EMPLOYEE health and wellbeing has reached the top of the workplace agenda for companies whose happy and fulfilled staff have become a major route to business growth.
Championing change in the North Wales workplace culture to make people a priority is 1850 Business Solutions whose belief is that happiness does actually bring increased productivity.
Claire Davies, managing director at 1850 and working with expanding businesses throughout North Wales and Cheshire, has seen how employers who treat staff well are reaping the rewards of putting their people first – whether it’s offering flexible working arrangements, looking after employees’ mental and physical health or simply making the workplace a great place to be.
She said: “People who enjoy their work and whose bosses see their wellbeing as a vital part of the company ethos take less time off sick, perform better and stay with the business longer. Everyone wins when the focus is actually on the person and not the role.
“Bottom line is that it’s all about businesses altering their perception of HR – a necessary part of any operation and its successful day-to-day implementation of matters such as recruitment, employee benefits, payroll and employment policies.
“It’s changing the face of Human Resources to put the true focus on people being ‘human’ and not just a ‘resource’.”
Claire, 35, knows from personal experience the importance of companies understanding the value – and the returns – of looking after the individual needs of their workforce. After operating at senior level for some leading corporate organisations, she set up the Chester-headquartered 1850 Business Solutions HR and business consultancy while, at the same time, juggling the increasing demands of a young family.
She explained: “By driving change in these perceptions of HR – once seen simply as a means of protecting a company’s interests – there’s hopefully a massive shift coming now in attitudes towards this people-centred approach to having stable, motivated and happy staff who thrive and grow with the business.”
So, what makes a happy and contented workforce?
Even before Covid, mental health was the most common cause of sickness absence from work, with work-related stress, depression, and anxiety accounting for 54 per cent of working days lost in 2018/19.
Here, raising awareness of the need for employers to break down any barriers to causing stress among their workforce is of major importance as is working with mental health training providers to pick up early warning signs. Caring beyond the workplace is vital too, encouraging sociability, conversation and “time out” from office tasks along with time outdoors in the fresh air.
If there’s one thing businesses have particularly learned while coming through the pandemic, it’s hybrid working – part working remotely from home and part working in the office – that brings huge benefits. Studies have shown this method helps employees use their time better, reducing the stress of the daily office commute and focusing instead on productivity then using the traditional office environment for colleague collaboration, information sharing and meetings.
This flexible working has been proven to create a work-life balance where staff can have greater control over their working day, are happy, more fulfilled and, as a result, become loyal to the business and want to stay there. Even issues like having to stay off work if a child is sick – once the stuff of nightmares – are sometimes resolved by making up any lost time by catching up at home.
Conversations with employees to determine what best fits their home and family lives as well as their career aspirations, listening to them when they want to share their hopes and dreams are all important when it comes to successful working relationships.
Claire pointed out: “It’s what’s called psychological safety. Staff should be positively encouraged to ask for help if it’s needed and everyone – employers and colleagues alike – attuned to taking care of the others’ wellbeing.
“In fact, as consultants to a diverse range of businesses of all sizes, we always stress how important it is for senior leaders to motivate openness among the workforce at all levels of their operations. You can’t put a price on having a conversation to get to the root of issues that may be affecting people and, ultimately, their performance.”
The actual working environment is also all-important when looking after employees. Tables and chairs alone do not make a good office – staff need the right equipment if employers care about their people. That applies to the amount of space and facilities available in the workplace and are just as vital when working from home.
“Having an ironing board for a desk,” said Claire, “probably isn’t conducive to a productive working day!”
Image caption: Claire Davies