When it comes to wellbeing in the workplace, the effect on your workforce of simply ‘opening the blinds’ could be staggering! It sounds so obvious it’s hardly believable.

There is much to be found about wellbeing and the positive or negative impact it can have on our lives.

Not convinced?  Then read on……

What is Wellbeing?

Wellbeing is “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”

However, it is important to realise that wellbeing is a much broader concept than moment-to-moment happiness.

While it does include happiness, it also includes other things such as:

  • How satisfied people are with their life as a whole
  • Their sense of purpose
  • How in control they feel.

With this in mind, we found this other description which we think sums wellbeing up well:

“Wellbeing can be understood as how people feel and how they function. This is both on a personal and a social level, and how they evaluate their lives as a whole.”[1]

Inevitably, this includes how they feel about work. We must recognise that an individual’s wellbeing will impact on which version of themselves they bring to work.

This will, in turn, affect their performance and motivation at work. 

Physical Wellbeing

Having a healthy body is very important and this includes being fit and well enough to attend work. It also impacts how well an employee is able to perform various work-related tasks.  Physical wellbeing leads not only to better attendance, but also better performance and productivity at work.  Here are a few things you can consider as an employer to enhance your employees’ physical wellbeing:

  • Encouraging staff to go to the gym / get moving / be active
  • Hold ‘Walking Meetings’
  • Think about how staff travel to and from work (cycle or walk). Do you provide showers, or a cycle shed?
  • Organise sponsored and / or social fitness challenges
  • Provide information on healthy eating and make it easy for staff to eat healthily at work.  What’s in your vending machines?  Do you provide fridges for staff to keep their pre-prepared healthy meals cool?
  • Promote the benefits of healthy sleep and other lifestyle choices (e.g. smoking, drinking etc.)

Ultimately, it’s all about individual choice. But make those choices easier to make and sustain. Then the positive impact on the health of your workforce could be sizeable.

Mental Wellbeing

Having a healthy mind is as important as having a healthy body.  Employees who struggle with their mental wellbeing will inevitably find this impacts on their attendance and performance / productivity at work. 

The World Health Organisation define mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual:

  • Realises his or her own potential
  • Can cope with the normal stresses of life
  • Can work productively and fruitfully
  • Is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

The umbrella of mental health issues ranges from depression, anxiety, stress, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and psychosis. In some cases, there can be a connection to substance abuse and eating disorders.

Some employees struggle to find a healthy work-life balance, and this can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. Mental illness will affect at least one in four people at some point in their working lives.

That is why wellbeing in the workplace and employee mental health is so important.

Did you know… It costs UK employers an estimated £8.2 billion a year in reduction of work productivity and sickness.

Wellbeing in the Workplace and Managers

Managers are a key influence in shaping an employee’s mental wellbeing.

They must lead by example, as their actions/omissions may act as a trigger. 

Issues to consider include:

  • Poor managerial support
  • Long working hours with few break periods
  • Excessively pressurised workplaces
  • Isolated working environments
  • Lack of job security
  • Unmanageable workloads which employees have no control over
  • Unsuccessfully implemented change
  • Ineffective internal communication
  • Dangerous, uncomfortable or poor working environments. Consider minimising noise levels, creating more space or improving temperature or lighting. It may be as simple as opening the blinds!
  • Impractical deadlines and expectations
  • Inability to take holiday breaks
  • No regular one-to-one meetings to provide feedback.  Think about providing an open-door policy for staff to discuss what’s on their mind
  • Lack of appreciation or recognition
  • Lack of help and support when employees need it

Approximately one in four adults experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lives. It is important to help identify mental health risks and assist employees in addressing any mental wellbeing issues. 

It’s not always an expensive thing to do either. Some free screening services are available. There are also free online screening tools that employees can be encouraged to access.

Mind provide a booklet on How to Improve your Mental Wellbeing which is a useful resource.

Financial Wellbeing

Caring about your employees’ financial wellbeing is a smart thing to do.

Our understanding of how financial difficulties can affect employee’s physical and mental health is improving.

We are better understanding the connection between:

  • Debt
  • Stress and fiscal anxiety
  • Absence
  • Reduced productivity

Employers, as income providers, play a fundamental role in their workforces’ financial affairs. What else can an employer do to improve their employees’ financial wellbeing over and above paying their salary:

Employee Benefits

There is a range of employee benefits schemes that will help staff to make their net pay go further.

These provide access to discounts, deals and savings on a range of everyday purchases and occasional treats. Benefits Cloud is one such example.

Maximising Tax and National Insurance efficiency

As part of an employee benefits scheme, it is possible for staff to take advantage of select benefits. This is whilst reducing their overall taxable income by operating an HMRC approved salary sacrifice scheme (e.g. Cycle to Work Scheme). The scheme is an agreement to reduce an employee’s entitlement to cash pay, usually in return for a non-cash benefit.

This arrangement must not reduce the employee’s cash earnings below the National Minimum Wage rates. Bear in mind every employment contract should be altered should an individual opt into the scheme.

The impact on tax and National Insurance contributions payable will depend on the pay and non-cash benefits that make up a particular arrangement.

Introducing a Living Wage

The average real wage has seen a decrease of 5.7% since peak 2008.

The consequences of this are that employees are struggling to be financially stable. The Living Wage Foundation offers accreditation to any employer who pays an independently calculated Living Wage to its staff.

This calculation is based on what families require to live. As of January 2019, this figure stands at £10.55 per hour in London. It is £9.00 per hour for the rest of the UK.

Savings and Retirement Coaching

Retirement is a life changing financial transition, and one which many people are unprepared for. All too often employees who have failed to properly plan for retirement cannot afford to retire. This is despite of being mentally ready to do so. Having to keep working under these circumstances is bad for morale, engagement and productivity.

As part of this, you can provide a high quality workplace pension scheme, as required under the UK auto-enrolment rules.


At its core, budgeting is the process of creating a plan on how to spend your money.

Knowing how much money is coming in and going out may seem simple enough.

However, all too often employees will not conduct an accurate breakdown of their expenses against their income. It is not possible to effectively manage debt or save for a rainy day. This is without a clear picture and specific figures detailing what an employee’s financial status is on a monthly basis.

The Close Brothers’ Financial Wellbeing Index found that ‘budgeting and planning’ was one of the lowest scoring areas. It highlighted an urgent call to action for employers looking at financial wellbeing.

Fortunately, there are tools which can help an individual organise their finances in an efficient manner.

The Money Advice Service is a service set up by the UK government. This offers free and impartial advice on a wide range of financial issues e.g. Homes and Mortgages. Promoting and utilising these tools will serve as a strong introduction for employees to start arranging their own finances.

Running seminars or one-to-ones should help educate employees on a range of financial aspects to concentrate on. This is cost efficient enough not to disrupt the running of everyday business. 

Wellbeing in the Workplace and SME’s

Bigger companies are placing increased emphasis on staff wellbeing and the introduction of progressively more safeguards.

Yet many smaller businesses often take they approach “we are too small to make use of staff wellbeing.” This implies that they have inadequate resources to effectively implement a policy.

The House of Common has stated that 99% of UK businesses are classified as SME’s. This is with 96% being categorised as micro-businesses with less than 10 employees in total.

In 2017, over 12 million working days were lost as a result of poor mental health. The estimated losses were upwards of £26 million due to lower productivity.

Given that SME’s form the pillar of the UK economy, this hits hard. It becomes apparent that when discussing the cost of poor wellbeing and worker absence, it is the disproportionate burden suffered by SME’s

The wellbeing of an employee are leading factors in determining productivity, retention rates, healthcare costs and company profit margins.

So there it is, get opening those blinds on Wellbeing in the Workplace!

Learn More about Wellbeing in the Workplace

The Importance of Mental Wellbeing at Work

A Basic Guide for Managers: Addressing Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace

Five Ways to Improve Staff Wellbeing

The Three Key Elements of Staff Wellbeing

[1] New Economics Foundation (2012) Measuring Wellbeing: A guide for practitioners, London: New Economics Foundation.