Wellbeing in the workplace – whose responsibility is it? Perhaps more than any other initiative, it finds itself passed from pillar to post. Is it Health and Safety? HR? Or does it need managing by a more specialist role? Moreover, where does an individual’s responsibility stop and an employer’s responsibility start?
When it comes to an employer’s duty of care, it can be difficult to apply this to something as complex and holistic as personal wellbeing, which knows no 9-5 boundaries.
Responsibilities are further confused by the idea of ‘personal resilience’, which implies a more individualised, subjective approach to employee wellbeing and is fast becoming a buzzword. Personal resilience is not an opportunity for employers to avoid their responsibility to their people; instead it heralds a more effective approach, through which organisations build their wellbeing strategy around each person’s own understanding of wellness. Aligning health initiatives and wellbeing goals to support individual motivations and aspirations gives us the best chance of making a real and sustainable difference to people’s lives… and to their productivity levels.
Resilient people stay committed and increase their efforts when the going gets tough. Organisations now have the opportunity to help their employees become more resilient and to equip them with the skills and confidence needed to respond positively to the many pressures and adversities they encounter in the workplace. This approach also fosters a more flexible and constructive attitude to change, which is vital in the unpredictable business environment of today.
Employee wellbeing, like employee engagement, should not be understood as a product that can be applied or given to people. Just as you cannot force someone to be engaged, nor can you demand them to be well. Wellbeing is a personal issue, and each individual has ultimate responsibility for their own health and wellness.
However, there are many ways in which organisations can support the wellbeing of their employees, including financial initiatives, such as gym memberships, health checks and subsidised healthy meals. Far more important, however, is promoting a culture in which people are able to confidently and safely discuss their wellbeing issues – a culture that helps them to understand the care of duty they have to themselves.
So, how do we create this culture? How do we build an environment in which these conversations can happen naturally? Like any change process, it relies on strong leadership. And when it comes to line management, it is imperative that leaders are conscious of the impact their management style has on the wellbeing of their reports. Support, challenge, feedback, authenticity, integrity and awareness on the part of the manager all have a core role to play in limiting negative stress and maximising positive wellbeing. Because improving relationships between managers and staff has a profound impact on employee wellbeing.
David Williams is Impact's Founder and CEO.