In today’s climate of instability and uncertainty, workplace well-being is still an important concern for organisations. Yet initiatives rolled out in the early days of the pandemic may no longer meet our needs. Organisations need to look at incorporating well-being into business as usual (BAU) workstreams. And L&D has a key role to play.
We share 5 ways L&D in your organisation can positively impact employee well-being.
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Well-being is one of those concepts that is often spoken about but difficult to pin down.
We turned to two HR leaders for advice, strategies and tips: the British Council’s Employee Experience and Engagement Lead, Georgina Reeves-Saad, and Alex Png, Intrepid Group Asia’s Chief People Officer.
Although the dictionary defines it as the state of feeling healthy and happy, Georgina reminds us that well-being is context-specific, ever changing and subjective.
Definitions aside, it is clear that in today’s environment of instability and uncertainty, we need to understand and prioritise well-being. Research into employee well-being highlighted that 65% of HR respondents believe that companies have a greater responsibility to employee mental health and well-being since the pandemic.
And organisations did respond.
Around 57% of businesses introduced access to mental health resources such as counselling and well-being apps. And 70% of respondents provide flexible working which supports health and well-being.
Yet, the report confirms, today there is less management focus on health and well-being compared to the early phase of the pandemic. Alex highlights “Many steps were taken reactively and were not long-term or sustainable.” Georgina agrees that businesses were forced overnight to adapt to unprecedented challenges such as illness, bereavement, lockdowns and stress in both our working and personal lives.
Perhaps, we need to re-think workplace well-being.
Alex believes organisations need to look at incorporating well-being into business as usual (BAU) workstreams. There is no difference, he told us, from Environmental, Social, and (corporate) Governance (ESG) or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) standards adopted by leading organisations today.
Read on to discover 5 ways L&D in your organisation can positively impact employee well-being.
1. L&D fosters psychological safety in the workplace
Psychological safety, a term coined by Harvard professor Amy Edmonton in 1999, refers to the absence of interpersonal fear. Relevant for the workplace, as when psychological safety is present, it creates the environment where people can speak up with work-related content.
In today’s uncertain world, it is not surprising that 89% of employees believe that it is the responsibility of business leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace.
Workplace well-being doesn’t just happen. Leaders have to proactively create those conditions and opportunities to help employees open up and share.
And this is where L&D can lead the way.
Offer leadership coaching to managers and create peer-led L&D efforts like first-time manager sharing, technical training and sharing of tips and best practices, Alex suggests. Coaching is effective as it encourages self-reflection and a safe space for them to think through options and take risks. Managers need to show they trust their team which, in turn, builds trust.
Including a programme of professional workshops led by external or institutional trainers is a further suggestion from Alex. With assurances of confidentiality and a neutral space, the workshop can encourage employees to be frank and give themselves permission to make mistakes. This may help them reduce emotional and psychological burdens and promote well-being.
And psychological safety not only impacts the individual employee. It also has a tangible impact on team performance and business outcomes, explains Georgina.
When speaking about well-being to business managers, reinforce the link to performance. In fact, Google cites psychological safety as far and away the most important factor in setting successful teams apart from other teams.
2. Well-being learning initiatives form a key part of organisation-wide programmes
Well-being education should sit at the heart of your well-being programmes, beginning with awareness of its importance to the organisation and individual.
But what does that look like?
Alex shares that programmes should help employees understand the key concepts of well-being and how they can use tools and strategies to support their well-being at work. Helpful training topics could include developing resilience, managing stress, developing mindfulness and managing finances. Also offer practical resources to all such as counselling, assistance hotlines, physical fitness and mental health resources and outreach programmes. Georgina describes the British Council’s range of targeted learning materials, which include courses, a playbook with videos and short exercises, live online events to discuss resilience and coping with uncertainty, as well as a personal development programme.
People managers have a specific and crucial role to play in supporting the health and well-being of their teams and need specific resources.
“We have a well-being toolkit for people managers with practical guidance, advice on what to offer, what action to take and further information,” Georgina explains.
And what about the design and accessibility of your programmes? The how is as important as the what in promoting well-being. Are your programmes accessible to all, in formats which promote autonomy and space to learn?
3. Social learning cultivates connection and belonging
The benefits of social learning are many for the workplace: it encourages discussion and the development of a knowledge sharing culture. It can also increase our engagement with our work.
Learning provides an opportunity to connect with team members and managers. As social beings, connecting is vital for our mental health, never more so than after the pandemic. When we learn together, we understand each other better, from each others’ skills to our perspectives and our weaknesses. This knowledge and interaction improves well-being as well as team performance.
Studies have shown that social learning also fosters belonging and trust. One study linked an increase in trust to a 50% increase in productivity, explained by the increase in the hormone oxytocin which reinforces positive feelings.
What does this mean for your organisation’s L&D experience?
Build in plenty of opportunities for social learning, in both formal and informal learning initiatives.
4. Flexible learning provides autonomy and balance
Balance continues to be important in 2023, when many are still working remotely or in hybrid teams. When you have balance in your daily life, you’re more able to manage negative thoughts and emotions which can boost your mood. It can also improve relationships as you have more energy to connect and relax. Achieving work-life harmony can also improve your physical health as you may make the time to exercise, eat and sleep better.
With increased flexible working, came autonomy and choice around how employees organised their work. “Flexibility is about the personalisation of work,” Georgina explains. The benefits to the individual and the organisation are huge – it fosters trust and psychological safety, and promotes work/life harmony. Importantly, leaders should lead by example, she advises.
Flexibility extends to learning.
“Real-time learning content facilitated by technology will empower people to take charge of their well-being at times suited to their needs and wants.” Alex emphasises. Increased flexibility puts less pressure on employees to complete learning at specific times, which can decrease stress, fatigue and exhaustion. It allows employees to be fully focused and mindful, increasing enjoyment and engagement.
Design your L&D to be flexible. This promotes well-being and engagement.
5. Learning fuels a sense of achievement
It’s not all about work, Georgina usefully reminds us.
Learning is an activity which enhances well-being no matter what you’re learning. Knowing that you are dedicating time to your personal growth and fulfilling your potential is known as self-actualisation, the highest need in an individual’s core needs.
Self-actualisation helps us find meaning and happiness which leads to positive well-being.
And learning is self-actualisation in action. In fact, learning is one of the five ways to improve well-being, according to a popular well-being model used in the UK.
What does this mean for your L&D programme?
Offer continuous learning and a range of non-work-related personal enrichment to your employees. Showing you invest in their growth in a wider context can also boost well-being at work.
With workplace well-being a key priority for organisations today, follow these 5 tips to develop a holistic approach to L&D and well-being which also supports business outcomes.
Partner with the British Council to develop your people managers’ skills to support teams with workplace well-being, increase engagement and deliver on business goals.
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