How European Employers Can Effectively Support Employee Wellness




How European
Employers Can Effectively Support Employee Wellness

 

Nearly half of
European workers are at high risk of mental health issues, according to one
Lifeworks poll in which more than 500 people took part in France, Germany,
Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland. With one-third reporting that their
mental health was negatively impacting their productivity, there’s no
question that an employee’s wellness is important in the workplace. From the
current state of worker wellness according to Gallup to the correlation between
the workplace and physical/mental wellness, here’s what you should know — and
how companies can create a positive change.

 

The current
state of global employee wellbeing

 

About 60% of
employees “felt emotionally detached from their jobs” last year, while almost a
fifth “described their time at work as miserable,” according to Gallup’s annual
State of the Global Workplace report. While the coronavirus pandemic has
certainly taken its toll on employee wellness across the globe, other factors
— such as long hours and bad experiences — also play a
part. The European Sting highlights further findings of the Gallup report,
noting that stress levels among workers actually rose for a third year in a
row, with 44% of respondents reporting feeling stressed the day before the
survey. The European Sting also points out that this is “an all-time high” for
Gallup’s reports. 

 

The workplace
and wellness — what’s the link?

 

While poor
mental health can stem from a variety of causes (work-related or not), it’s important
to understand how it can impact the workplace. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance, notes that poor mental
health and stress can negatively affect employee job performance and
productivity,  communication with coworkers,
engagement with one’s work, and even an employee’s physical capability and daily functioning. While this
highlights how mental health can impact physical wellbeing, it’s important to realise
that there are additional ways in which the workplace itself can impact both
mental and physical wellbeing.

 

When seeking to
understand the relationship between mental/physical health and the workplace,
workplace injuries are just one example that can have a major impact. This is
especially true, as an injury often affects more than just the physical body. A
bad fall, for example, could not only result in physical ramifications, but can
also result in financial stressors in addition to a loss of independence and
income. It’s also necessary to take into account that workplace injuries are a form of trauma, which can affect
an employee’s mental health. Depression, anxiety, and even Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD) can all be brought on by a workplace injury, underlining
the impact that a physical injury can have on mental health. And, when
considering the “invisible” nature of mental health issues, diagnosing those as
a result of a workplace injury can be challenging — making it essential to
cultivate a positive workplace culture around mental health (including
awareness of symptoms), and preventing injuries from happening in the first
place.

 

How Europe’s
employers can cultivate change

 

For employers
looking to make a positive change regarding wellness in the workplace, it’s
necessary to first understand the work-related risk factors for mental health. According to
the World Health Organisation (WHO), these risks include inadequate health and
safety policies and inflexible working hours, among others. Offering
flexible  working schedules is just one great place to start, especially
when considering that 37% of respondents said they’d actually be prepared to
decline a new job unless flexibility was offered, while 69% said they’d
actually accept a pay cut in order to have more flexible hours, according to a
survey of European employees conducted by Owl Labs. Offering the ability to work from
home (whether via a hybrid working style or fully remote) is just one way to
cater to this priority.

 

Assessing
workplace safety policies and ensuring they’re properly enforced is essential
in supporting employee wellness. In addition to creating a positive workplace
culture surrounding safety, supporting employee physical wellness can go even
further. Encouraging employees to stay physically active can further support
both physical and mental health, as physical activity can promote confidence and decrease stress hormones (in
addition to being a good source of social support). Employers can achieve this
through implementing regular breaks or discounts for fitness opportunities
offsite. 

 

Employee
wellness has become increasingly important. With factors that include the
pandemic and stress, even aspects of the workplace (such as injuries) can also
play a role in wellness, too. To remedy this, European employers can draw upon
several solutions, from offering flexible working opportunities to ensuring a
positive safety culture and making physical activity more accessible.