wellbeing at work

8 Practical Ways to Promote Wellbeing at Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has put Australian frontline workers under unprecedented pressure. Throughout the height of the pandemic, our frontline workers worked long hours and faced both physical and psychological health and safety risks.

The pandemic has also exacerbated burnout in many workplaces. The crisis has shown us that burnout and fatigue are ongoing threats to workplace wellbeing. As managers, we need to reflect on what we can learn from the experience to build healthier workplaces going forward. What strategies are effective for promoting health and wellbeing? How can we protect employee health and wellbeing? How can we be better prepared for the next crisis?

As leaders, now is the time to think about proactive and sustainable strategies to avoid burnout and promote wellbeing at work and make sure that our teams are prepared for future shocks. We need to think beyond just supporting individuals – we need to make systemic changes to build a healthier work environment.

So, let’s discuss what is workplace wellbeing, the benefits of wellbeing at work, and strategies for leaders on how to improve wellbeing at work.

What is wellbeing at work, and why is it important?

In positive psychology, wellbeing is a state of flourishing, where people are thriving in many aspects of life. It’s not about feeling happy but more about experiencing a deep sense of satisfaction in our social connections and accomplishments.

In the workplace context, wellbeing is about building a positive and productive environment where people want to work. Researchers have looked into how to measure wellbeing at work – they used well-established psychometric testing methods to quantify employee wellbeing. They found that high employee wellbeing is a strong predictor of strong financial performance for a business.

Workplace wellbeing focuses on taking preventive action to reduce the incidence of stress and burnout. It’s essential that staff feel safe, healthy, and valued at work so that they can perform at their best. Healthy workers are more engaged and less likely to take leave. Workplace wellbeing enhances productivity, which is good for the company bottom line. Businesses that invest in wellbeing are also more likely to attract and retain the best people.

There are risk factors and protective factors that contribute to staff wellbeing.

These include:

    • Job design – such as the level of autonomy and control, supporting resources available, demands of the job
    • Team factors – including support from managers and colleagues, quality of work relationships
    • Organisational factors – including support from the business as a whole, recognising and rewarding work
    • Home/life balance – conflicting demands, including significant life events that may impact our work
    • Individual factors – such as personality, lifestyle, cognitive styles, coping strategies

A poorly designed workplace is more likely to lead to staff burnout and fatigue. Getting these factors right will build solid foundations for workplace wellbeing.

Now that we understand what workplace wellbeing is and the importance of health and wellbeing at work let’s look at how to promote health and wellbeing at work.

Tip #1 – Raise awareness of workplace wellbeing

mental health

One of the first steps to promote wellbeing is to educate yourself and your team about the importance of health and wellbeing in the workplace. Provide mental health education to the whole team, raise awareness of available resources, and share strategies to improve wellbeing. Discuss burnout prevention and burnout management tips at team meetings. For example, starting your day with 5-minute mindfulness meditation can be a simple but powerful way to reset.

As a team, share strategies that have worked for you. Remind each other of the importance of healthy lifestyle habits, including sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Take breaks when you need one. Rest when you get sick.

Tip #2 – Look out for each other

Teach yourself and the team to recognise the early signs of burnout. Burnout is a long-term stress reaction. Stress increases cortisol levels in the body and puts us on high alert. While this is useful in dangerous situations, it damages our body when it happens too often or too long.

Burnout has both physical and mental symptoms. Physically, people can experience fatigue, loss of appetite and disrupted sleep. Mentally, people tend to worry constantly and find it difficult to focus. People can also seem more irritable and detached.

Look out for signs of burnout in your colleagues, and raise any concerns early. Encourage staff to seek help early and provide mental health training so that staff can support each other. Pay attention to employees who seem stressed, and have an open conversation with them to understand if they’re at risk of burnout.

Tip #3 – Build trust

As a manager, you have a responsibility to look after your staff. To be able to look after staff, you first need to build trust. A culture of trust allows team members to be open and show vulnerability. Create a safe psychological environment for your staff to raise any concerns that they may have. Ensure your team knows that it’s ok to discuss mental health and that they will be listened to and supported.

Use regular one-on-ones to check in with each team member about how they’re going and determine if they need additional support. Ask open-ended questions like “How is your week going?” or “How are you finding work at the moment”?

Build trust by acting on employee concerns when you become aware of them. For example, if a team member is at risk of burnout, encourage them to take time off to recover.

Good managers also regularly celebrate successes and reward people for their achievements. Rewards can be monetary but can also be as simple as showing appreciation for individual and team contributions. Reward and recognition help everyone feel valued.

wellbeing at work

Tip #4 – Set a good example

As managers, we set social and behavioural norms for the team. So lead by example and look after your wellbeing. Maintain healthy boundaries between work and home. Leave work on time. Don’t send emails on weekends. Or at least make it clear that you don’t expect staff to reply to emails until work hours.

Take regular breaks and time off work, and encourage your team to do the same. Talk about mental health to normalise it and make it acceptable for others to do the same. Share your strategies for managing stress.

Managers may also benefit from leadership training, such as how to discuss mental health matters confidently with staff and how to cultivate a caring leadership style.

Tip #5 – Manage workloads

Heavy workloads are a leading cause of burnout. Managers have a clear role in helping their teams to manage workloads and focus on high-value tasks. As a team, agree on your top priorities and core value-add. Remove any tasks from the to-do list that does not align with team priorities.

Another common pain point is meeting fatigue. Help your team cut down on unnecessary meetings by being clear on the intended outcomes of every meeting. The rise of online meetings has come with new challenges. Knowing how to manage productive meetings can have a profound impact on reducing meeting fatigue.

Tip #6 – Come back to the purpose

We know that a clear purpose helps to prevent burnout at work. Employees who feel connected to the purpose of the company are more engaged. As a manager, help your team understand its purpose and how it aligns with the company purpose and vision.

Once the goal is clear, let your employees decide on how to achieve it. Having autonomy is incredibly motivating. As managers, the more control you can give your employees, the more engaged and resilient they’re likely to be. Listen to employee ideas about how work should be performed and implement good ideas.

wellbeing at work

Tip #7 – Lead with empathy

Managers with show empathy and care for their team tend to have higher staff morale and lower burnout. Empathetic managers understand the needs of each employee and adjust accordingly.

For example, one team member may need more flexible working arrangements to balance family caring responsibilities. Take the time to get to know your team and look after their needs as much as possible. A one-size-fits-all approach to burnout prevention won’t help.

If additional support is needed, encourage employees to seek help early. If a team member needs support to recover from mental illness or stressful life events, provide a supportive environment free from discrimination.

Tip #8 – Commit to wellbeing

Building workplace wellbeing takes time and commitment from the whole team. Set aside time every month to discuss workplace wellbeing as a team. Ask your team members for feedback on how you can better support them.

Wise leaders understand the importance of workplace wellbeing and are willing to invest time and energy in their people.

Managers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. At PEPworldwide, we work with teams and individuals to increase their workplace wellbeing and productivity. For people leaders, we will show you practical ways to promote wellbeing for your team. Find out more about how we can help you build a more resilient and productive team.

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