Employee wellbeing in scale-ups

Employee wellbeing in the scale-up environment

When talking about employee wellbeing, we focus on both physical and mental health, which are interconnected and equally important in the workplace.

More and more, we see that employee wellbeing initiatives are integrated in compensation packages, with examples such as health insurance, wellbeing initiatives in the workplace, etc.

So how can you contribute to your employees' wellbeing as a scale-up? And we're talking about initiatives beyond the ping pong table and the healthy snacks you already have put in place.

Some numbers on employee wellbeing (or illness)

It’s hard to come with exact numbers, but the Integrated Benefits Institute estimated that poor health costs US businesses $530 billion in lost productivity. The European Risk Agency estimated that Switzerland lost 1.2 percent of its GDP to stress, while Germany lost 9.9 million euros in direct costs of employee stress.

In other words, it's a costly affair, whether your employee is out because of illness or stress, or still present - because of an automatic reflex to still come into the office - but not being productive at all. So it's worth reflecting on it and having a strategy in place.

Forbes' model of 7 pillars of wellbeing

According to Forbes, there is a 7 pillars model for well-being in the workplace: 

  • Physical wellbeing
  • Social wellbeing
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Community wellbeing
  • Purpose-driven wellbeing
  • Emotional wellbeing

So the focus isn't only on physical or mental health, but it goes a lot broader than this. Doing an annual medical check-up or offering yoga or mindfulness classes during lunch time won't necessarily help every employee to increase their wellbeing levels. But this doesn't mean you cannot do anything.

How can you encourage your employees to pay attention to their wellbeing?

As there is an immediate financial gain for you to consider, we happily share some of our tips with you on how to implement wellbeing initiatives. We have been inspired by an HBR interview with André Spicer, co-author of The Wellness Syndrome

  • Depression costs 617 billion euros per year in Europe - A huge amount of money. So make sure to relieve your employees from unnecessary stress and review staffing needs regularly. Especially in the scale-up environment, we might not always be aware that people are working increasingly longer hours. If they are highly driven and passionate, they might not recognize their own limits.
  • Encourage people to take a break. The bow can't always be tense. Stepping away from work and having a vacation is the best guarantee to have a fresh start later and to renew energy levels.
  • Let it go. Give control to your employees on how they want to do their work. It is important for an organization to have the 'what' (the concrete task at hand) and the 'why' (the company's mission, vision and purpose) clear, but you can leave the 'how' mostly to the employee. 
  • Take into account the personal needs of your staff. Encourage teamleaders and managers to take care of their teams on a personal level as well, be conscious about their personal situation and adapt the work if possible. People who feel their manager is supportive, tend to display a stronger engagement and job satisfaction.
  • Create a sense of belonging. Company culture and initiatives linked to it often lie in very little things. Make sure employees have opportunities to meet informally and provide opportunities for teambuilding and information sharing.

Improved wellbeing leads to higher engagement

Employee wellbeing and engagement go hand in hand. If employees feel good in the workplace, chances are higher that they will be more engaged, which then leads to higher productivity. On the other hand, if employees suffer from mental, physical or financial issues, there is a big risk they will be distracted from work. Inversely, if people don't feel engaged in their role, they might also take this issue home, and it can have an impact on their personal wellbeing.

However, it isn't always easy for everyone to openly discuss wellbeing issues. Opposed to that, measuring employee engagement is well established as a starting point to take wellbeing initiatives later.

If you want to gain high-level insights in how engaged your people are, we encourage you to define the employee Net Promotor Score for your organization. 

How to measure the wellbeing in the workplace?

You don't have all elements in hand to come to a complete insight in how people feel and how they are doing, but you can keep your eyes open for certain signs. Especially in the scale-up environment, people could be suffering from stress in the workplace, driven by continuous change or sudden pressure. So it's important to keep an eye on the wellbeing of your staff (and your own!).

When people seem to be more tired, experience problems in decision-making, or feel tense and stressed, these are clear signs. But not all of your employees will be this straightforward and share their feelings or state of mind this openly with you.

It will be key for you to have a tool at hand to get some high-level insights in how people experience work and the work environment within your organization. This is where an employee engagement survey can be helpful.

With this tool, you will get first-hand information on what your employees think goes well (or not) in your organization, also in the field of wellbeing. Based on this input, you can then define an approach and take improvement initiatives. 

Conducting an employee engagement survey for your scale-up

A well-designed and correctly conducted employee engagement survey can reveal important information about employee perceptions that can be used to improve the workplace.

Organization responsiveness to employee feedback leads to higher retention rates, lower absenteeism and improved productivity. The fact that you conduct a survey shows that you value input of your staff.

However, if the leadership team is not fully committed to really listen to and act on what people bring forward, conducting a survey can even have a negative effect on the engagement level. This means you better do this right.