No one could have predicted how much impact COVID-19 would have on how people live and work today. In the blink of an eye, things turned upside down—lockdowns were implemented, offices were forced to close indefinitely, and employees had to suddenly shift to a work-from-home setup. 

The pandemic also put a spotlight on the importance of employee well-being and mental health in the workplace. As COVID-19 continues to cause a sense of uncertainty across the globe, mental health now lies at the forefront of the corporate agenda.

What are the steps employers can take to boost employee wellbeing?

1. Trust your employees and avoid micromanaging

Micromanaging employees is all too common. In the workplace, this often leads to employees feeling irrelevant or undervalued as it tends to restrict their freedom in expressing their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. As a result, employees are more likely to feel unhappy, burnt out, unappreciated, and unfulfilled. 

There's no place for pushy individuals in the workplace. As a business owner or senior manager, it is your role to delegate projects, balance workloads, and support your team by clearing out roadblocks, streamlining processes, and supporting subordinates' growth. 

2. Genuinely listen to your employees and get to know them

You must take the time to get to know your team including their interests, motivations, and aspirations as a way of building trust, forming bonds, and strengthening relationships at work. This can also help you understand and determine the best methods for working with your team members, keeping them motivated and engaged, and supporting their career growth objectives. 

Building rapport can spark from simply initiating conversations or interacting with the team over lunch. You can also go the extra mile by organizing team-building activities, fun holiday-themed events, or a simple get-together to celebrate and recognize employee milestones and achievements.

3. Prioritize mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Now more than ever, employers are urged to create a safe and supportive space and meet employee expectations in terms of prioritizing mental health benefits in the workplace.

By so doing, it will be easier for you to attract, compete for, and engage talent. With increased engagement and job satisfaction, organizations can then improve recruitment results, employee retention rates, and business performance altogether.

4. Provide free physical health benefits

Physical health perks are just as important as providing mental health benefits in creating a healthier and happier workforce. On average, full-time employees spend eight hours at work either on-site or at home. As employers and top management, it is crucial to promote physical activity to help employees stay fit and active while working. Consequently, employees can be more productive in the workplace.  

Employers who value physical wellness could provide their teams with discounted gym passes or free on-site yoga classes. Others turn things into a healthy competition where they monitor their staff's workouts through smartwatches and give away incentives to those who successfully finish the set challenges for the day, week, or month. 

5. Give praise and recognition for both employee effort and growth

Recognition and praise can drastically boost employee motivation, loyalty, and productivity as they help cement how an organization values its people. Providing recognition and positive feedback can come in different forms a simple note, verbal acknowledgment, awards, certificates, monetary bonus, a raise, or a promotion. 

In recognizing and acknowledging employee achievement, organizations further reinforce desired behavior. Plus, they successfully unlock their employees' full potential, inspiring the latter to stay motivated and committed to achieving the company's main business objectives.

6. Let employees have autonomy over their work

No one enjoys being told constantly what to do or how to do it. Perhaps this handholding is acceptable during the first few days of onboarding, but beyond that, it can be toxic to employees. Employers should be open to letting employees have autonomy over their work environment to allow them to further hone their skills and perform at their best. 

Rather than confining employees in a box by having rigid processes, job descriptions, and tasks, let your employees enjoy the flexibility of performing their roles and contributing to your organization's overall success as they see fit. 

7. Prioritize teamwork to create a supportive work environment

Teamwork fosters and facilitates collaboration between team members and across departments of the company. This, in turn, leads to a better quality of work, improved productivity, and heightened affinity and camaraderie, which are all beneficial to the success of any company.  

Teamwork creates a more positive work culture and environment for employees, as it opens the floor to conversations, ideas, and innovation. If someone runs into a problem, it's easy to rally the rest of the team to get fresh sets of eyes and brainstorm a solution. 

If your organization doesn't foster collaboration and instead shames those who ask for help or if requests for support fall on deaf ears it might be time to consider a shift in your work culture. 

8. Invest in employee experience

All too often, business leaders and upper management put customer experience ahead of most things often putting employee experience on the back burner. While this might be the case for most employers, it shouldn't be for you since good employee experience has been linked to good customer experience. 

With that, it is important to put your people first before anything else. When your employees are happy with their workplace, culture, and work community, they are more likely to provide an unrivaled customer experience. In turn, you’ll see improvements in the company's bottom line and overall performance. 

9. Create a safe work environment that promotes equity, diversity, and inclusivity

Without a doubt, creating and maintaining a safe work environment should be one of your top priorities as an employer. Establishing a safe work culture doesn't stop at protecting employees from physical harm. Instead, you should also be proactive in promoting equity, combating racial discrimination, and eliminating racism in the workplace

How can you do this? Reduce stigma by having honest conversations about racism, support and educate your staff, foster a culture that doesn't tolerate derogatory comments, and prioritize creating a diverse candidate pipeline and inclusive workforce. 

Why must you prioritize wellbeing in the workplace?

Full-time employees spend 40 hours a week at work, which naturally has a huge impact on their quality of life and general happiness. Being an employer, you have the power to improve your employees’ lives. You must then create a supportive environment that can help your employees prioritize their wellbeing and lead happier lives in and out of the workplace. 

In putting employee wellbeing at the center of your workplace culture, the company is more likely to record a significant increase in motivation and engagement positively influencing the organization's overall performance. A sound wellness strategy in the workplace that promotes healthy behaviors can benefit not just the employees and employers but also the rest of the community. 

Apart from improving office productivity, here are other benefits of prioritizing employee wellness:

  • Increase employee morale

Employees appreciate having a fulfilling and enjoyable job. Employers who treat employees fairly as well as provide growth opportunities and genuinely care about their workforce show how much they respect and value their people. When employees feel appreciated and cared for, overall employee morale is enhanced. Then productivity, creativity, and engagement follow.

  • Attract and retain better talent

Highly talented and skilled employees don't settle for just any workplace. On the contrary, they see organizations that continue to hold a good reputation for treating employees right and prioritizing their wellbeing in a positive light. Job candidates gauge companies based on how they cultivate employee welfare and a sense of community in the workplace.

Indeed, a sound employee wellness program can attract and retain top talent. It’s in your best interest to foster a company culture that puts employees at the heart of the business. 

  • Reduce absenteeism and turnover

In line with attracting and retaining top talent, investing in your employees' wellbeing and prioritizing mental health and work-life balance will reduce the chances of employee burnout, high rates of health-related absenteeism, work-related stress, and employee turnover. 

Key Takeaways

The pandemic has taught us so many lessons. One of them is that companies should prioritize employee health and wellbeing. Organizations that work toward fostering an understanding, encouraging, and supportive work environment and culture not just profitability and business objectives are more likely to prosper and gain a competitive edge because employees feel committed to their work. 

Aside from supporting employee wellbeing through increasing access to health services and counseling and providing fitness benefits, employers can also consider incorporating more flexibility in the workplace to put a premium on work-life balance. Here, top strategies include allowing employees to choose when to work on-site and when to telecommute. Flexi-time is another option. The goal is to allow employees to determine where or when they’re most productive.

While a comprehensive wellness program is not going to solve all employee-related problems in the workplace, it is an aspect that would dramatically improve employee performance as well as help drive the organization's bottom line.