Career Woman

5 Evidence-based practices ways to boost employee wellbeing


It’s almost unimaginable that people once smoked at work, let alone at all. So too, is the idea that a bottle of whiskey accompanies a meeting. Fast forward thirty years and workplaces have transformed to stand up meetings to maximise efficiency, no phone zones to ensure sustained attention and many businesses implement a zero tolerance for alcohol at work. Yes, today’s workplace is nothing like a scene from Mad Men.

These new rules, programs and initiatives had a genuine goal, to improve employee physical health, productivity and performance. It was once believed that if we reduce negative behaviours, it results in increased performance. The theory went like this, avoid certain behaviours (smoking, drinking, sitting down for too long, social media distraction) and you will be healthier and more productive at work. This mindset informed basic workplace practices and company wide wellbeing programs. Well, that’s until the research showed it didn’t always work.

The latest thinking in the science of human behaviour, and positive psychology suggests this approach doesn’t cut it. Instead, if organisations want individuals to perform, and increase their bottom line, then they need to create individuals and workplaces that flourish.  This means helping employees to experience higher levels of wellbeing, to feel good and function well.

To do this, workplaces need to adopt evidence-based practices that promote how individuals positively experience life and this goes well beyond physical health and avoiding certain behaviours. Instead it urges employees and workplaces to start finding time to promote more of the good stuff and help people live flourishing lives.

Five simple ways to improve employee wellbeing:

  1. Cultivate a culture of compassion

Compassion embodies empathy and kindness. It relates to our ability to care for others and ourselves in the way we would care for someone close to us. In a workplace, when people are tired, stressed and busy, organisational culture can lack compassion. However, research shows that being compassionate towards others increases our wellbeing. It has also been linked with a whole lot of other outcomes such as feeling more positive, improved relationships and feeling less stressed.

A really simple way to improve your level of compassion is to stop, reflect and ask yourself; what level of compassion am I showing myself and the people I work with? Self care is not selfish.

  1. Attention and mindfulness matter

As access to neuro and cognitive science increases, technology companies ensure people are as addicted as possible to their devices. Add to this, the hustle of the workplace today and its “instant rely” mindset. This makes finding time to bring sustained attention to our daily living more difficult than ever.

However, attention training, or the practice of mindfulness, has been shown to have huge benefits in our overall wellbeing including our performance at work. On a basic level, this means workplaces need to rethink their “always available” mindset and create opportunities for employees to have time and space to bring their undivided attention to themselves and their work tasks.

  1. Coach for competence

Individuals need to feel a sense of competence. Employees need to feel as though they can do, at least at a basic level, what is required of them. This is not achieved through rigorous performance management but instead by creating a coaching culture where individuals have access to formal and informal coaching that provides paths to progression, learning and that transforms behaviour.

  1. Foster a culture of ‘feeling in control’

Individuals need to feel in control of their life. They need to feel like they have choice in how they live and work. At work, this means creating a culture of trust. The days of micro managing are gone, in fact real creativity and innovation occurs when people have autonomy. Giving employees the time and space to think about how they tackle a problem and turn it into an opportunity is the key to making them feel in control.

  1. Other people matter

Workplace relationships are one of the most important relationships in our working life. In fact, in one study research shows at work, workers who had a poor relationship with their boss were found to have a 25 per cent higher risk of heart problems, and this risk increased the longer the employee had worked for that manager.

For workplaces and managers, this means, taking time to get to know your staff, to show compassion and authenticity but it also means investing in creating a great place to work where individuals feel heard, valued and part of a team.

When it comes to improving the performance of employees, wellbeing is more than just physical health and green juices. Wellbeing programs also need to move away from taking this away and move towards creating environments where people can flourish. This can be as simple as making some of these minor changes to the way we work.

*Reference of the study. (Rath, T., J. Harter, J.K. Harter, 2010).

About Danielle Buckley'

Danielle Buckley is an expert in workplace psychology and mental health in the workplace. She is a registered Psychologist with 15 years’ experience and two Master Degrees. Danielle specialises in program development to support the mental health wellbeing of everyone in the organisation including coaching, Positive Psychology and performance issues, and stress related issues.

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