Employee wellness: should HR be taking the lead?

By Robert Half on 25th July 2018

Nearly 12 million working days are lost to workplace stress a year. The impact of this on productivity and employee happiness at work can be incredibly detrimental. Because of this, employee wellbeing programmes are emerging as an essential workplace initiative for the coming year.

This begs the question: should HR be taking the lead? Should employee wellness be supported from the top down or is it a group effort? 

Why is wellness important?

A large majority of UK CFOs (78%) predict that stress levels will rise this year. Increased workloads, growing business expectations and a lack of staff will cause employees to feel more burned out and overwhelmed than ever. 

It goes without saying that burnout is bad news for workplace productivity. A recent survey showed that, of the employees who felt overly stressed, 57% said they were disengaged from their work. 

Robert Half research also shows that employee wellness programmes are the second most popular method of retention for businesses. When UK employers already fear that 4.5m workers could be on the move in 2018, wellness scheme investment may help the issue.

As well as increased productivity and retention, wellness programmes can also help to build a healthy, happy workplace culture. Establishing and maintaining an employee-first culture is known to directly impact the business’ bottom line. Robert Half research into happiness at work shows that happy employees work harder, learn faster and stay with the company for much longer.

The role of HR in corporate wellness

As the backbone of the company, a lot of responsibility rests with HR in regard to employee wellness. 

Respected organisations, such as CIPD, recommend that HR professionals audit company policies, procedures and systems to ensure that the working environment is one which upholds wellbeing as a culture. This includes initiatives which identify employee stress at an individual level and provide the necessary support. 

Although HR should initiate a wellness culture and form its foundation, success depends on buy-in from those at the top. Managers need to play their part in supporting staff, creating flexible hiring strategies which plug knowledge gaps and resource deficits, and in ensuring that employees have an open dialogue regarding how they feel. 

Ultimately, employees and managers need to form a partnership with one another which is guided by the HR team.

Workplace wellness trends in 2018

According to thousands of business leaders surveyed for the Robert Half Salary Guide, there are three main emerging wellness trends for the coming months:

•    Flexible working
Of those surveyed, 42% of employers said they planned to introduce flexible schedules for staff in a bid to improve employee work-life balance. It’s being leveraged as a means to attract new staff (who now make a point of requesting it as a remuneration benefit) and of retaining existing staff.

•    Investment in workplace culture
This year, 29% of UK businesses have stated that they plan to enhance workplace culture. Not just essential as part of the hiring process, a healthy culture at work can be used to promote on-going employee satisfaction levels and can reinforce workplace wellbeing as an accepted ideology.

•    Wellbeing software
In medium and large-sized companies, monitoring the wellness of each individual can be challenging for HR teams. Businesses will begin using digital wellness platforms to give each employee a personalised experience. 

By collecting data from each person, unique goals can be tailored to that specific individual’s pain points, making it easier for HR teams to gain a more holistic approach to maintaining wellness. Software can also be used to collect and action employee feedback on company culture and leadership technique. 

To discuss employee wellbeing and HR initiatives or approaches within your organisation, get in touch with the experts at Robert Half today.

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