January is the time when our thoughts naturally turn from presents, snow and flying reindeer, to where we are in our life and what we want to achieve in the coming year. Many of us try to shake off the indulgences of the festive season and embark on a new, and healthier regime for the months ahead. So how can you help your staff improve their own wellbeing?
There are 3 aspects of health that you might consider important to focus on – physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Whilst some of these are a deeply personal matter, here are some ways that you could help as their employer.
People who exercise regularly are not only fitter than people who do not, but having increased physical fitness also leads to improvements in mental and psychological states too. Depending on your budget and resources, you could consider offering:
- Private staff medical insurance so that they can access healthcare when they need it in times of illness
- Discounted gym membership – contact your local gym to see if you can work in partnership with them to create a deal for your staff
Other ways that don’t cost much money could be to set up a fitness club to either go running or offer weekly exercise classes such as Pilates, keep-fit or Tai Chi. You may have people in your setting willing to do this, so why not ask?
Encouraging healthy eating and good sleep patterns is also important in tackling physical fitness and obesity, so promote healthy eating by putting up posters or perhaps offering free fruit or other healthy treats at break-time.
Stress can be the cause of many ailments so it is worth tackling this within your organisation. Stress is one of the major causes of physical illness, depression and days lost at work, so ensure any workload is spread evenly across staff members and that you are actively encouraging a good work/life balance.
Signs of stress within your teams include:
- Increased turnover
- A large number of ‘sick’ days from team members
- A lack of laughter within the setting
- Falling productivity
- Poor staff/management relations
One way to check this would be to have a staff questionnaire they can complete such as the "Perceived Stress Scale" (PPS) which can be downloaded here.
Meditation and mindfulness are gaining popularity all the time as people report benefits from undertaking mindfulness or meditative practice. There has been a lot of research into this area in recent years and some studies have shown them beneficial in cases including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
There is robust data which shows that mindfulness and meditation can help with depression, having similar effects to other existing treatments (anti-depressants or cognitive behavioural therapy). You could engage a mindfulness coach to offer your staff some training or meditation practice, with the aim of improving people’s general wellbeing and reducing stress.
Yoga is another option, similar to mindfulness, and depending on the type of yoga done, can have an effect on the physical body as well. There are several different types of yoga and some businesses have found benefits from offering a weekly yoga class to staff. This is something that could be done after work one day a week for example, that could benefit your staff by helping with breathing techniques, reducing stress and quieting the mind.
A person’s emotional wellbeing is linked to many different aspects of their lives including their family, financial, relationship and career situation. Clearly you cannot influence all these aspects of a person’s life. However, there are several areas where you can have a positive impact. Consider:
- How good the communication is between the management and other staff
- How valued your staff feel
- How supported they feel as part of a team
- The opportunities they have for advancement within your establishment, and
- How empowered they feel – i.e. Is their voice being heard and do they have opportunities to make changes to their situation?
One way you could can empower staff is to create a ‘staff voice’ post box so that staff can anonymously leave messages or suggestions for improvements resulting in a more collective approach to changing things for the better.
Another way to do this is through a mentoring programme. You could have more experienced staff linked with more junior staff for example and encourage mentors to meet their mentees to talk through issues; help them meet college or work targets; or simply as a way to let staff know that there are other people ‘on their side’ who are willing to listen.
To help promote staff feeling valued, you could offer:
- Staff training and development opportunities
- Seasonal parties such as Christmas or New Year parties
- Staff perks or discount loyalty schemes such as Perkbox
- Formal opportunities to recognise staff and say ‘thank you’
- Peer-to-peer recognition by offering an "employee of the week or month" scheme
- Give members of staff responsibility and allow them to lead others
- Professional employee recognition software programmes that offer ways to track, monitor and reward staff such as Quarrot, Kudos and Peoplecart