Editor’s note: This is a guest blog from the Fosway Group.

Our well-being is under stress. How much is your organisation willing to change to put it right?

Research from the mental health charity Mind recently highlighted a “second pandemic,” — a mental health crisis—as its helpline calls soar. Mind’s data analysis revealed that more people have experienced mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever previously recorded. The combination of changes to work, furloughs and redundancies is taking a toll. And with turbulent economic times ahead, things are likely to get harder before they get easier.

But the scale of mental-health issues in the workplace was already significant, with recent research showing its impact on as many as 62% of employees.

And what we all need to remember is that, whilst our own workers might not be the ones at the sharp end of the mental health crisis, their friends and families may very well be. So it will be difficult to find someone in your organisation who has not been touched by a breakdown of well-being.

Is an employee-assistance programme enough?

Now the good news is that practically all employers (94%) have introduced measures to support employee welfare, such as employee-assistance programmes, self-service platforms, counselling services, coaching or a private doctor during COVID-19. And promisingly, organisations are likely to retain the majority of these solutions indefinitely — even after the pandemic is over.

But the question is: Do these measures alone go far enough to create a supportive working environment that genuinely fosters well-being? Whilst they might be a safety net, what would help organisations create a more significant shift in attention around employee well-being?

Organisations need to care more

In its November research report “Embracing the Age of Ambiguity,” insurer Aviva reported that just a quarter of workers say their employer genuinely cares about their well-being. Other findings are equally stark:

  • Just 15% agree that their employer is trying really hard to understand what motivates them.
  • Less than half of employees (42%) believe their goals and objectives are clear.
  • As many as 43% describe their well-being as “less than good.”

But of all these findings, the fact that only 37% of office workers and as few as 24% of manual workers feel trusted and valued by the organisation is possibly the most telling. As much as the COVID-19 crisis has negatively impacted our well-being, there are more systemic issues that organisations need to address.

Whilst the research indicates a strong connection between well-being and productivity, that link is not universally recognised by leaders. The biggest barrier to implementing well-being initiatives is a lack of buy-in from senior leaders. Almost a third (31%) of HR leaders reported struggling to convince leaders to take well-being seriously, as their initiatives were blocked by lack of senior-management support.

How do we turn this around?

The first thing to understand is that well-being initiatives on their own are not enough. If you really want to transform the well-being of your people in the long term, you need to make sure you have a bigger, more transformational message that looks at employee engagement and well-being as inextricably linked.

As Dame Carol Black says, “If you talk about engagement and productivity only being sustainable if people are well, it’s a lot easier for leaders to understand and buy into.”

But it’s not only about building leadership commitment to engagement and well-being —it’s also about how you influence and mobilise commitment to change how organisations behave, so that well-being and engagement are at the forefront of how organisations are run. And we do that by holding managers to account for the engagement and well-being of their teams. And we shine a light on that by providing data and benchmarking around both how organisations behave and how their people feel.

Employee engagement data and intelligence are essential to organisational well-being

The combination of employee sentiment and behavioural data enables us to hold up a mirror to how resilient, supported, empowered and connected our people feel, which we can listen to as organisations to ultimately drive more enabled and empowered work. It is a baseline for managers to lead conversations about what can be done to make things better. Data focuses minds on the types of conversation we should be having and the actions we should be taking.

If you don’t know how your organisation is spending its time and resources, and if you don’t know how engaged and well your people are, then you can’t take steps to support them. Well-being has to be part of individual and team action planning if workers are to feel organisations genuinely care about them. Ultimately, it’s our ability to gather behavioural insight and listen to sentiment that stops us flying blind. Only by listening to this combined data can we prompt managers to have the right conversations with their teams.

So, whilst having remedies in place like employee assistance services to help people when they reach a low, it’s much better to invest in engaging people to stop them from ever getting to that point.

This is the human thing to do. After all, who doesn’t want to work for a more human organisation, especially as we hopefully begin to move into a post-pandemic era? Well-being and engagement should not just be HR initiatives; they should be core principles for unlocking people’s potential within an organisation.

Connect with David Perring on LinkedIn.

Download Glint’s Well-Being Toolkit.