With a stronger focus on holistic employee wellness and positive managerial styles, businesses will see holistic benefits—including on their bottom line.
As the coronavirus pandemic grounded planes, closed borders and locked down cities, much of the world’s workplaces were forced to shift to an exclusively digital, work-from-home lifestyle. While there were positive effects, the resulting social isolation forced many employers to rethink their approach to the mental health and well-being of their employees.
Employee wellness has grown to become a major area of focus for employers, and one that extends far beyond the traditional benefits full-time employees receive. In response to a growing mental health crisis in the face of a seemingly unending pandemic, the position of Chief Well-being Officer was born—the antidote to the burnout clinicians, physicians and HR professionals were experiencing.
What is a Chief Well-being Officer?
Before the pandemic, most employees in need of extra therapeutic support were tasked with finding their own resources, or relying on the help of their primary care team. Unfortunately, this system hasn’t always been the most effective when it comes to positively impacting the workplace, considering most people spend the majority of their time working.
While employee well-being is certainly a hot topic now, this particular role has been around for at least a decade, primarily in hospitals. Chief Well-being Officers are tasked with leading their organization’s wellness efforts, building strategies to improve the well-being of employees, and passing down hard skills and knowledge on boosting personal resilience, cultivating a positive work environment and more.
A culture of wellness
There are some common imbalances when it comes to unhealthy workplaces that a Chief Well-being Officer would ideally address—such as incongruence between professional and personal development and the organization’s and individual needs. Another common issue is the lack of challenges that come with maintaining existing clients, as opposed to pushing an individual’s boundaries to win new business. A culture of wellness would aim to shrink these gaps and build a more holistic environment that also prioritizes the personal needs of employees. In other words, businesses should balance their focus on the bottom line with the happiness of those working for them.
This approach also makes good business sense. It’s been proven time and time again that employees work more efficiently when happier. Research by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, in collaboration with British telecoms firm BT, found that workers are 13 per cent more productive when happy. It’s clear that this is an area in major need of improvement, with more UK-based research showing that salaried work is one of the least likely activities to improve happiness.
The research shows that, while happy employees don’t work longer, they do get more done in their regular hours. What’s more, employee retention goes up and individual business successes skyrocket when workers are more content in their jobs. Improving work conditions and investing in a designated well-being professional is clearly a win-win for employers.
From manager to well-being professional
Improving the balance between business objectives and employee well-being should be a key concern for all managers. Beyond being tasked with meeting company targets, managers also have to take care of their team members, whether that means helping them reach personal goals or directing them towards mental-health resources. Although many companies may be looking to fill a specific role, it’s imperative that managers don’t forget the part they play in employee wellness.
Being a positive manager goes far beyond patting employees on the back for a job well done, or providing constructive feedback for future projects. All managers should make mental health a priority when it comes to building a positive work environment. While employers cannot necessarily impact the rest of their employees’ lives outside of work, they have an opportunity to greatly influence a huge part of their lives.
Building a positive workspace can look like providing bonus activities from yoga classes during lunch breaks to organizing team-building outings. It can also look like encouraging more transparent HR policies, like pay fairness and promotion decision-making, providing adequate breaks throughout the work day and ensuring that employees have control over their own work.
Even if their workplace isn’t hiring a Chief Well-being Officer, managers can certainly take on the role with a little bit of positive attention.
From student to employee
At IE University, students have access to an incredible array of mental-health resources, like our Center for Health, Well-Being and Happiness (CHWH). Our programs aim to provide students with experience that not only benefits them in the classrooms, but outside of them as they enter their careers of choice and climb corporate ladders. Our students don’t just learn how to navigate their careers. Through extracurricular programs, like initiatives through the CHWH, students learn how to thrive in the real world. Because we aim to build leaders in the workforce, it’s imperative students learn about well-being practices before entering it.