Setting a standard for employee wellbeing
Kate Field, August 20, 2020
Today’s work environment is stressful, especially now that work spaces have moved inside the home.
On top of the pivot to a work-from-home structure, increasingly competing deadlines and more flexible schedules have increased the pressure to work beyond business hours than ever before, having negative effects on employee health and wellness.
As organisations prepare to enter a post-COVID-19 world, it is imperative they determine what health and wellness benefits to provide employees as they navigate the mental and physical health issues created during this time.
In fact, prior to the pandemic, employers were already taking a more human-centered approach providing employees with benefits that go beyond historical standard.
In particular, health and wellness benefits are becoming a staple among employer offerings, and according to 2019 data from SHRM, over 80% of employers surveyed said they were planning to increase their wellness and wellbeing budgets in the following year.
As the number of employers offering wellness benefits, and the benefits themselves increase, employers are finding that their organisation gains just as much as their employees.
In a recent BSI survey, nearly 75% of respondents stated that improved efficiency and productivity is the greatest benefit they could realise from a workplace wellbeing program. This is followed by a reduction in indirect costs commonly associated with employee turnover. In addition, employers who did not have wellness programs responded that it would provide crucial benefits to their job if one were to be implemented.
Similarly, the latest BCI Horizon Scan Report found that poor employee health has become the most frequent cause of disruption to businesses globally, overtaking cyber-attacks for the first time since 2014.
Employee enthusiasm coupled with increased corporate spending and continued business disruption highlights a growing need for companies to implement corporate standards in order to create successful and lasting programs.
Doing so sets the organisation apart and sends a strong message to employees and stakeholders that maintaining a healthy lifestyle inside and outside of work is an important part of the organisation’s ethos.
Creating a culture of care
To lay a foundation for creating or enhancing an office culture that prioritises overall health, consider not only adopting a proactive, preventative mindset but utilising a standard that emphasises total worker wellbeing, such ISO 45001. This global management system standard on occupational health and safety helps identify hazards and risks to your workforce such as those arising from pandemics.
It has physical, mental, and cognitive wellbeing at its core, while continuing to drive high safety standards for companies. Implementing and adhering to this standard indicates to employees and corporate peers that organisations are serious about creating a positive work environment.
For example, ISO 45001 explicitly requires that health hazards are identified and controlled, including psychosocial hazards such as workload, work hours, or workplace bullying, as well as those arising from other hazards such as chemical or biological. ISO 45001 also reflects the principles seen in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) healthy workplace model.
With its focus on culture and employee participation, the standard provides a good practice model for developing effective programs. Furthermore, because ISO 45001 recognises that the most successful and productive organisations take a holistic approach towards wellbeing, incorporating adherence into Occupational Health & Safety regulations is simple.
Furthermore, the needs and expectations of workers and other interested parties must be considered. This pandemic has brought to light new needs, concerns and expectations as it relates to both working from home and how employers can protect them in the workplace.
Finally, utilisation of ISO 45001 can be used as a recruitment tool. By exhibiting to potential employees that you are invested in their wellbeing, such organisations have an advantage over those offering only bare-bones benefits.
New industry standards on the horizon
Later this summer, a new standard will be introduced for public comment: ISO 45003. This new guidance focuses much more on psychological health and wellbeing at work. In particular, it looks at the psychosocial risks arising from work such as bullying or unreasonable job demands. This allows organisations to provide a much more holistic approach to physical, mental, and cognitive health relating to work, to really put people and employees at the center of the organization. The final standard is due to be published in 2021.
Utilising a standard that emphasises total worker wellbeing is vital to ensuring your organisation is resilient to change and disruption. It increases confidence and trust within the organisation and provides external assurance to customers, shareholders, and the wider community.
Investing in employee health and wellness programs keeps employees safe and healthy in work, increases healthy behavior which in turn curbs the risk of lifestyle-related disease, leading to happier workers and greater company success.
Kate Field is global head of health, safety and wellbeing at BSI