Supporting employee health and wellbeing in the workplace

Written by
Martin Lally

02 Feb 2017

02 Feb 2017 • by Martin Lally

Workplace expectations have changed drastically in recent years. Quite rightly, employees are increasingly looking for a working environment where they can not only thrive, but also be themselves. And businesses are starting to take heed. That’s because businesses should know that supporting their people in all of their endeavours, helping them to be true to themselves and fulfil their ambitions, is vital if they want to ensure their workforce is both happier and ultimately more productive. 

In a world of constantly evolving work patterns and responsibilities, that support has never been more important. However, the truth is that when it comes to supporting employee health and wellbeing, it can be difficult to know where to start. At O2, like many other UK business, we have implemented a number of measures to promote open conversation and aid employee wellbeing. But we know this is just the beginning, so the importance of regularly listening to employee feedback cannot be underestimated. All businesses need to keep striving to improve in this area. Here are just a few of the things companies can do to help:
1)     Promote an open culture
At O2 we have a dedicated social network called Yammer. Our employees are encouraged to use this platform regularly to have open conversations with each other about their health and wellbeing. This promotion of an open office culture online also promotes one offline, and that combination leads to a more honest and happier workforce. We also use the platform to provide details of the support we offer, so that information is readily available and easily accessible when our employees need it. 
2)     Support all the way from the top
Embedding the right culture also relies on a genuine commitment at board level. In leading by example, board members both destigmatise discussion around wellbeing in the workplace and show the company’s commitment, at a human level, to its improvement. That’s why our board members went on a ‘Listening Tour’ as part of our Mental Health Awareness Week this year. They wanted to reaffirm that commitment and remind people across the entirety of the organisation of the support we offer.
3)     Empower line managers
At O2, we’ve always aimed to create an open culture, one where our people feel empowered to come to work and be themselves. Providing the right tools to support our people to have open conversations plays an important part in achieving this. Line Managers are also essential to ensuring this is the case. We know that despite our best efforts, employees can have tough days. That’s why all our line managers are trained to spot when someone might need some extra support, and to feel equipped to have a conversation with anyone in their team about their mental health should they need it.
4)     Remember 5-9, not just the 9-5
We all know how stress from work can creep into our home lives, but what about the other way around? Being concerned about issues at home - whether family, financial or legal -  can impact your emotional health at work. Many of us lack the time and headspace to deal with personal problems when we’re busy at work. That’s why businesses must provide the adequate tools for their employees to deal with such issues, and thus help both their work and home life. At O2, we provide an online portal and telephone service that employees can turn to for advice on a range of issues such as Counselling, Financial and Legal Aid, Bereavement Support, Serious Illness Support and Life Management.
5)     Use professional help
Whilst businesses should always try to aid their employees, sometimes it can become apparent that professional help is required. That’s why we provide online referrals through an occupational health agency to help support our employees in times of illness. Systems such as this mean employees can get the help they need, when they need it. 
Ultimately, we can’t just do business – we have to do good business. That means taking the right steps to cultivate a workforce which is both happy and productive in equal measure. When our people are happy and love what they do, they’ll love doing it for our customers too.