Well-Being at Work – A Practical Guide
There’s a spike in gym memberships at the beginning of every year. Sales of exercise equipment go through the roof. We start thumbing through health magazines and many of us commit to a diet of some kind. The New Year seems to be a trigger to take better care of ourselves.
In fact, it’s probably the only time of the year our health and well-being become top priority. So, in this seasonal spirit of self-improvement, let’s take a look at what we should be doing to ensure well-being in the workplace.
From an employer perspective, a crucial aspect of wellbeing is embedding Work Health and Safety (WHS) into every employee’s frame of mind. You can do this through your workplace’s WHS policies and processes that cover both the physical and psychological well-being of staff.
- The immediate physical environment. Make sure that it is safe for your staff. For example, eliminate trip hazards and make sure spills are cleaned up quickly etc.
- The knowledge and tools people use to do their job. For example, do your employees know how to safely pick up a heavy object, or get one down from a high shelf? Are ear muffs provided? Are your workers properly trained to operate the equipment they need to use?
- The safety and maintenance of tools and equipment. Is the furniture in your workplace in good condition? Are chords and electric equipment audited and set up safely? Are chemicals and medicines labelled correctly and clearly?
- The ergonomics of workspaces. Badly positioned furniture and equipment can create physical strain on your staff. This can be tackled by making some simple changes. For example, make sure computer screens and keyboards are at the right height and angle. Are your workstations adjustable? Think about lighting – is it adequate?
- Taking a break. Make sure breaks are built into the daily routine, and that tasks are varied to avoid excessive repetition as it can cause injury.
- Emergency plans. Make sure you have emergency plans in case of fire, storms, floods, prolonged black-outs etc. Ensure the plans are easy to follow and access. Make sure staff know where to find them.
**If you do identify risks or hazards and are unsure what to do about them, or simply want to run through the latest safety checklist, check out our Work Health and Safety guidelines here.
- A discrimination-free workplace. Provide training so that staff know how to ensure people are not discriminated against on the basis of gender, race, age, disability etc.
- Zero-tolerance of bullying. Again, staff training is key to combatting bullying but so is ensuring you have systems in place to deal with it should it arise. Make sure staff know who to go to if they are being bullied or see it happening to others.
- Safe speaking spaces. Create an environment where people know they can and should speak up if they feel they have been subject to bullying or discrimination, or witness it. Provide avenues to talk and seek help.
It’s also important to foster an environment in which employees feel they can talk about work without judgement. Encourage staff to be open if they are having issues with workload or deadlines, or are unclear about a project or their role. Being able to talk about work stresses and pressures can often go a long way to alleviating them. It’s also important to provide avenues for staff to share ideas and feedback. Not only does it make them feel included, but you might find excellent new suggestions and solutions.
- An Employee Assistance Programme. Organisations provide EAPs for the purposes of helping staff through difficult moments in their lives – being it professional or personal. Usually it involves connecting them to professionals, such counsellors, who can help them in a confidential and independent manner. These programmes are a great way to support staff who are having problems that might be impacting them at work. If you have one of these programmes, make sure staff know about them and how to access them.
Often, there are things we can do to our physical workspaces to improve the psychological well-being off staff. Some of these are simple as letting in more light and bringing in more plants to create relaxed, natural spaces. Other options are a little more complex, like creating a music room in which staff can release energy and tap in to those creative juices. We’ve even visited an organisation so determined to tackle annoying background noise that it put a two-metre high waterfall in the middle of the office.
All of these are great ways to promote well-being in the workplace, but nothing can replace the simple power of listening. Create an environment that acknowledges people’s thoughts and feelings, and respects their contributions and challenges. By doing this you’re laying great foundations for your staff to be happy and safe at work…and you’ll probably save yourself the cost of an indoor waterfall.