What is Wellbeing at Work? And Why Should Employers Care?

Let’s play devil’s advocate… Why should an employer be concerned with the wellbeing of their workforce? Wellbeing at work has become such a hot topic but is it just a fad to play lip service to? Should employers just stick with focusing on the real priorities like keeping a business viable through choppy times, and making sure everyone gets paid?

After all, the people get employed and get paid for their working hours. If the employer’s fulfilling their end of the deal and sticking to the relevant health and safety legislation, then what an employee does with the rest of their time, including how they chose to deal with their personal lives and take care of themselves (or not as the case may be), is their own look out. 

There’s a line between personal and professional life for a reason, after all. 

Though this take on things is logical in its own way, (and I suspect is what a lot of employers really feel about the whole ‘wellbeing at work’ phenomenon), it does overlook an important fact. 

The fact is, that wellbeing at work affects workplace performance. 

Mounting evidence suggests that the following will all get a significant boost if wellbeing at work is attended to:

  • Quality of products 
  • Quality of services
  • Productivity
  • Profitability

But how does an employer attend to something as complicated as supporting the wellbeing of a group of individuals, all wildly different in character, while at the same time maintaining organisational professionalism and boundaries and remaining focused on the organisation’s mission?

Well, in answering this question, a bit of reverse brainstorming can come in handy. 

If you want to undermine a person’s wellbeing at work, or in any area of their life in fact, a sure fire way to do it, regardless of their personality, is to take away their feelings of agency and control. 

When a working environment reduces a person to being a passive cog, mechanistically fulfilling a predetermined, narrow role, then over time, they are very likely to emotionally disengage from their role. Mood and energy will then decline, and as a result, their communication, motivation and ultimately their productivity will nose dive too. 

Conversely, by promoting a sense of autonomy within an employee’s role, even in tiny ways, like determining the layout of the office or what office plants to have, and seizing every reasonable opportunity to allow team members to use their own initiative and influence decisions, a positive chain reaction occurs that will lead to improved workplace performance.

So whether you want to promote wellbeing at work out of the goodness of your heart or for the benefit of cold hard business outcomes,  why not begin by being vigilant to ways that you could empower your team to become the creative and active agents of the organisation’s success.

Agents who get to influence the route that’s taken towards that success, rather than just act as foot soldiers on a predefined route.

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