When it comes to employment, ‘Wellness’ and ‘Well-being’ are two of the most frequently used words since we came out of the pandemic. It’s not just lip service, either — as we all discovered through the dark days of lockdown, mental health was not just a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘happy added extra’. It was — and is — an essential part of the human make-up. Without it, we cannot function properly, either in life or employment.
How then, do we ensure that our stressful, rollercoaster jobs contain the right levels of ‘wellness’ and ‘well-being’?
Job retention is the most critical and obvious answer, but in reality, this is just part of a discussion that needs to include much more. There is little point or value in retaining an employee if they are not happy in their job. They will underperform and compromise morale, not just for themselves but for the whole company.
From the interview and induction onwards, the root of wellness and well-being at work lies within the organisation and the people leading it. If someone eventually wants to leave, it should be on a high note, a note of progression. Letting people go so they will say, “I loved working there, but I used it as a springboard to something else”, will not be wrong. It’s likely even enhance your reputation!
Before we get to that, though, let us look at some areas where we can improve if we want to be an organisation with an excellent reputation:
Ask your staff if they are happy. Ask them regularly, and don’t just do it as the last part of an online update call. Tick that box before you talk about anything else — and without being too nosey or making your employee feel uncomfortable, make sure everything is OK in their personal and work lives.
Sometimes an employee might react negatively if there’s a challenge or an issue. In that case, listening and reading body language carefully is the answer. It might take you a while to get to the root cause of any problems, especially more sensitive ones, but doing that will not only help and support your employee but will also be for the good or the organisation.
Deal with stress:
Organisations can be stressful places to work at times, often for good reasons, as employees strive for results and recognition — and for wrong reasons, too, if there are complaints and issues to deal with. All these stressful situations must be offset with patience, understanding, and quiet and lasting confidence. Trust in your staff and teammates is critical, along with emotional support. All these things breed mental wellness, and support can often be two-way.
Look at results — but don’t make that the only thing:
Sometimes employees’ health is reflected in their performance. If one of your ‘A’ grade workers suddenly goes off the boil and starts misfiring, there is a strong chance that external influences are at work. If and when this happens, all those elements of support described above will apply. At the same time, acknowledge past achievements and see if there is an underlying reason for the dip in figures. Are external events to blame? Does the employee need more support, things going on at home, or do they even need time off?
Encourage an open team environment:
Get your teams to talk to each other regularly. Make sure you have one or two days a week when the team members can come into the office — but don’t necessarily force this. Good communication is about keeping channels open and making the office available means employees can mix freely. On those office days, don’t worry if productivity dips a little. Sometimes it is worth sacrificing productivity for team morale and well-being. It will come back in the end!
Share your own experiences!
Your employees will feel supported if you acknowledge that working life can be hard sometimes — so be careful with your response. Try and think about it by putting yourself in their shoes, or if you have knowledge of anyone else who has had challenges — share it with honesty (but confidence) and — if you feel comfortable, reveal some of your own vulnerabilities. We’re all human beings! Your team are likely to respond well to this.
Good leadership is not about being gung-ho or shouting orders at people; it’s about more than meeting the next target, not always about reaching the heights. Sometimes you have to be prepared for results to dip, especially if your team have been in stressful situations or are going through life-changing events. Retain your team members by showing them leadership in times of strife and change. Let them know — subtly, of course! — that work is not everything. If you have the right people in your business, they will want to do an excellent job for you and the company and develop their own careers — but their mental well-being should always come first. If it doesn’t, the results will follow, and your employees will get demotivated and feel unsupported. Get in there and support them first … and they will help you. That way, you will also feel happy and experience great job satisfaction.
Retention will follow …
If you put all of this (above and beyond) into practice, you will have a supported workforce taking pride in their work. Give them the best conditions to work — both physically and mentally — that are suitable for each person’s unique demands. Show and promote genuine respect. Once those things are in place, you — and the company — will see positive results, and if targets are not met, your workforce will not be to blame. Happier individuals will want to stay at the company, which will breed happy teams and a happy organisation. Then you’re laughing and almost certainly performing!
… but don’t be afraid if people leave:
It won’t always be like that, of course. Sometimes, as we have hinted, it can be better for all sides if an employee wants to move on. They might have landed an exciting new role in an area you don’t cover or where you don’t have room to help them at the stage they are at in their career. Take this as an opportunity to promote your company and spread the word about how good you are. While it is always sad to lose valued workers, if that person has been headhunted or given an excellent career opportunity, take that as a brownie point for yourselves, a sign that you’re doing things right!
Do all you can to keep your best team members, but don’t stand in their way if they have an opportunity that is too good to turn down. You have done all you can to support and enable talent to blossom, playing a significant role in an individual’s employment journey and growth as a person. And you never know, they may want to return — and return with the added benefit of the experience and what they’ve learned in another organisation.
Applying the steps above will give you a much better chance of retaining your staff — but at the same time, nurture and develop them to a point where they are ready to spread their wings. Either way, your reputation as an organisation that people want to work in will stand out from a crowded marketplace.