In recent years, workplace wellbeing has evolved from focusing primarily on the provision of company perks like gym memberships or free snacks, to implementing strategies aimed at supporting the ‘whole person.’
With many HR leaders struggling to support the evolving wellbeing needs of their workforce, a useful guide for wellbeing programmes are the 4 key pillars of wellbeing namely: mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing.
Why are the 4 pillars of wellbeing so important?
Supporting employees to build and adopt healthy habits for lasting behavior change requires a multi pronged approach. This is because facing challenges in one area of wellbeing can often impact another.
For example: Financial stress is associated with increased prevalence of mental health disorders (WHO Europe: Impact of economic crises on mental health)
Also, there is a 30% lower risk of depression for adults participating in daily physical activity (Mental Health Foundation 2022) – showing that physical wellness and mental health are inextricably linked.
In order to drive real impact, wellbeing strategies therefore need to factor in all four pillars of mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing which we are now going to look into.
The World Health Organization describes mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’
As there can still be stigma attached to discussing mental health, it is important to reduce the barriers preventing employees from accessing the support they need. Doing so can in fact provide great return on investment as for every £1 spent by employers on Mental Health interventions, employers could get back £5.30 in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover? (Deloitte 2022, UK Mental Health Report).
One way to achieve this is through digital iCBT (digital cognitive behavioural therapy), a virtual, self-guided, practical, structured, short-term form of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
This clinically-proven method uses mental exercises that challenge unhelpful beliefs and, in turn, teach effective behaviours for dealing with anxiety, depression, or other emotional or mental health challenges.
Here are some ways to support your employees with their mental wellbeing:
- Create a culture where people feel safe and able to talk about mental health
- Partner with wellbeing organisations that take a holistic approach to wellbeing and address topics surrounding mental health such as cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness
- Give your employees the tools to self educate and learn coping strategies
This pillar looks at the areas of physical activity, nutrition, sleep and the overall habits that support a healthy lifestyle.
As mentioned earlier, mental health and physical wellness are interconnected, in fact 15mns of vigorous activity or 60mns of walking is known to reduce the risk of major depression by 28% (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
Looking after one’s physical wellbeing can in turn support employees with their ability to focus, be productive and lower instances of presenteeism or leave due to ill health.
Here are some ways to support your employees with their physical wellbeing:
- Provide educational resources that address key related topics such as physical activity, sleep, nutrition or navigating anxiety
- Implement tools that focus on building positive habits no matter where people are on their wellbeing journey
- Consider promoting a range of activities to cater to people’s different preferences such as walking challenges, virtual exercise classes, meditation or access to the gym
Social wellbeing looks at the ability to build and maintain positive relationships within communities, as well as having a sense of belonging.
With hybrid work becoming a more prominent way of working, this pillar requires proactive initiatives to create an environment where employees can build strong networks within work and outside of work.
Here are some ways to support your employees with their social wellbeing:
- Create opportunities for teams to connect in fun ways, whether they work in the office or remotely such as creating group step challenges
- Build in social activities in the workweek whether that be team socials or virtual coffee chats
- Work with your leaders to create an environment that supports work life balance
Financial wellbeing is often seen as a sensitive topic yet financial worries have a direct impact on all pillars of wellbeing.
And with talks of an upcoming recession, the workplace continues to play an important role in helping employees navigate the months ahead. This is because as economic recessions have shown to increase the prevalence of psychological Distress and common mental health disorders, substance use disorders and suicidality (WHO Europe: Impact of economic crises on mental health)
Here are some ways to support your employees with their financial wellbeing:
- Help reduce the stigma surrounding financial health by normalising these conversations
- Provide access to tools that help employees better understand their relationship with money eg: triggers, habits, coping mechanisms, knowledge gaps
- Work with your existing suppliers to educate employees on how to maximise their financial benefits
Designing your workplace wellbeing strategy around these 4 pillars will empower your employees to be more self aware and better equipped to proactively look after their wellbeing.
Sources- NHS – Benefits of exercise – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/
- CIPD – Wellbeing at Work – https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/factsheet#gref
- WHO – Health and wellbeing – https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/major-themes/health-and-well-being
- Mental Health Foundation - How to look after your mental health - https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental health/publications/how-look-after-your-mental-health-using-exercise
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Deloitte 2022, UK Mental Health Report