The COVID-19 outbreak has spurred us to pay better attention to well-being; and it’s about time. As we take appropriate measures to ensure our employees are safe from the virus,  we must also care for employees’ mental health to ensure productivity and effectiveness. Employee well-being is especially important when remote and hybrid work becomes the norm. It is indisputable that leaders and managers play a key role in promoting well-being. According to Mental Health Europe, the attitude of managers or direct reports is the most important factor that significantly affects the mental health of employees or team members. As managers, we have an important part to play to promote and support better well-being..

This guide will cover:

  • What is well-being?
  • Why is workplace well-being important?
  • How to measure employee well-being?
  • How can managers promote well-being?

What is Well-being?

Well-being is an experience of good health, happiness, and success. It includes having good mental health, having high levels of life satisfaction, understanding the meaning of life, and having the ability to deal with stress.

Well-Being combines several positive aspects of life around feeling happy, having good health, being able to socialize with friends and acquaintances, and feeling valued. Well-being is also closely linked to happiness and life satisfaction and is linked to physical, emotional, psychological, and social well-being in the workplace.

Why is workplace well-being important?

Workplace well-being, or the well-being of employees, is related to every aspect of the work-life, including the quality and safety of the physical environment, employees’ feelings about their jobs, the workplace environment, and levels of happiness in the organization. The purpose of measuring well-being in the workplace is to ensure that employees are safe, healthy, satisfied, connected, and engaged.

A productive workplace allows employees to work effectively and efficiently. Creating an environment that promotes convenience and satisfaction for employees benefits both the employees and the organization and investing in employee well-being can lead to increased resilience,adaptability, and engagement. Engaged employees are less likely to leave and are more productive and better to work with.. Well-Being, however, does not happen on its own. Managers must make well-being a priority and part of how they lead.

According to Gallup, employee well-being is a key factor that drives productivity. Employees with good well-being experience lower absenteeism, burnout, and turnover. Additionally, research on employee well-being and engagement has found several benefits:

42% more likely to rate their overall well-being higher

27% more likely to rate their performance “excellent”

27% more likely to be rated “excellent” by their organization

45% more likely to report having high levels of adaptability to change

37% more likely to report being “fully” recovered after illness, injury, or hardship

59% less likely to look for a new job at different companies

18% less likely to change jobs in a 12-month period

How to measure employee well-being?

Promoting employee well-being starts with understanding your team members’ current well-being and whether there are challenges that require action. Well-being can be measured using tools such as an employee engagement survey, or pulse survey, that includes questions on well-being. uses the WHO-5 well-being index developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess employee well-being. The WHO-5 is a short self-reported measure of mental well-being and is the most widely used psychological well-being questionnaire consisting of five simple non-invasive questions. This scale has proven validity as a screening tool for depression and has been applied successfully across a wide range of study fields.

The WHO-5 is a questionnaire covering 5 positively worded sentences,as follows. In the past 2 weeks:

  1. I have felt cheerful and in good spirits
  2. I have felt calm and relaxed
  3. I have felt active and vigorous
  4. I woke up feeling fresh and rested
  5. My daily life has been filled with things that interest me  

The WHO-5 Well-being Index scoring and benchmarks

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers positive well-being to represent mental health and so WHO-5 only contains positively phrased items. The respondents are asked to rate how well each of the 5 statements applies to them. Each item is scored from 5 (all of the time) to 0 (none of the time). The raw score ranges from 0 (absence of well-being) to 25 (maximal well-being). The raw score is then multiplied by 4 to result in a score between 0 and 100.  Respondents who score below 50 are considered to have low well-being or are more likely to be diagnosed with depression. An example of the questionnaire is shown below. collected data from 1,235 respondents across 20 organizations and computed well-being scores based on the WHO-5 index. The 20 companies’ well-being scores ​​ranged from 52 to 80, with a median of 68. This median score can be used as an initial benchmark for measuring well-being (for companies that just started measuring the well-being index). It is best to measure well-being regularly. For instance, we might want to measure well-being quarterly to study the trend and change over time. If we see that the score decreases, we should take a step back and reflect on what might be the cause and what we can do to improve individual well-being.

How can managers promote well-being?

Managers have become responsible for managing the health and well-being of team members. Managers help their team deal with stress, observe early warning signs of stress, support changes at work, and nurture positive relationships in their teams.

Our research shows that “poor management” is the leading cause of work stress. In our survey, nearly a third of the respondents indicated poor management for being the cause of work stress. Our findings further suggest that leaders and managers are role models in promoting healthy behavior in the workplace, and there are several negative impacts when managers do not have the ability and confidence to manage their teams the right way.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development identifies 5 key behaviors managers can take to promote health, well-being, and engagement:

1.Being open, fair, and consistent

Being open, fair, and consistent, while  having a positive mindset will foster a strong culture that helps your team grow. These attributes  prevent stress by improving the quality of communication and relationships through trust-building.

2.Dealing with conflict and people management issues

Take a neutral and intentful approach to dealing with employee conflicts, such as bullying and unacceptable behavior, as soon as the problem arises. Once the conflict is resolved, managers should ensure that work processes and environment do not contribute to future occurrences.

3.Providing knowledge, clarity, and guidance

Providing knowledge, clarity, and guidance helps your team know what is expected of them. You can clarify expectations and understanding of team roles, including the steps and processes involved. You can also communicate to your team members if they are working in a direction that aligns with the team’s goals and take the time to provide clear and specific advice to employees when they need. Be decisive when required and be accountable for problem-solving.

4.Building and sustaining relationships within the team

A strong relationship within the team is vital for managing well-being; do so by showing empathy, concern, and compassion. Show care for individual team members by interacting with them in a friendly way and offering opportunities for them to speak to you one-on-one. Create a space that allows individuals on your team to  provide you with signals that someone on the team is struggling. You can help them discuss these issues and help find solutions to mitigate the problem.

5.Encouraging growth and development

Managers have to be supportive in discussing professional development and growth with team members. Providing them with opportunities for career advancement, allocating time for your team members to learn and develop themselves, and encouraging your team members to participate in training that can help them reduce skill gaps.

7 steps to promoting the well-being of team members

The direct manager is the most important factor influencing employee well-being. Once managers recognize the benefits of employee well-being, the first step to promoting well-being is to start now. This can be done by following the steps below.

1. Get to know your team members.

The first step to caring for your team is to know and understand them better. Managers must know what the team members want, what motivates them at work, what is causing them stress, if they are happy with their work-life balance, and how they are doing in terms of well-being. This can be done by setting up one-on-one meetings to discuss relevant topics or using questionnaires and assessments to collect data on your team members’ well-being. In this step, show genuine care, compassion, and kindness to the team members and express interest in and concern for them to help build and sustain relationships within the team.

Action: Set up one-on-one meetings to discuss with and collect information about your team members.

2. Lead by example to promote healthy work habits

Setting a good example is the best way to communicate to the team members that they can do it too. As a manager, you have to take care of your well-being, assess your stress levels, take time for a rest after busy periods, take time off when you feel unwell, and avoid working excessive hours. This step is related to the positive manager behavior of being open, fair, and consistent.

Action: Set an example of how to look after your well-being by setting aside time for rests after busy periods, taking vacations, and taking day-offs from work when you feel unwell.

3. Review workloads, roles, and responsibilities of team members

In this step, you can provide team members with information on how they contribute to the company’s success. Set expectations and deadlines, and make sure that your team members have the skills, knowledge, abilities, and experience that align with their roles and responsibilities. You also must encourage your team members to provide clear, creative, and timely feedback on tasks and progress. These actions help provide team members with knowledge, clarity, and guidance and encourage growth and development.

Action: Check if your team members are doing well with their assigned tasks and provide them with constructive and timely feedback. 

4. Reflect on your management style

Your management style can be observed by asking yourself if your team knows where they stand with you. If you are unpredictable or indecisive, your team is less likely to cope well under pressure. Your management style is reflected through your feedback, how open or approachable you are, how you deal with conflicts within the team, the autonomy and support you give your team members, and how you communicate with your team. These behaviors are related to being open-minded, fair, and consistent, which helps foster a strong team culture.

Action: Express and communicate clearly to the team members about your management style.

5. Identify potential conflicts or people issues and take early action.

At this stage, you must ensure that any conflicts in the team are handled as quickly as possible. Don’t let conflicts fester. For instance, don’t let quarrels turn into conflicts. Once the conflict is identified, act impartially, kindly, and rationally to solve the issue. In cases of bullying, abuse, harassment, and other serious issues that arise, provide proper support and address the issues decisively. After the initial resolution, follow up on conflicts to make sure they are fully resolved. This step is directly related to positive manager behavior in dealing with conflict and people management issues.

Action: Resolve conflicts or issues within the team quickly and decisively. Follow up with them to make sure the problem is completely resolved and will not occur again.

6. Discourage “Presenteeism” in your team

If someone on your team is unwell, make sure they take a break from work to recover and resume working only once they’re fit and healthy. Make it clear to team members that you don’t expect them to come to work when they are unwell by shutting down communication about work during their recovery, whether by email or phone. Only contact the person to ask how they are feeling. Look for signs that a team member might struggle to perform due to illness. You can ask about their health and well-being on a personal level during regular weekly or monthly check-ups. Be prepared to have a sensitive, supportive conversation with team members if you feel it is healthier for them to take a break from work. As a manager, be a role model by using your vacation for leisure and not communicating with team members when they are on vacation. This provides team members with clarity and guidance and helps build a stronger relationship within the team.

Action: Communicate and show that you do not encourage your team members to work when they are feeling unwell. Do not email or call them about work during their sick leave.

7. Manage the mental health of your team during remote work

As remote or hybrid work becomes more common, managers have to focus more on helping team members stay connected. Make time for social conversations to build rapport and unity and reduce the feelings of being isolated by setting up a daily virtual huddle. This is essential for keeping the team connected and checking in on each other’s well-being. People can be more sensitive if they’re feeling isolated or anxious, so changes in feedback and communications are the key. Communicate regularly and make sure you give constructive and positive feedback to help your team members feel engaged and valued. When working remotely, you will not be able to gauge body language or tone. Therefore, listen carefully and ask questions to clarify your interpretation. You might want to set up one-to-ones using videoconferencing to see someone’s face and reduce the gap in communication expressed through facial expressions and gestures. Another important aspect of remote work is work-life balance. You can help reduce the risk of burnout in your team with clear start and finish times for the working day. Promote self-care and healthy habits such as exercising and getting enough rest. Emphasize the benefits of having good health and well-being. Lastly, trust your team to get on with their work while providing support and supervision, setting clear expectations, and focusing on results rather than monitoring hours worked.This step aligns with the behavior of building good relationships within the team and providing knowledge, clarity, and guidance.

Action: Check in on each of the team member's well-being via a short, face-to-face VDO Call every morning so everyone can feel connected.

Because employee well-being is a driver of team success, direct managers have to take a serious approach to promote well-being in the team actively. However, there is no one solution to every problem. Specific strategies and actions that must be taken to encourage employee well-being will depend on the different needs and characteristics of the team and each member on the team. | Engage and develop your teams and leaders to build a winning culture
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