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The Secret Sauce for Employee Wellness



Talent Attraction, Employer Branding, Operations

Talent will respond well when their wellbeing is taken into account. But are employers approaching employee wellness in the right way? 

In recent years, employers have taken a renewed interest in employee wellness and how it can have a positive effect upon reducing burnout, stress and sick leave whilst simultaneously increasing productivity and improving how outsiders view the company.

As the drive for wellbeing increases, companies continue to diversify their wellness initiatives and attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors, keen to express that they have employee wellbeing in mind and that their wellness initiatives are superior. But it is critical for companies not to lose sight of the key factors that foster wellbeing within the workplace.

Ultimately, the secret sauce of employee wellness is motivation. The more they're taken care of, the more motivated they will be to help their company succeed.

In a talent approach, this would mean not just promoting the wellbeing initiatives within the company, but also bringing forward the elements of your employer brand that would drive a prospective employee towards their goals.

The Psychological Needs of Employee Wellbeing

Three core concepts should be addressed:

  1. Autonomy - Employees need to feel like they have agency in the work that they're doing. They want a certain level of supported independence where they get to make choices, be in charge of projects and ultimately own the outcome of their work. They need time, space and resources to be able to feel like they're trusted to do the job on their own.
  2. Competence - Employees also need to feel like they're making progress. Since we're dopamine-addicted creatures, a huge part of what gives us joy and satisfaction is to see forward movement in our work journeys. Whether that's getting better at a skillset, learning more insights in an industry or helping see an initiative flourish, we all want to see growth in our professional lives and make an impact on our environment.
  3. Relatedness - Finally, employees want to feel connected to their co-workers and their company. We have an evolutionary need to belong to a tribe, crave a sense of collective purpose and a strong group identity. We also need to have close affectionate relationships with the people we work with so that we can feel safe around them. 

If these three needs are not properly addressed, our motivation, productivity and happiness in the workplace plummets.

The good news is that we don't need too many employee wellness programs to be able to address these core needs; a small number of smart initiatives, mindfully designed and with employee input, will enable us to build on their excellence and promote their success. 

How Do Companies Improve Motivation?

Everything companies do for their employees should be intentionally connected to as many of these three core needs as possible. Employer brand leaders should seek to emphasize how these initiatives can motivate their prospective employees, and display how these initiatives are interlinked with the workplace culture and the bigger targets that need to be achieved.

This would mean asking:

  • How can we make this wellness program as relevant as possible to the goals of employees? 
  • How can we give them a sense of ownership over it?
  • How can we make them feel more connected to each other by doing it?

People connect in multiple ways due to differences in their personalities, cultures and experiences. One of the best ways to create inclusive wellness programs is to involve a planning committee that has diversity of thought, skill-sets, roles and personalities, whilst reflecting that inclusivity in the messaging.

Some companies may just pick a wellness activity for employees without considering their biggest challenges and needs in the workplace or what type of activity they would prefer to do together. At every opportunity given to us, we should be encouraging employee involvement to create a sense of investment in their own wellness and growth, building stronger ties across the company.

Exercising Your Right to Happiness

It's important to note that physical wellbeing will continue to be the foundation to both our mental and emotional strength, and companies will quite rightly continue to lean further into encouraging physical exercise amongst the workforce – not just because an energetic video makes a loud splash on a careers website.

The key here is to make sure that any exercise initiatives and incentives don't shame people but instead provide fun, easy goals that people are happy to take part in, even at the end of a long tiring day. A great way to do that is to emphasize the social aspect of the exercises and keep it simple –  concepts that require very little equipment and can be performed almost anywhere are more engaging and enjoyable to a wider proportion of people. 

The Bane of Wellness Initiatives

Where current initiatives suffer is when the bells and whistles come before an accurate consideration of how this could best benefit the employees. The sole focus cannot be about dazzling prospective hires. Before starting on a wellness program, it is important to consider these simple questions:

  1. Why are we doing this? How important is this to us?
  2. What does success look like for us? 
  3. Are our efforts commensurate to the outcomes we want?

Such questions can also be related into the employer branding, making clear that such initiatives aren’t just an add-on but resonate throughout: the motivation that is fostered by the initiatives drives the workplace forward.

Employers will continue to consider ways to augment their employee wellness initiatives, and they will be keen to include it in their messaging  – just don’t forget to add the secret sauce.

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