like our monthly cinema tickets, sporting memberships and flex time. Ultimate Edge’s employee benefits scheme goes beyond wellbeing to guide staff in their personal development, helping employees advance their current skills, expedite their goals and earn promotions and pay raises. These personal development benefits are optional, but if used, can expand a person’s breadth of their role and increase their value and employability – and with staff wellbeing at the forefront of our ethos, it’s a win-win on all accounts.
To health and happiness!