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  • Writer's pictureChristine Angelica

9 Simple Ways to Boost Employee Engagement, Productivity and Wellbeing

Isn't it great to see some larger companies like McKinsey & Co. embracing a more holistic view of their employees? And they should know because in today's competitive business landscape, looking out for your employees isn't just the right thing to do; it has become crucial to a business's success.

boost employee engagement

When 92% of workers, according to a 2023 study by the American Psychological Association, consider it very important (57%) or somewhat important (35%) to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological wellbeing, and when work stress is consistently ranked as one of the top stressors in surveys, it's clear that employee wellbeing matters more than ever.

As the founder of a wellness company focused on emotional wellbeing, we find that helping people stick to mental health habits like exercise is crucial. And we've noticed that common hurdles to fitting in exercise keep tripping people up. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. for a workout is tough for most people unless they're early birds, and hitting the gym after a long day? Not likely! The key to overcoming these common obstacles, we find, is weaving wellbeing habits into the workday.

We spend so much of our lives at work anyway that when you think about it, it's the only strategy that most people will ever be able to stick to. This is where what the employer wants (more engagement and productivity) intersects with what the employee needsa sustainable way to stick to their wellness routines.

But how can smaller companies, who don't have the budget of Google or McKinsey, support their employees' wellbeing at work? I'm glad you asked, because there are literally dozens of simple ways to do it. In this post, I'll share nine of them.

1. Playful Spaces

Play is not just for children; it’s essential for adults too! To help ease work-related stress, think about setting up designated play areas within your company where employees can unwind during the day.

Play areas that feature activities like table tennis, foosball, or mini golf, can help employees blow off steam, clear their heads, and return to work feeling more energized. And if you set it up in a convenient location, such as by the kitchen and lunch areas, these activities will get used.

2. Fewer Meetings

If you haven't gotten the memo yet, most employees think they have too many meetings. According to an HBR study a whopping 70% of meetings end up hindering productive work. One way to start tackling this issue is to explore alternatives to your usual meetings—like using digital tools for brainstorming or trimming those hour-long meetings down to 40 minutes.

As the HBR article above wisely points out: "Your teams are full of talented and capable people doing what they do best, but they need space to do so. By better understanding how they want to work together, how meetings fit into that, and where meetings do and don't add value, you'll minimize the need for useless meetings."

3. Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness practices are all the rage these days, and for good reason—they do wonders for mental health and can seriously boost concentration and focus. That's why one of the offerings we're cooking up is called Mindfulness at Work. By offering mindfulness training in small doses, we hope to help employees lower their stress levels and enjoy their work more.

Picture your employees doing 5-minute mindfulness sessions daily, right at their desks. They'll get to do a guided meditation, practice some deep breathing, and pick up stress-busting techniques without having to set foot into a training room.

Just a few minutes of mindfulness every day will help them focus, lower their stress, and make smarter decisions all around. But we know that many people will resist signing up for something they know little about, so providing nudges or incentives may be required to get them to participate and realize these benefits. Whether you work with us or someone else, nudges might require enlisting help from your IT or HR departments to corral the team.

4. Bite-Sized Software Training

Your employees may be using programs like Outlook, Excel, and project management tools every day, but are barely scratching the surface of what they can do with those programs. That's where bite-sized training sessions come in.

These sessions can cover shortcuts, advanced features, and time-saving tricks to keep your employee's skills sharp. Invest just a smidge in continuous learning, and you'll see some serious magic happen! Not only will your employees be able to zip through tasks like pros and stay tech-savvy, they will be able to get their work done with less stress and will have you to thank for making their workload more manageable.

5. Time Management Training

Your employees might not come right out and say it, but a lot of them struggle big time with time management. I mean, who can blame 'em? It's not like they teach this stuff in school! But here's the deal: in today's fast-paced world, mastering time management is one of the keys to keeping our sanity.

Here are a few time management techniques employees could really benefit from:

  • Prioritization: Learning how to identify and focus on high-impact tasks.

  • Time blocking: Learning how to set aside specific blocks for different activities.

  • Digital detox: Learning to manage distractions from emails, notifications, and social media.

6. Increase Employee Engagement With Flexible Work Schedules

Let's talk about work-life balance—it's not just some trendy catchphrase; it's absolutely vital for our wellbeing and overall happiness. A top way to deliver on work-life balance is with flexible work schedules; something that a lot of companies are still resisting.

Here's what I think: flexible work schedules shouldn't be a perk limited to higher-ups and a chosen few. It should be something that everyone has the chance to at least earn, if you're worried about this privilege being abused.

Flexible work schedules, allowing folks to adjust their hours to fit life's demands—whether it's caring for kids or elders, or taking care of their mental well-being—can be part of your company's annual Open Enrollment process. Why not offer such perks to as many employees as you can? Because last time I checked, it's not only managers who have these life needs.

7. Prioritize Employee Mental Health

Many people still don't fully grasp what mental health really means. Mental health is not just about those big emergencies like having anxiety or depression; it exists on a whole spectrum, just like physical health is on a spectrum.

Just as with physical health, maintaining mental health requires a proactive approach. It involves managing stress regularly and cultivating habits that enhance overall wellbeing. Without this understanding, your team might not consistently prioritize their mental health, leaving many vulnerable to burnout, anxiety, and the worst side of the spectrum.

That's where employers come in. By helping to spread awareness and providing whatever resources you can afford to, you can help destigmatize mental health and help employees prioritize it in the their lives while they're well.

8. Reward Wellness Participation

To encourage employee engagement in wellness programs, consider tying your wellness initiatives to annual bonuses or to employee perks. These rewards can be simple and affordable to put in place. Consider these ideas:

  • Step challenges: Offer discounts so that everyone can have a fitness tracker and make a company-wide effort to promote physical activity by having a monthly step challenge.

  • Make healthy eating easier: If you've got the outdoor space, why not host a weekly farmers market? And if you don't have a cafeteria but want to help your employees eat better, you could team up with a local restaurant to deliver healthy eats one day a week or seasonally. Believe me when I tell you, your employees will be silently thanking you if you were to help them eat healthily.

  • Annual charity walks: Consider supporting a charity and encouraging your employees to support it too by promoting their annual events to your employees and making a big deal about them.

9. Build an 'Infrastructure of Happiness'

While looking into some of the factors that contribute to Finland's success as the winner of the 2024 World Happiness Survey, and for several years running, I came across the term 'infrastructure of happiness.' The term means to create the conditions for happiness, and it got me asking myself, how could a company apply the concept to their workplace.

To build an 'infrastructure of happiness,' you might need to investigate why some employees struggle with their workload, feel dissatisfied at work, and experience undue stress. Then, find solutions within your means to address these issues swiftly while creating a more supportive and fulfilling work environment.

It would also mean taking a long-term approach and commitment to employee wellbeing that goes beyond what you do today, and to what you keep doing: putting employees at the center of more of your business decisions.

If nothing else, I hope these nine ideas show that flashy wellness programs, free gyms, and high-tech meditation rooms aren't the only ways to keep your team smiling. Implementing changes like these isn't hard or expensive; they just require you to appreciate that your employees' wellbeing can benefit your company's bottom line.

Ask yourself why larger companies, who have access to data showing that happier, healthier employees take fewer sick days, generate more innovative ideas at work, and are friendlier to customers, are prioritizing employee wellbeing...and benefiting from it.

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