Employee Well-Being

How does your business define employee well-being? Perhaps you think of it in terms of physical health, providing healthy menus in your staff restaurant, health screening or private health insurance. Or maybe you help employees manage stress or give up smoking? These types of support are common in many larger organisations, and for many HR and OD managers, this is what employee well-being is all about.

But what about the importance of psychological well-being or mental health in the work-place? In their recently published Change Agenda – What’s happening with well-being at work?, the CIPD’s examples of mental health at work are: work-life balance targets, conflict resolution training and relaxation techniques (p7). I think this is really missing the point.

The CIPD’s definition of well-being is ‘creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation’. The question we need to answer is whether work-life balance targets, conflict resolution training or relaxation techniques really achieve this.

I would suggest that they are only half the story. Research shows that psychological well-being can be enabled through developing traits like resilience, optimism and self-awareness in employees, focussing on strengths and through fostering meaning at work, for example by building new organisational communities through volunteering programmes. What is essential for employees to flourish is an organisational culture which actively and positively promotes it.

I think it would be beneficial for organisations to view employee well-being in terms of an integrated model, which not only takes into account physical, psychological and spiritual well-being, but which places specific emphasis on developing the positives. I’ll be returning to this integrated model and the importance of a positive focus in later posts.

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