As part of last quarter’s theme of Wellbeing and Happiness in the Workplace we asked our portfolio of Kent Business School Academics to share their views. Dr Samantha Evans is currently the Director of Studies for MSc Human Resource Management (HRM). Her research focuses on HRM and line managers, performance management and appraisal across a variety of countries and equality of employment.
While recruitment, training and career development have always been part and parcel of the HR function, the concept of employee wellbeing is becoming increasingly more important for today’s employers, and as such is now very much on the HR agenda. The HR professional body, the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) is a strong advocate – so much so that they have as their tagline: ‘Championing better work and working lives’. The CIPD argues that employee wellbeing is about organisations assisting and supporting their staff to maximise their physical and mental health and is a key factor in value creation for employers, employees and wider society.
With employees in the UK feeling they are working harder than ever and their perceptions of workload pressure being higher than the European average, the concept of employee wellbeing is even more critical for UK employers. But what does this mean, in practise, for organisations? Wellbeing is considered to cover the five domains of health, work, values & principles, collective & social, personal growth. Each domain has a variety of elements and hence the range of wellbeing initiatives available to organisations can become rather overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to ask if it actually pays for organisations to invest in their workforce’s wellbeing and how can employers know which interventions will work for their staff?
Some research is beginning to look at these questions with studies establishing links between employee wellbeing and performance (Bryson, Forth and Stokes, 2014). But what happens when your organisation is experiencing tough times – can employee wellbeing interventions really work? Is it worth organisations even trying to improve employee wellbeing in such situations? My research conducted at Kent Business School has found that it is.
I recently worked with a large financial organisation in the process of shutting down its London operation. Redundancies were being made over a two-year period. The organisation has been mindful of its responsibilities towards its employees and offered a number of employee wellbeing initiatives alongside more traditional outplacement services. This has included mindfulness workshops, positive change seminars, personal development coaching, counselling, and sophrology sessions.
As part of my research I surveyed and interviewed staff to assess their levels of anxiety and the value to employees of the wellbeing initiatives on offer. I found that while staff were understandably experiencing high levels of stress, some of the less conventional wellbeing interventions, such as sophrology sessions, proved to be the most useful in managing their wellbeing. For example, employees were able to incorporate certain techniques into their daily lives to help reduce stress and anxiety. One employee stated: “It’s helped me 100%. I’ve done the breathing techniques; the visualisation exercises and the body scan and it really helps me to relax.” Another talked about the value of such techniques in the workplace: “It really has helped and I pick up on some of the techniques when I need them, for example I draw on them when I’m in stressful meetings.” My research suggests there are benefits to be gained from investing in employee wellbeing – even during the most difficult of circumstances – as such interventions will still have a positive impact on employees’ physical and mental health and help to improve working lives.
I conduct research on range of issues related to HRM. My current projects include a study of social class differences in the workplace and the experiences of employees in relation to their social class. I am also currently working on a project that examines the value of wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. I have worked with a variety of organisations and am keen to work with employers who are interested in knowing more about the influence of diversity on their talent management practices and employee wellbeing.
I hold a BSc (Hons) in Business Studies; a PhD entitled ‘Line managers and HRM’; am a member of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and the CMI (Chartered Management Institute).