Well being in the office. How to do it systemically?

Well-being has been recognized as one of the essential elements of employer branding for several years now. The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified the trend of focusing on employee health and well-being.

In the past, well-being was often mistakenly identified with programmes promoting fitness or taking care of the ergonomics of the workplace. Meanwhile, it should be defined much more broadly. In the context of the work environment, care for the well-being of employees refers to all aspects of professional life. Starting with the quality and safety of the physical environment that we create for our employees, through the promotion and dissemination of habits conducive to good health and psychological well-being, to all aspects of the management approach that determine the nature of an organisation and the atmosphere at work, which has a significant impact on the psychological comfort and level of employee involvement.

Properly understood well-being is therefore a systemic concern for the well-being of employees. In a knowledge-based economy, for organizations whose most important capital is people, taking care of creating an environment in which they can realize their full potential is one of the key factors influencing the long-term effectiveness of the organization.

In a supportive environment

Traditionally, well-being research has focused on health-promoting interventions, with publications on the subject primarily highlighting business risks associated with sickness absenteeism and health problems resulting from non-ergonomic equipment, sedentary lifestyles or negative effects of stress, such as alcohol abuse and mental problems.

The growing awareness of the importance of these problems is making the trend called well-being more and more popular. However, a frequent risk in this case is focusing on superficial initiatives promoting healthy behaviors that have limited effects. Without denying the value of such activities, it is worth noting that well-being understood as a holistic approach to creating a healthy and engaging organisational environment should be one of the central assumptions of a business strategy. In such an approach, the well-being perspective has an impact on key decisions taken by an employer – starting from the choice of a building and designing a work space to management decisions in the area of shaping the organizational culture.

Areas of action

The broadly defined well-being of our employees is influenced by many factors. While preparing to implement the well-being strategy, it is worth identifying those over which we, as an employer, have control and direct the implemented initiatives to areas with the greatest potential for positive effects. There are three key areas to look at in this context:

  • Physical aspects of the work environment
  • Promoting good habits and behaviours
  • Management culture

From the physical aspects, the key factors are: the quality of air and water supplied in the building, the use of healthy finishing materials in the interior which do not emit harmful substances to the user, ergonomic, properly lit workplaces, or adequate thermal and acoustic comfort. When choosing location, planning space and equipment, it is worth paying attention to the standards of physical space – they have a direct impact on the health and efficiency of employees. The effectiveness of initiatives aimed at promoting healthy habits and all activities related to building the right organisational culture are more difficult to capture, but they are no less important.

Employee well-being includes creating an environment where employees have a clear strategy, clear objectives and the right management approach, a sense of purpose in their work, autonomy in how they perform their job, and good relationships with their manager and peers. Therefore, before implementing well-being initiatives, it is worth taking the trouble to properly diagnose the organizational situation and employees’ needs. Such a diagnosis will allow us to consciously shape the company’s policy in the above-mentioned three key areas, i.e. to undertake those interventions which have the highest potential of real effects for the organization and to measure the effectiveness of undertaken actions in order to modify the strategy on an ongoing basis.

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