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  • Gemma Carter-Morris

How to adapt your approach to workplace wellbeing in 2021

Some of the positives that have come out of 2020 are the increased awareness of looking after our own wellbeing as well as organisations now having more discussions at a senior level about what role they can play and what more can be done to support the wellbeing of their teams and colleagues. According to Mercer (2020) employee wellbeing is now the number one workforce concern among executives.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on people’s lives, with 60% of adults saying their mental health has deteriorated during lockdown (Mind) and 52% of individuals experiencing anxiety at work (Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index). With these uncertain times set to continue, wellbeing can no longer be seen as a nice to have, but a business imperative, which will lead to better morale and engagement, a healthier workforce and a more inclusive culture.

As you start to think about your approach to wellbeing in 2021, here are our thoughts on what needs to change and what you need to focus on this year:

Looking at wellbeing holistically - workplace wellbeing is more than just a series of generic programmes, initiatives and benefits, it is building wellbeing into every area of an organisation, having this discussed regularly at Board level and placing wellbeing at the heart of strategy and decision making.

Treating colleagues as humans and not resources - each of us want to be treated as an individual and not just another cog in the wheel. Get to know your teams, what motivates them, and what is most important to them. Spend the start of meetings checking in on a personal level before talking about work, encourage social and team interactions that aren’t work related and encourage everyone to bring their whole self to work.

Create time - if you want employees to thrive, as well as providing information to inform, empower and up-skill them, you also need to provide the time and opportunity for individuals to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. Allow and encouraging colleagues to take time out to attend training or workshops on wellbeing, promote breaks where people can be active and encourage a culture which promotes a positive work life balance so individuals can rest, recover and support their own wellbeing.

Mental health to be intrinsic in the workplace - supporting employee mental health has to now be a priority for organisations. Continued work is needed to break down stigmas relating to mental health and encouraging regular conversations about how people are feeling and having an open culture about mental health. Have a strategy specifically for mental health which includes internal and external specialist support that is available, training that individuals can access, managing workplace stress, promoting coping strategies and ways to encourage positive mental wellbeing and introduce wellbeing action plans and meetings.

Training and support for managers - have a plan in place to up-skill, develop and train managers to be able to support the wellbeing of their teams. 76% want increased contact with their manager to talk about health, wellbeing and workload yet only 24% of managers regularly check in with employee to talk about health and wellbeing (HR Zone). Consider training and development on managing change, resilience, mental health awareness, how to have good conversations and listening skills. Managers will also be feeling under more pressure than every before so ensure they can access support and information they need to support their wellbeing.

Flexibility - now is the time to really look at how your policies and working practises can support true flexible working. The mindset of work needs to change with outputs being managed not time at a desk and empowering employees to choose, where, when and how they work which in turn will improve performance and productivity. Flexible working also includes part time working, job shares, home working and term time only roles, by being more open to flexible working you organisation will also enhance the attraction of more diverse talent and retaining employees.

Financial wellbeing - two in five employees have reported an increase in financial anxiety and one in five say financial stress has had a big impact on their mental health (HR Zone). Employers should consider providing financial wellbeing support and information including financial planning, budgeting and managing debt as well as re-looking at benefits which relate to pay and pensions.

Review, measure and seek feedback - the needs of your employees are ever changing and as such your approach to wellbeing needs to be reviewed with KPI’s and outcomes measured and teams regularly asked for feedback on what else they need. This insight will help you make the right decisions for your future approach to wellbeing and shift your priorities and focus.

Conscious leadership - one of the top drivers of employee engagement is confidence in leaders to make the right decisions (McKinsey 2020). Being a conscious leader, leading by example and living by organisational values will build employee trust. This includes being open minded, self aware, vulnerable and authentic, building an environment where individuals are listed to, challenged, developed and trusted.

Organisational wellbeing can be complex but it doesn’t have to be complicated and some small interventions and changes can make a real difference to your people this year.

If you would like to talk through more ideas that you could implement within your organisation or even where to start with workplace wellbeing for your business please do get in touch with our Director of Wellbeing, Gemma Carter-Morris on

Gemma Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting

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