Workplace recognition is an employee wellbeing matter

Workplace wellbeing initiatives are in more demand than ever, as more and more organisations realise the responsibility they have over the welfare of their employees. Last year the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that 15.4 million working days were lost due to stress. That same year, mental ill-health was reported to be costing employers more than £42 billion per year. Even at a more granular level, experts like Professor Dame Carol Black suggest workplace wellbeing initiatives can improve productivity by up to 25%. These kinds of reports are leading employers to focus heavily on employee wellbeing over the next few years.

Wellbeing: A Government priority?

It has never been more important for employers to be looking at ways of improving the wellbeing of their staff. From physical wellbeing to mental health, financial wellbeing and social wellbeing, some of the UK’s leading employers are driving this movement. But for those who are yet to be convinced, there are rumblings within parliament that the Government is looking to force employers’ hands when it comes to wellbeing.

Last year the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said the Government is “certainly not ruling out” the idea of making it compulsory for employers to provide and invest in occupational health for their employees. Within the Government, there is growing cross-party support for these initiatives, putting increasing pressure on employers to aid the wellbeing of their staff. Just a few examples of Government papers which evidence this are:

Thriving at work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers

Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices

Prevention is better than cure: our vision to help you live well for longer

Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability

It is clear from the research we’ve been conducting around wellbeing that the Government is not far away from legislating workplace wellbeing for employees. Before that happens, it’s encouraging to see that the motivation is strong among employers to improve workplace wellbeing, with many citing it simply as ‘the right thing to do’. But as many HR and Reward teams are finding, building a wellbeing strategy isn’t always straightforward. It is therefore up to employers to start thinking differently about their approach to wellbeing and what products, services and policies they already have in place that can be used to develop the wellbeing of their staff.

The forgotten facet of Social Wellbeing

Not typically listed as an aspect of wellbeing, social wellbeing has started to get more attention over the past few years. Social wellbeing generally refers to the extent to which an employee feels a sense of belonging at work. From the emotional connections they make with other employees, to their values and how they relate to work; social wellbeing is incredibly valuable to both employers and employees.

One element of social wellbeing is our sense of belonging. This has been well researched over the last decade and is evidently an important intrinsic motivator. Research shows that people who felt a sense of belonging report higher levels of overall life satisfaction and better mental wellbeing. Feeling like we belong somewhere is a major need that motivates us in our lives. When employees recognise the efforts of each other and receive recognition themselves, their sense of purpose and commitment to work improves.

A culture of recognition helps employees to form strong social connections at work; making us happier and healthier, which has a positive impact on our experience at work. Last year a global study revealed that 42% of employees don’t have a close friend at work. But those who do have a friend at work are seven times more likely to feel engaged. As our workforces are increasingly remote, it has never been more important to make employees feel like they belong, and are recognised by (and thus and more connected to) their colleagues and the wider business.

Recognition is good for employee and business health

Fostering social connections and feeling appreciated at work is far more important to our wellbeing than many organisations think. Being connected to other people has been shown to not only improve our health, but even reduce the frequency of physical ill-health. In some cases, the more positive work relationships an organisation has, the fewer sickness issues they report. The research also reveals that when employees are appreciated and connected at work, they report happier home lives, too. By empowering our employees to recognise each other, we are allowing them to build these much-needed social connections and take control of their work. When this happens, workplaces show overall higher wellbeing scores. This improvement in wellbeing can have a significant impact on the organisation as a whole.

Organisations like Thames Water have seen a reduction in illness absence by a massive 76% as a result of its commitment to wellbeing. Similar results published by PwC say the financial benefits of wellness programmes at work include an 18% reduction in staff turnover and a 14% increase in employee satisfaction. Apart from the obvious ROI from fostering a healthier workforce, delivering employee recognition schemes has also been shown to produce higher revenue. Those organisations that invest just 1% of payroll are 79% more likely see better financial results.

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We know from the sheer volume of published research that recognition from another employee is valued higher than other forms of feedback or reward. Peer-to-peer recognition not only empowers employees, but it enables them to build better bonds with colleagues and form positive and productive relationships between departments. When this happens, we actually see employees’ wellbeing improve; showing that a recognition tool can in fact be considered a wellbeing tool, too.

So, when you review your wellbeing strategy this year, maybe it’s time to consider the part a well-run social recognition scheme can play.