Susan Gee: Should employers offer extra days off to support employees’ wellbeing?

Wellbeing has been on high on the agenda for the past decade but more recently the pandemic has brought it into sharp focus, with employers recognising that a key component of business sustainability is reliant on employees being fit and healthy.

Many organisations use wellbeing benefits to attract and retain employees, but there is growing evidence that people value good work that enhances their quality of life and supports their health, and the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has highlighted that money has a finite opportunity to enhance health.

The question of should employers offer extra days off is not straightforward for many businesses. Cost implications need to be considered and the impact on business continuity as well as the logistics of ensuring inclusivity for all employees.

Allocating additional days off to support wellbeing is in essence an increase in annual leave labelled under the wellbeing banner.

However, my thoughts are that supporting wellbeing starts in the workplace, and is achieved by making sure that good safe work that supports physical and psychological health is consistently available for all employees. Offering time off to enhance wellbeing is wasted if the employee is working in an environment that erodes their health.

I am of the view that the place to start is by completing an organisational health audit to identify what is in place to support wellbeing, and following on from this an employee health needs assessment to understand from an employee prospective what they would they value to support their wellbeing.

I think employees would rather work in a happy supportive environment that supports them then to thrive at work and in life than have additional time off from a job that they perceive to be eroding their health and wellbeing. Employee wellbeing is an natural outcome when employees feel valued and supported in the workplace and the place to start the wellbeing journey.

Susan Gee is group occupational health and wellbeing manager at Yorkshire Water