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.

Improving wellbeing at work has been a business priority for a number of years, but has particularly increased in importance since the start of the pandemic. But do organisations have the right strategy to achieve this? We explore how a feedback-rich culture can lead to healthier and happier employees.

Talking about mental health, self-care, and mindfulness in the workplace has (on the whole) moved beyond the box-ticking exercise they used to be and instead become part of our everyday considerations as line managers. Perhaps this can be seen as one of only a very few silver linings to come from the past 3 years. We might have moved past seeing casual dress Fridays and free fruit in the office as wellbeing activities, but have organisations really nailed the way to improve employee wellbeing within their new hybrid environment?

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. 

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 toward 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 acknowledgment 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;

- Poor workplace wellbeing causes a decrease in productivity for 63% of employees

- Only 44% of employees with poor wellbeing say they are satisfied with their jobs,        compared to 89% of employees with excellent wellbeing

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 the 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.

Encouragingly, new research has found that since the start of the pandemic, line managers have moved their focus ‘towards employee output and away from hours worked.’ Whilst this gives hope that managers are actively looking for ways to improve their people’s wellbeing, the move to hybrid working means that direct and timely feedback is more important than ever when teams are not regularly getting together face to face, especially if that feedback can help to boost wellbeing.

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.

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