The ultimate guide to employee wellbeing in 2022

A quick summary:

Employee wellbeing was at the top of nearly every corporate agenda in 2021; a drastic realisation that people need to be at the forefront of all businesses if they are to weather the storm of a global pandemic and its consequences. As we move forward, however, society’s views on topics such as mental health, self-care and wellbeing have shifted. From toxic workplaces environments to ‘nice-to-have’ employee wellbeing programmes, to complete necessity, the demand continues to grow. 

Ultimately, it’s an exciting time for employee wellbeing, and while we’re a long way off perfection, the changing attitudes, progressive decisions and a new kind of leadership is taking shape for a better future. We predict in just the next couple of years alone, the workplace will encourage openness, support healthier lifestyles and recognise that people must come first.

Below, we’ve addressed the A to Z of employee wellbeing in 2022; the complete guide for HR professionals, business leaders and everyone who has an influence or interest in creating better working conditions for employees in the UK. 

Employee wellbeing definition

First and foremost, what is employee wellbeing? While wrapped in a corporate theme, employee wellbeing, is simply the mental and physical health of anyone and everyone in the workplace. It’s the wellbeing of our everyday working lives, and how leadership teams go about boosting positivity, job satisfaction and alleviate common workplace emotions of stress, anxiety and even exhaustion.

On the surface, staff wellbeing sounds very simple, but it requires resources from leaders to achieve a happier, healthier workforce. Some of the misconceptions around what employee wellbeing means include:

  • One size fits all approach
  • It’s the responsibility of HR departments
  • Employee benefits will fix employee wellbeing

“One size fits all”

Starting with the “one size fits all” statement, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Companies who view employee wellbeing through one lens, often see their employee benefits packages and wellbeing initiatives go unused by most of their team. 

This is wrong on so many levels, because not only does it create a disengaged workforce and add no real value to staff, but in many cases, it’s probably costing employers money to offer these generic benefits/wellbeing initiatives. 

“It’s the responsibility of HR departments”

The idea that it’s solely HR’s responsibility to nurture wellbeing in the workplace couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it's a combination of HR & leadership teams who play a huge role. That's because, despite a great HR department, bad management can be the root cause of burnout, weak job satisfaction and discontent among employees. 

“Employee benefits will fix employee wellbeing”

Finally, the pandemic has proven that wellbeing in the workplace is much more important than a set of employee benefits and discounts. It’s also drawn a distinction between the two, as some companies begin to realise that hybrid working models make for productive and happy employees, and for certain businesses, it isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’.

Thoughts on employee wellbeing in 2021

2021 was a rollercoaster of a ride for all of us, and for hundreds of different reasons. As we navigated lockdowns, restrictions, working from home and returning to the office, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill-health between 2020 and 2021.

Unsurprisingly, the data from recent years before the pandemic, 2018/19, suggests work-related stress, depression and anxiety were already growing at a shocking rate. 

However, it could be said that the pandemic has been the boiling point for better work-life balance and working conditions; it has acted as a wake-up call for HR departments and business leaders throughout the UK. 

Because, as more and more of us began working from home, the benefits for doing so started to appear. Employees felt less stressed, more productive and found additional time to focus on the things that matter most, such as family and hobbies. 

In fact, the productivity and performance of remote workers can see an increase of 13%, and 57% of UK employees now want the option to work remotely. That’s not all, according to employeebenefits.com, 54% of UK workers aged between 18 to 34 said they would likely quit their current organisation if they were no longer offered hybrid or remote working arrangements.

These statistics demonstrate just how important flexibility and creating better working conditions for employees became in the aftermath of COVID-19 - and as people pushed leadership teams to restructure employee benefits packages and wellbeing programmes, 2021 was just the beginning!

With that in mind, a very different picture can be drawn for wellbeing in the workplace for 2022, and here’s exactly what we think the future holds in store…

Expectations and predictions for wellbeing in 2022

Now we’re a couple of months into the year, we see the rest of 2022 presenting great progress in the way of wellbeing at work. And if this year is set to be like no other, HR departments and leaders must address one of the biggest concerns…

“How do we make our people happy, and keep it that way?”

This is because laying the foundations for a better employee wellbeing programme and creating happier employees is only half the battle - maintaining this level of job satisfaction is where things get tricky. 

In 2022, we will see companies juggle demands for a bespoke employee wellbeing programme. One that addresses peoples’ needs directly, instead of the generic style we’ve seen for too long. 

This will shape up much differently to the kind of benefits and wellbeing initiatives from the past two decades. With millennials quickly becoming the dominating segment of the workforce, so too do their health-conscious consumer decisions and passion for all things fitness. 

It almost feels like the tide is turning for staff wellbeing, and it couldn’t be a more exciting time to see just what changes will take place this year; as one hopefully not influenced by a pandemic. 

And Beyond 2022

HR professionals and leaders realise that 2022 is the beginning of a revamp in the way of benefits and wellbeing initiatives. Companies will need to adopt an employment offering that doesn’t solely support the values of older generations if they are to attract new employees and retain their current talent.

Ultimately, as we move through the year, it will come as no surprise when tech giants and global industry leaders opt for subsidised gym memberships, fertility & family planning support and a people-centric approach. What we will see, however, is a vast majority of employers neglecting these growing demands, with many choosing benefits that appeal to an older workforce. 

If 2021 wasn’t a big enough wake-up call for businesses, 2022 will be the final straw, before employee wellbeing and health-focused benefits start to creep into every workplace. Still not convinced? According to FlexJob, “work-life balance is important to millennials with 83% ranking it as the most important factor in evaluating a job prospect”.

As we can see, wellbeing and its influence on employee benefits packages is set to skyrocket this year, but what’s in store beyond 2022?

Of course, with a growing workforce of millennials, and Gen Z in the coming years, values in the workplace will mirror this segment of younger workers. Suddenly, we may also see C-level executives of a younger generation, who also share the same passion and interests for things such as healthier lifestyles, fitness and wellbeing.

Key benefits of promoting wellbeing in the workplace

Now that we’ve discussed exactly what to expect for 2022, based on the learnings of the previous year, why should leaders begin promoting wellbeing in the workplace? Are there any measurable returns for businesses to promote wellbeing? Ultimately, is it just a phase off the back of a global pandemic? 

Over recent years, we’ve seen evidence and statistics emerge about the true power of wellbeing in the workplace. This has been in the form of studies, psychology journals, magazines, businesses conducting their own research and most importantly the voices of employees themselves. 

In truth, leaders who aren’t aware of the benefits of promoting employee wellbeing, are in a dangerous position moving forward. Not to worry, however, as that’s precisely why we’re addressing this topic.

A healthier workplace makes for a healthier workforce 

First and foremost, any wellbeing programme has one goal, behaviour change. Therefore, with the right tools, access to information, and encouragement from the workplace, people make positive behaviour changes. This is just the beginning, as all of these steps in the right direction lead to better outcomes like improved habits and fewer health risks, which lead to less time away from work. 

And looking at the UK’s staggering 32.5M lost working days in 2020/21 regarding work-related ill-health, a happier workforce is a serious argument for instilling wellbeing in the workplace.

Businesses get more done with employee wellbeing 

This may sound bizarre to some, but businesses that take employee wellbeing seriously, typically see improvements in employee productivity. This isn’t because team members are working more because businesses put on a yoga class every Thursday. Realistically, employee productivity improves because ‘presenteeism’ drops. So, while the same amount of employees have been turning up each day, everyday, they’re making much more impactful decisions, getting their workload priorities right and choosing to work at their best ability. 

In fact, according to a BBC article, health insurer Vitality carried out a survey which found a shocking 40% of people to say their work had been affected by health problems. Ultimately, employee wellbeing enables people to take back control of their mental and physical wellbeing, and by doing so, they’re able to focus on the next challenge in their day-to-day life, their careers.

Companies must hear employees out when it comes to improving health and wellbeing in the workplace. Especially considering employees who feel their voice is heard by leadership are 4.6 times more likely to perform at their very best!

Recruit the best, retain the rest

When it comes to recruitment, it’s riddled with obstacles HR professionals have to navigate in hiring the very best talent. This is especially true for the modern workplace, with new talent being of a very different generation to the last (something we’ve touched on above). 

Not only this, but most people are accustomed to job specifications, and platforms like LinkedIn now allow job seekers to filter out positions that simply don’t offer a specific wage, and whether it’s hybrid, remote, or on-site. This will force a lot of businesses to rework their policies and benefits around employee wellbeing.

While attracting talent is one huge hurdle to face, it doesn’t end there. Companies will need to retain talent through building an environment and organisational culture that empowers and supports employees on their quest for better mental and physical health. 

According to legaljobs.io, 20% of staff turnover happens in the first 45 days of any new company, so while attracting talent is important, just as important is retaining them.

Despite this, an excellent employee wellbeing programme will be the answer to these problems. That’s because wellbeing will no longer exist solely on paperwork and wallcharts, but instead within the bloodstream of the business. Taking employee wellbeing seriously means taking the mental, emotional and physical health of employees seriously - it shows potential talent and current team members just how much leaders want the business to succeed.

As you can see, there are great benefits to implementing a strong employee wellbeing programme. Many leaders believe employee wellbeing is a one-way system, simply to benefit employees, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. 

While it’s correct staff wellbeing initiatives are built for the people primarily, it does provide measurable benefits to employers also. Any great leader will put its people first, without regard to what’s measurable or not, but it must be highlighted that an employee wellbeing programme can be a win-win strategy. 

How to build an employee wellbeing strategy

Building an employee wellbeing strategy takes time, and in some cases, resources. However, as we’ve seen from the many benefits above, this shouldn’t be too off-putting for HR professionals and leaders, as they paint a positive picture for the growth and success of businesses.

That to one side, what are the best ways to go about setting up an employee wellbeing programme? One that will be used, enjoyed and valued by team members throughout a company?

Leadership Buy-in

If you already play a part in a management/leadership role, this step isn’t for you, move on to the next one! 

However, if not, getting buy-in from leadership teams is the perfect place to start in creating an employee wellbeing programme. That’s because ultimately, the time and resources are out of your control. Don’t worry however, we’ve put together a simple resource exactly for you to work from in getting a ‘yes!’. 

This is crucial before creating any action plan, survey or checklist, as you must first establish whether leaders in your organisation truly value an employee wellbeing programme. Without their interest, there’s likely going to be no improvement in wellbeing at work.

Understand employee values, interests and personalities

Once you’re ready to go about creating a staff wellbeing programme, your first port of call is to grasp exactly how your team currently feel about workplace wellbeing, any employee benefits available to them and overall job satisfaction. This understanding is often achieved through staff engagement surveys, and you can use Heka’s free employee health survey to make this step much easier.

The reason you must really dig deep into the emotions of your team, is because you cannot focus on improving staff wellbeing blindly. It may be the case that none of your team value finishing early on a given day of the week, but would love in-office yoga sessions, or participating in fitness challenges. 

Just like any strategy, data wins every time. Use our employee health survey or create your own set of questions around mental and physical health in the workplace. You may receive some surprising answers; you may be armed with the solutions to a more successful business. 

Create an action plan and have your team sign it off

Moving forward, once you have an idea of the kind of positives and negatives your employees identified in the workplace, you can begin to formulate a plan and put ideas into action. Whether it was asking team members how they felt about work or prompted them for suggestions, you should now have all you need. 

For example, if a lack of social interactions in the office was highlighted by your team, consider team-building activities; if feeling uncomfortable talking about personal problems was an issue raised, create an open environment that encourages discussions. 

In its most simple form, your questionnaire will give you a set of problems or ideas for improving staff wellbeing; all that is required now is for you, and possibly the wider leadership team to put together a plan to tackle these issues. 

Once this has been completed, it’s recommended to present the action plan back to your team for any final thoughts and ideas. Remember, this is a bespoke plan that aims to tackle a lack of wellbeing in the workplace, or simply improve on any existing wellbeing initiatives. 

Measure, analyse and refine

Last, but very much not least, HR teams and leaders should constantly measure the success of an employee wellbeing programme. This can be done via a new questionnaire, three to six months down the line, or by comparing the employee wellbeing programme’s use to previous wellbeing initiatives. 

It’s extremely important HR and leadership teams understand the difference that staff wellbeing has made in the company, it also gives decision-makers better data to work from when making further improvements to staff wellbeing in the future. 

In the long run, staff wellbeing will always need refining if it is to stay up-to-date and relevant to its workforce. If HR professionals and leaders truly value their people, the strategy built today will benefit both parties for years to come.

Final Thoughts on wellbeing in the workplace

It almost seems like we’ve covered everything in the way of employee wellbeing for 2022. We’ve reflected on the accomplishments and challenges in 2021 while making our predictions for the coming months of 2022; we’ve also tackled the biggest challenges in employee wellbeing, but also highlighted the benefits of a robust programme. 

If we can say one thing for certain, it’s that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed employee wellbeing and mental health into everyday discussions, and that is a great positive. Society has come a long way in recent years and will go even further, at a quicker pace in the years to come. 

How are you and your business embracing wellbeing in 2022?

Further Reading

Despite our extensive guide to employee wellbeing in 2022, it shouldn’t end there! Promoting wellbeing in the workplace is an ongoing strategy. We recently released our 39-page Wellbeing Trends report

A detailed analysis of the wellbeing landscape, including several trends we expect to skyrocket this year. This also includes industry-leading partners thoughts and predictions on family planning, fertility benefits, female health and much more. 

Here’s some more great content to check out: 

On that note, we set out to create an all-in-one guide for employee wellbeing for HR professionals and leaders, and this we’ve achieved - leaving us with one last area to cover…

How Heka plans to revolutionise employee wellbeing in 2022 and beyond!

Heka’s mission to revolutionise employee wellbeing in 2022

It’s no secret that employee wellbeing has boomed in recent years - employees taking a stand, and employers are stepping up to the challenge! Despite this, it’s become apparent that a well-built employee wellbeing programme is no easy feat. In fact, leaders are finding it requires both time and resources to really build something of value; something bespoke to the needs of their own team.

While this rings true from our experience talking to HR professionals and leaders alike, we believe we have the answer. 

Through Heka, teams of all sizes in any industry or business have access to a platform that really understands their mental and physical needs. From a simple questionnaire, Heka learns exactly what wellbeing services, products and experiences will make a lot of positive difference to each user. 

Whether that’s through personal training, life coaching, financial advice or a fitness class -  virtually or on-site - Heka’s mission is to cut through the noise and offer the perfect wellbeing solution.

So, why not take a look around our website and meet Heka? For a much more in-depth look at how your team can benefit from Heka, book some time with our wellbeing experts.