Emily Marsh March 12 2019

Can a feedback-rich culture improve wellbeing at work?

Improving wellbeing at work has become an increasing priority for organisations. But are they adopting the right strategies? We explore how a feedback-rich culture can lead to healthier and happier employees.

There has been a growing focus on wellbeing in recent years. The concepts of self-care, mindfulness, and gratitude are hot topics. And positively, we are talking more openly about mental health than we ever have before.

In the workplace, many organisations are choosing to adopt practices and initiatives to improve the wellbeing of their staff. Healthy office snacks, volunteering days, and flexible working hours can all have a positive impact on people.

But are these perks really enough to sustain good wellbeing in the long-term? Or should improving employee wellbeing start with the working environment itself?

One of the easiest wellbeing initiatives to implement is simply to recognise people for their effort and achievements. It is to create a culture of regular feedback so that people feel appreciated and valued. We believe that it is initiatives like this that can have a significant positive impact on wellbeing.

How feedback contributes to wellbeing

People who feel appreciated at work tend to have a greater sense of emotional wellbeing, and feedback is essential to helping people feel appreciated.

When a manager or colleague recognises our strengths, it makes us feel good. Equally, if someone takes the time to show us how we can develop or improve, it shows us that we are cared for and valued within the organisation - as long as the feedback is given with positive intent.

A government study recognised feedback as one of the key factors for improving wellbeing in the workplace. Other factors highlighted included clarity of what is expected of people (i.e. clear goals and standards), opportunities to develop their skills, positive interactions with managers and colleagues, as well as a sense of job security and clear career prospects. All of these things point towards a work environment where people give open and honest feedback.

When people don’t know where they stand or whether they are doing a good job, it can impact on their wellbeing. With no acknowledgement of what they are doing well - or what they need to work on - people can be left anxious that they aren’t good enough or that they aren't valued.

And no one wants a dead-end job. Everyone wants to know that their careers are progressing, which is why we believe it's so important that organisations prioritise personal development - and feedback plays a huge part in this.

The impact of poor wellbeing

The stats below show the serious impact poor wellbeing can have on productivity and job satisfaction;

We also see poor wellbeing in the workplace manifested in high levels of absenteeism. Factors like mental health, happiness, and stress levels bear a direct correlation to absenteeism, and UK business's lose 15.4 million working days a year as a result.

Organisations have a responsibility to protect and nurture the wellbeing of their people. And where they are able to raise wellbeing in their workforce, they are also likely to see improvements in the performance of individuals, teams, and the organisation as a whole.

The role of managers

The link between good line management and wellbeing is well-established. The Whitehall study is a famous investigation into the social determinants of health, and explored the prevalence of cardiovascular disease among British civil servants. The study found that people who perceived their supervisors treated them fairly had 30% lower cardiovascular incidents (the researchers were sure to make adjustments to rule out other contributing factors). This is powerful evidence and really demonstrates the influence a manager can have on an individual's health.

This is why every line manager should have people management training - including how to give effective feedback. If a line manager is able to develop people and both give and receive feedback, then people will feel valued and fairly treated.

Unfortunately, new research shows that just 60% of people feel their line manager is genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, although this is rising slowly year on year. And 64% of managers say they have had to put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing at some point. So there is clearly still more that managers can do to make wellbeing a priority.

Good wellbeing is crucial to running a successful and sustainable organisation. If people are happier at work, they are more likely to thrive, and this will have a positive impact on the entire business. 

The good news is, wellbeing is on the agenda of senior leaders and is increasingly becoming part of organisational strategy. But, a wellbeing strategy shouldn’t just be about offering free fruit and gym memberships. Instead, we believe the focus should be on creating a healthier working environment - and this starts with encouraging more supportive relationships, clear communication, and high-quality feedback.

Power of Feedback

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