More than ever before, companies are investing in the health and wellness of their employees. In fact, according to the 2022 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report, 90% of employers reported increasing their investment in mental health programs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is encouraging news, as these issues had previously remained unaddressed in years past. However, despite increased investment in mental health programs, many employees are still struggling with their well-being at work.
Employee well-being is an important factor in the overall engagement of your employees. Organizations that choose to prioritize their employees as holistic individuals, in addition to mental wellness, are able to better align with employees’ aspirations, promote a flourishing workplace, and ultimately avoid burnout.
Physical well-being: addresses an employee's ability to perform tasks without physical pain or discomfort. Physical well-being can go behind traditional “pain” management and also include sleep concerns.
Social wellbeing: addresses an employee’s ability to build safe, nurturing, and supportive relationships (both inside and outside of work).
Spiritual well-being: helps employees find meaning and purpose in their lives. As Christian leaders, this aspect also incorporates faith and its role in the workplace.
Mental well-being: includes an employee's cognitive, behavioral, and emotional state.
Why does a holistic approach to employee health matter?
Healthy workers perform better and are more productive. When we choose to focus only on certain areas of our employees’ lives, we miss out on opportunities to care for the entire employee. The benefits of a holistic approach are countless - higher productivity, more joy, better habits (both inside and outside of work), and overall employee morale. Focusing on employee well-being not only benefits the employee but also you as an employer and the overall mission.
In the same way, the risk of burnout is too great to avoid the well-being of your employees. Burnout is more than just needing a vacation and getting away - it seeps into every crevice of an employee's health (inside and outside of work) and if not addressed early and often, can spread like wildfire throughout your organization. Research supports that work-related stress creates emotional exhaustion, which can lead to depression, self-doubt, feelings of hopelessness, detachment, isolation, and loss of motivation.
Burnout is more serious than we ever thought, and once a person reaches this point, burnout is more than just a problem concerning morale or employee culture but can become devastating to the livelihood of the individual. This is uniquely important for Christian leaders to be aware of. To lead like Jesus and to lead well as a Christ follower is to care about people. People are more important than the mission - we should never be willing to sacrifice the well-being and health of our people in order to advance the mission.
Addressing employee well-being as a strategic priority
To the extent that is possible, your role as a leader is to promote well-being and foster an environment where people can be fully authentic and present. For this to be accomplished, there must be both heart and passion paired with practical policy.
Let’s take a look at what it might look like to strategically prioritize well-being in your organization.
Advocate for a healthy culture
This is easier said than done, but at the end of the day, as you work toward building a healthy and flourishing workplace, you will in turn begin to see employee well-being improve. Some simple solutions include listening to problems, fostering teamwork, and cultivating purpose. Many of the tools and resources BCW provides are key factors
Create opportunities for spiritual renewal
Depending on your organization, creating opportunities for spiritual renewal may vary. For those in ministry, this may look like opportunities within the context of work to pray for one another, read scripture, and engage in Bible study. For those who may not be in an overt ministry context, creating space for spiritual renewal may look like creating space in meetings to check in on the personal lives of coworkers or promoting mental well-being resources.
The key here is to create space and cultivate opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work, and for people to recognize their role as a whole, spiritual person rather than just a cog in a wheel.
Promote work/life balance
Work/life balance is more than just offering a robust PTO schedule. In fact, it’s often not a lack of policy or planning, but a lack of initiative from employees. If you are truly looking to promote employee well-being, do everything you can to make sure your employees take advantage of the resources available to them. Lead from the top and protect boundaries. Make it a part of your company culture to take PTO, encourage sabbaticals where appropriate, and promote rest.
Becoming a champion of employee well-being
In order to effectively put an employee well-being strategy into action, your managers are the first line of defense. They will be your champions for well-being after you have trained, equipped, and empowered them.
Train your managers on the importance of employee well-being and what to look out for. You can’t plan from a place of burnout and you won’t get your best from your team if everyone is checked out. The first line of defense is managers who are hyper-aware of the health status of their teams, ready to take action to support where needed.
Equip managers with the strategy. Once managers can recognize the signs, equip them with the resources to do something about it. This looks like having a well-communicated strategy with robust resources to combat problems. Like any good strategy, it is also important to ensure managers know, understand, and are bought into the strategy and its’ importance.
Empower managers to implement the strategy and then empower employees to utilize those resources. It’s one thing to have a strategy, but the key to success is utilizing its benefits.
Like any strategy, this will come with challenges. When someone is sick and teetering on burnout, requiring an employee to take time off isn’t going to solve the greater problem. Instead, the role of the manager is to help employees move from a place of have to to a place of want to. There is also a degree of acceptance that some employees may just be too far gone and the only solution is to find a new job.
So, where do we go from here?
You can learn a lot of valuable information from blogs, podcasts, and books about employee health and wellbeing, but even all of that knowledge isn’t going to tell you about your organization. You know your organization the best. Look for the symptoms and equip your managers with the resources they need to do the same. At the same time, you can’t rely on instinct and intuition alone.
The best way to measure what is really going on is to get actionable data through surveying. You don't know what you don't know - the BCW Employee Engagement survey arms you with data to measure the current temperature, and then provides a roadmap of where to go.
So, be intentional about creating a plan, putting it into action, and then measuring the success of that plan with supporting data. And for those of you who may be feeling the weight of this topic, God promises that he knows what to do and he has the strength to renew you. If you are coming from a place of burnout, remember the words of the prophet Isaiah “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:27-31).
You may be feeling disregarded, burnt out, and flat-out tired. God understands and knows. He will not grow tired, even when you are at your most exhausted. If you are feeling burnt out, He will renew your strength. God is ultimately the total remedy for burnout. Seek him and you will find him. He will give you the rest you need.