“Wellbeing” is a widely used but not yet well-defined term, meaning, according to google, “a state of being comfortable, healthy and happy”. In a workplace context, there is a growing awareness and recognition around the importance of focusing on positive support for employees including in terms of mental health to support wellbeing. Research findings show that with an increase in performance and a reduction in stress, investing in employee wellbeing directly impacts your organisations bottom line.
Practically speaking, while employers may implement “wellness” initiatives such as medical insurance schemes, EAP support, flexible work, office fruit bowls, yoga or social sports teams, basic support for wellbeing is more fundamental than this. At the base level, it links in with an employer’s obligation to manage people’s behaviour at work, from both an employment law and health and safety perspective. This is crucial given the recognised impact of psychological hazards and the risks they present.
Examples of behaviours that have the potential to cause harm are work related stress, fatigue, bullying and/or harassment. Work related stress, fatigue, bullying and harassment are, by their nature, tricky issues to manage and employers have responsibilities under multiple pieces of legislation in respect of each. Kate Ashcroft, employment and health and safety law specialist and Tauranga based partner of Copeland Ashcroft Law, says “best practice means at least having clear policies with definitions of these terms as well as processes to raise and address complaints, with training to educate employees on what is expected, leadership role modelling and holding people to account on those expectations, including by encouraging reporting. Where reporting does occur, employers need to take appropriate steps to address concerns. Advice on strategy is recommended, to best manage the various risks, which can involve multiple employees and really impact the workplace, including productivity, where not resolved, legal liabilities aside”.
Ashcroft says employers are encouraged to make the term “wellbeing” work for their workplace by exploring what this means within their organisational culture and setting expectations that fit their goals. “There is no one size fits all, and it really is a much more practical concept than the definition suggests – not “sandals and candles”, but thinking through the risks and plan to manage these as relevant to your workplace, thinking about what good practice and positive outcomes are for you, and then setting the expectation by putting these plans in action”.
For help with workplace wellbeing, contact https://www.copelandashcroft.co.nz/team/kate-ashcroft/