‘Health and wellbeing’ can be an overused phrase in business-speak, but it really does matter, says Polly Allen. Healthier work culture, and healthier employee relations, mean happier workers and a more productive workforce, so it really is in your interests to tweak your business practices accordingly. Here’s how…

Encourage feedback

Nobody wants to feel as though the company CEO sits in an ivory tower and distances themselves from the staff on the ground. Taking a genuine interest in employee wellbeing, and asking for honest company feedback, can nip any workplace problems in the bud before they become major issues.

There are several ways to gather regular feedback: through anonymous surveys (by hand or via sites like Surveymonkey), one-to-one meetings, comments boxes, and open door policy sessions where people can drop in to chat. The last thing you want is to foster ‘workplace vigilantes’ as recently studied by researchers in Canada, where certain employees became resentful of their peers for minor offences. Instead, encourage openness and a healthy feedback policy to see results.

Make diversity a priority

A diverse workplace is ethically and morally better, but it’s also great for maintaining a range of skills, backgrounds and viewpoints in your staff. You don’t necessarily have to enforce diversity quotas (the Financial Times suggests these can be counter-productive), but one of your key hiring strategies should be to stay as inclusive as possible.

If you’re not attracting jobseekers from different gender identities, races, health backgrounds and religions, why not? Is there a problem with your company culture that needs to be resolved? This is especially important as the gender pay gap still exists in 2017. According to Holyrood magazine, Scottish men still earn on average £182.90 more per week than women. Until we resolve the underlying HR issues, statistics like these won’t improve.

Improve your team’s digital skills

The UK government is pushing digital learning as the next big thing in the workplace, and it’s easy to see why: the digital industry is booming, more and more processes are moving online, and businesses of all sizes have a digital presence to maintain. You need to keep up with your competitors, and give your workers reasons to stick with you when they may be having itchy feet.

Learning doesn’t have to be a long and boring process; there are loads of web tutorials, either video-based or written down, talking you through setting up a WordPress blog, making the most of Gmail for business, or mastering the latest social media channel. Age doesn’t have to be a barrier, either – it’s not just Millennials who are interested in tweeting or coding! Everyone can enjoy developing a new skill.

Make allowances for workplace upheaval

A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that 55% of people who were experiencing current or recent change in the workplace felt chronically stressed, compared to 22% of those undergoing no change. Many of those affected said they distrusted the reasons behind any recent change.

Industry website HR Dive suggested giving staff regular breaks and encouraging them not to be constantly connected to the office when they weren’t at work. These measures should reduce stress and allow employees to reconnect with other areas of their lives, taking their mind off the change and leaving them refreshed for the challenges ahead. Sometimes change is inevitable, but you can handle it in a healthy way to help your employees.

Consider being flexible

As many businesses move online, business hours adapt too, making the traditional 9-5 no longer a given. You might set your sights on international business deals or answering customer queries late at night, but this flexibility for profit should translate to flexible working if you want to keep your staff relationships healthy. And let’s face it, if someone wants Friday afternoons off, but will stay late throughout the week, it’s hardly a huge upheaval.

Unless a worker has strict contracted hours, giving them some leeway and perhaps an ‘overtime in lieu’ policy, or maybe compressed hours, widens your recruitment pool and attracts ambitious candidates who don’t - or can’t - arrive at 8:55am on a Monday morning. The Telegraph reported in May 2017 that 8 out of 10 people think flexible working improves productivity (according to a Vodafone survey), and it must make the happiness index look pretty positive, too.

The hacks suggested here aren’t difficult to set in motion, and they should lead to a healthier workplace as well as happier staff. The question is, which will you implement first?