Creating Sustainable Wellbeing Practices to Enable Your People and Business to Thrive | EAPA-SA

Building a thriving organisation and supporting employee wellbeing have traditionally been viewed as two separate undertakings, with wellbeing seen as a “nice-to-have”. In fact, these initiatives go hand in hand, because practices that are beneficial for the organisation also support employee wellbeing. More and more, leaders are understanding that the physical and mental wellness of their employees has a direct impact on organisational performance, helping to maintain a thriving business.

“More and more, leaders are understanding that the physical and mental wellness of their employees has a direct impact on organisational performance…”

What is employee wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing can be defined as the overall mental, physical, emotional and financial health of your employees. This definition refers to the state of employees’ wellbeing resulting from dynamics within – and sometimes outside of – the workplace. It is impacted by how well people are managed, their relationships with colleagues, sufficient knowledge to do their jobs, the effective use of tools and resources, as well as larger business decisions that impact employees and their work.


Organisational health is essential for employee wellbeing – and vice versa. 

Consciously cultivating organisational health is one of the best solutions to combat employee stress. Today’s organisational leadership is seen to be accountable for promoting proactive wellbeing initiatives as well as reactive interventions. Down the reporting line, competent people managers are required to change their focus away from achieving project and financial success at any cost, to supporting employee wellbeing. This includes:

  • Providing meaningful work: Meaningful work is that which instils a sense of purpose and value in an employee’s daily routine. This is what gives your workforce the resilience to take on challenging or unpopular tasks and complete them.
  • Supporting work-life balance: This has become a critical aspect of employee wellbeing. Employees expect their organisations to support them in balancing work and personal life. Simply put, this is achieved by offering flexible working hours, focusing on productivity rather than hours worked and encouraging employees to utilise their leave days. 
  • Committing to employee development: To support employee development, organisations should develop a career development plan for each employee as well as introducing professional training programmes. Without professional growth, employees will not feel empowered to improve their skills. It is beneficial to also encourage soft skills development.
  • Creating a culture of open-minded communication: Successful communication is built on a foundation of integrity, trust and respect. Trust opens the door to people being willing to share their points of view. Caring and respect drive the ability to listen and hear what is being communicated at a deep level. 
  • Giving employee rewards: Employee recognition supports a constructive work experience for employees that is critical to the success of every organisation. It does this by showing the organisation cares for and values its employees, who feel like they matter and their work is appreciated.  

“Management practice is one of the most important aspects of supporting employee wellbeing.”

Good people management is a critical wellbeing practice

Management practice is one of the most important aspects of supporting employee wellbeing. According to Gallup’s recent report, Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures, how people are managed and experience their workload both have a stronger influence on burnout than number of hours worked. Disrespect is a huge stressor. The best thing leaders can do for stressed-out employees is to let go of managers who are found to be bullying, manipulating or undermining those they manage.  Here are the top five factors in this study that correlate most highly with employee burnout:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Unclear communication from managers
  4. Lack of manager support
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

The report finds, “When people feel inspired, motivated and supported in their work, they do more work — and that work is significantly less stressful on their overall health and wellbeing.”


What can organisations do to help improve employee wellbeing? 

For organisations that are making their first foray into employee wellbeing, it can be difficult to know where to begin. The key lies in not cosseting employees, but rather in enabling them to be more engaged and productive – in making people feel included, respected and supported so that they can deliver their best performance. Here are four ways to support worker wellbeing: 


  • Embrace a whole-person approach to employee wellbeing

A sense of safety, inclusion and belonging, and so feeling like you are able to bring your whole self to doing your work, is pivotal to people’s overall wellbeing and the ways they show up at work. A whole-person approach to wellbeing helps to engender a work environment that is conducive to such whole-being employee commitment. It takes into account four core areas of employee wellbeing. These are:

    • Physical health: The body’s ability to function normally.
    • Mental health: The ability to manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.
    • Social health: Our relationships and how we communicate with those around us. 
    • Financial health: Our dynamic relationship with financial resources.


  • Create a holistic Employee Health & Wellness programme

A key benefit of creating a holistic wellness programme, that encompasses all four areas of wellness cited above, is the way it permits organisations to take into consideration the unique needs of its employees – allowing employers to adopt a more bespoke approach. 

    • It is important to ensure that you are offering the support and learning that employees really need and want in terms of prioritising their wellbeing – both inside and outside of work.
    • A good way to build a successful employee wellness programme is to build community into every element of the programme. When there is community there is an increased sense of purpose and there is accountability, both of which promote greater results. 


  • Get your managers on board

It is managers that usually have the strongest connections with their teams and, therefore, serve as an important conduit of information. It is vital that managers understand the connection between employee wellbeing and the organisation’s success.

    • Managers have to be enthusiastic about supporting employee wellbeing.
    • Employers need to make sure that managers get proper training and have easy access to all the wellbeing materials they may need, such as guidelines and toolkits.
    • Managers should continuously remind their teams about the benefits of wellbeing and ensure that their team members have access to essential information. 


  • Keep your organisation sufficiently staffed

Some stress is healthy. However, consistently high work demands that call for long hours and fast turnaround to meet tight deadlines can take a substantial toll on employee wellbeing. 

    • A distinction should be made between employers’ understanding of workers’ duties are, and what these actually entail, set against employee’s reasonable capacity. This will assist management in determining how much work is excessive and how daily working hours and responsibilities should be organised. 
    • Staffing up to contain grueling work demands may appear costly, but employers can pay dearly when exhausted or unwell employees are absent or quit due to burnout. In fact, numerous studies find that when high demands are coupled with low job control, health risks escalate. These include higher incidences of depression, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.