How important are good workplace relationships?

We spend a lot of time at work and with our colleagues, meaning our relationships with them can significantly impact our mental and physical health. Social relationships are vital to our well-being, and we actively seek them out.

By contrast, social isolation and a lack of healthy relationships can reduce our quality of life and cause mental health issues and an increased risk of physical health problems such as heart disease or stroke. Employers can promote employee well-being in various ways, including encouraging staff to create a good work-life balance and maintain positive relationships outside work.

However, creating good relationships in the workplace and tackling any interpersonal issues is essential. Hubspot's Hybrid Work Report found that 50% of UK employees surveyed would rather have great workplace relationships than a 10% pay rise, so consider how to promote better relationships in your teams.

Workplace health and wellness initiatives offer positive benefits to your employees and business. Here are a few of the advantages to you and your team.

The benefits for your employees

Supporting your employee's well-being is great for their physical and mental health. Mental and physical health are intertwined, with physical health issues impacting mental well-being, particularly when these are chronic or long-term conditions. Mental health problems can also have physical symptoms. For example, depression and anxiety can cause insomnia, headaches and digestive issues.

Well-being initiatives that enable your staff to work together and get to know each other create positive relationships, which build camaraderie and employee morale. Having colleagues you can turn to for peer-to-peer support boosts your team's well-being.

Wellness initiatives can focus on ways to build relationships but also work to improve employee mental health and reduce stress, which is excellent for their overall well-being.

The benefits for your business

When Gallup examined the importance of having a best friend at work, researchers found close workplace relationships are vital for employee engagement and business growth. Close relationships support employee well-being, leading to increased productivity, creative thinking and innovation, and fewer accidents and health and safety issues.

Good relationships increase your employee's enjoyment of their work and can provide support during change. Uncertainty is typically stressful, and strong relationships create a network that can support people's mental health.

Increased employee well-being promotes good physical and mental health, which reduces absenteeism. This offers tangible business benefits as frequent or long-term absences put additional pressure on other team members, which could result in further absences. Significant absences also require considerable time and management resources and can increase costs if you hire temporary staff.

An inclusive culture that values employee well-being can boost your brand reputation and make you an employer of choice. Employees who feel respected and valued at work are more likely to recommend you to others or speak positively about your company.

How can workplace well-being initiatives build stronger relationships?

Workplace well-being initiatives can build relationships in various ways. We've already discussed the advantages of good workplace relationships, and your well-being initiatives may focus on developing these. Employee well-being initiatives can encourage employees from different areas and levels of the company to spend time together and create a positive support network.

However, it would help if you also recognised that employees have lives outside work. Relationships in an employee's personal life can impact their work performance, so initiatives that help employees create a positive work-life balance are essential. Financial well-being also helps to reduce stress and enable staff to focus on their work and workplace relationships. A market-value salary is vital, but also consider bonuses, employee perks, and discounts which can help them save money.

What policies can promote a good work-life balance?

Flexible working can help employees manage their personal responsibilities and create a work-life balance that fits their needs. Offering flexible hours, where staff vary their start and finish times, can help with stress management. Consider offering remote working, either full-time or part-time.

What initiatives support workplace relationships?

You can use various initiatives to encourage employees to build close workplace relationships. Any employee well-being initiatives you implement should support people's individual needs. This can be challenging if you have a large workforce. However, you can start by gathering information via an employee survey to determine your staff's needs and preferences. Data relating to sickness absence can also help you identify patterns. For example, if absences result from work-related stress, you can look into initiatives focusing on stress management.

Good line management and leadership by example are also vital to any initiative's success. If you decide to promote healthy eating or increased activity by encouraging your team to take a proper lunch break, this is unlikely to succeed if line managers regularly work through lunch or schedule team meetings at this time.

Here are a few ways employee well-being initiatives can support healthy connections at work.

Lunchtime activity

Studies show that a proper lunch break improves our mental health and productivity. Taking time away from our desks to move around and eat well gives our brains a rest and helps us avoid the mid-afternoon energy slump.

Good line management can help normalise lunch breaks. A good first step might be to arrange a team lunch or networking event where staff can meet employees from other parts of the business or chat with managers.

Well-being initiatives can also help staff to spend their time in ways that benefit their health and well-being. A lunchtime walking group supports staff in leaving the office and can encourage non-work-related conversations to help them get to know each other better. Many local councils have well-being officers offering guided tours in your local area.

Alternatively, office-based activity sessions such as yoga or meditation can have mental health benefits and teach skills that employees can carry into their personal lives.

Team building days

Team building days are great for a team's well-being, enabling staff to leave the office entirely and engage in a new activity. Team away days can support your employee well-being initiatives in a broad sense. Say mental health is a key concern. In that case, your away day can focus on activities to improve mental health, such as mindfulness. Activities can also include physical movement, such as walks in nature.

Team building days also offer the opportunity to work with your local community. Your staff could spend the day volunteering with a local community organisation or charity on a project that will benefit them. For example, your team could help create a community garden or decorate a charity's drop-in centre. Such activities help build social connections, benefit the community, and boost your business reputation.

Health education talks and training

Education is a central part of any well-being initiative. Helping employees understand the advantages of a course of action increases their likelihood of participating. Training and education can also give them the tools to improve their health and well-being.

Workplace talks can build relationships by enabling knowledge-sharing between team members. You may have various team members whose job roles require particular health and well-being expertise. Asking them to run a training session allows them to share their knowledge to benefit others.

Say you have an employee who started running using the Couch to 5k app and has built up to a half-marathon distance. In that case, you could ask them to share their experience increasing their activity level and the obstacles they overcame to achieve this.

Sometimes, a third-party speaker can provide knowledge and training that isn't available amongst your workforce.

Well-being forums

Staff forums can support employee well-being initiatives by providing information about employees' concerns and challenges. They can also offer solutions by enabling discussions between employees from different areas and levels of the company. Line managers may assume they know what well-being support employees need. However, the reality can be very different. Promoting open discussion can provide workable solutions. Forums also support healthy connections, as discussions will often relate to an employee's personal life outside work.

A staff well-being forum can focus on particular health challenges or goals, such as increased physical activity or mental health. However, they can also help staff create a good work-life balance by bringing together staff in similar situations, such as parents or carers. They can use a discussion group to share solutions and help managers understand their challenges.

Mental health training

Good mental health training, which should include several elements, creates a workplace environment where staff can speak about their concerns and seek appropriate help.

Firstly, line managers and staff should have training to help them recognise the signs of stress or other psychological issues in themselves and their colleagues. Secondly, training should include guidance about where to seek help and what assistance an employee may need. Some problems can be addressed via a conversation with a supportive manager or colleague, while others require counselling or medical treatment. Training can be the starting point for conversations that allow staff to build supportive friendships.

Thirdly, training can provide tools like meditation or mindfulness techniques to enable employees to manage their mental welfare in the long term.

Finally, training can help line managers have difficult conversations. Training may recommend that employees with concerns about a colleague speak to their manager, which may mean they must intervene. Alternatively, they'll likely need to seek occupational health support or provide information about treatment if a colleague approaches them for help.

Mental health support

Good mental health support can take various forms. However, peer-to-peer support can be a valuable part of your strategy as it enables employees to recognise mental health concerns in their colleagues and seek advice. Good mental health training educates your team about common signs and symptoms. Strong workplace relationships allow staff to seek help from their colleagues if they recognise those symptoms in themselves. Social relationships can also help prevent work-related stress's harmful effects by enabling staff to share worries with their co-workers. A supportive relationship can act as a release valve if work demands have increased.

Creating a strong culture where staff feel empowered to share their concerns helps them feel heard and understood and increases employee engagement.

An Employee Assistance Programme

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a third-party service typically offering telephone advice for mental health issues. It isn't a counselling service, but trained professionals provide a listening ear and signpost employees to additional services if needed. Some EAPs also offer legal and financial advice.

Many employee health insurance policies provide access to EAPs depending on your chosen coverage. You can also choose a standalone service if you prefer.

An EAP can be a valuable resource as it enables employees to speak about concerns they prefer not to share in the workplace. Even if you have a positive workplace culture, there may still be issues employees would rather keep private, either because they're personal or related to a colleague. EAPs guarantee confidentiality, so employees don't have to worry about information getting back to their colleagues or line managers.

Promoting healthy eating

Sharing a meal with friends or colleagues can create a positive social connection and help promote healthy eating at work. We've already mentioned the benefits of lunchtime activity sessions and team meals. However, a different approach can involve a lunchtime cooking session where staff prepare a healthy meal and sit down to eat it together afterwards. Such sessions could be office-based or included in team-building days.

Recipe clubs let staff share their favourite recipes and can promote a more inclusive culture. Contributions from staff with different cultural backgrounds, vegans, and vegetarians can also be included, as can raising awareness of food allergies.

Each approach can increase understanding and create new friendships.

Support remote workers

Since the pandemic, more businesses have moved to full-time or part-time remote working. This can be good for work-life balance but can also impact communication between team members, and making friends can be more challenging. One survey found that 81% of employees under 35 feared loneliness due to home working. However, research by the Red Cross found that 43% of employees felt lonely at work, but moving to home or hybrid working improved the situation for many.

In-person events and team-building days can reduce isolation. However, enabling staff to have informal virtual conversations as they would in the office is also helpful. Staff aren't going to bump into a colleague in the break room or at the water cooler at home, meaning some planning is needed. Diary in dedicated chatting time before or after meetings or during breaks gives employees space for non-work-related chats.

How can health insurance help?

Investing in employee health insurance as part of your employee benefits package provides employees with fast access to private healthcare, including counselling and treatment for physical health problems. Your policy can also provide staff with tools to improve their health.

Business health insurance typically provides tools and information to enable you to manage employee wellness, including data and resources to help you design appropriate wellness initiatives.

Here are a few of the ways your health insurance can help.

Employee health assessments

Most health insurance policies provide health assessments that examine your employees' general health and highlight areas of concern. They also encourage employees to set health goals and provide tools and assistance to help them achieve their targets. Depending on your chosen policy and provider, these may be available as an optional extra, which increases your insurance premium.

Most health checks include height and weight measurements, body fat percentage checks, blood pressure checks, and an employee's body mass index and waist-to-height ratio calculations. They'll also assess an employee's mobility and flexibility and provide a blood sugar check for diabetes. If an employee smokes or has recently given up, they'll also assess their lung age. Most assessments involve a trip to an assessment centre, but some providers offer workplace assessments depending on the number of employees involved.

Some providers offer more in-depth assessments at an extra cost. These can be worth the investment if your work requires a high level of physical fitness or carries particular health risks.

Employee health assessments provide your staff with personalised advice and guidance. However, they can also give valuable data insights to identify trends and potential concerns. Your insurers' data is anonymised, so you can't identify individual employees based on the results.

Help to develop suitable initiatives

While every insurer offers business medical insurance customers access to employee health assessments, the level of assistance you receive will often depend on the size of your organisation.

The data you receive from employee health assessments lets you identify areas which may benefit from a targeted wellness initiative or changes to the work environment. Say your results show your staff are experiencing reduced mobility and flexibility or that there are many cases of high blood pressure. Increased physical activity will benefit these issues, meaning you can focus on those initiatives first.

If you have a larger company, you'll likely qualify for a corporate policy that can provide additional support. These services can help you identify ways to improve your employee's health and guide you in creating suitable initiatives. Access to services varies; some insurers offer them to businesses with 500+ employees, while some require 1,000+ employees.

Online resources

Most medical insurance includes online self-help resources that are typically available to non-customers and scheme members. These resources allow staff to seek information based on their needs and interests.

Some insurers also offer online resources aimed at line managers. These can enable them to improve employee's health, understand the impact of particular medical conditions, such as cancer, or manage long-term sickness alongside their occupational health team.

These resources can be helpful for individuals but can also form the basis of workplace training sessions.

Some providers, such as Bupa, offer interactive training sessions for company directors, managers and staff involved in managing employee health insurance or wellness. These are typically online sessions run by relevant experts.

Employee perks and discounts

Every insurance company has a member benefits scheme providing perks and discounts to customers. Some perks are available to everyone, while many insurers now offer enhanced incentives for customers who achieve their healthy living goals.

Employee health assessments typically form the basis of these schemes. Employees set targets based on the information from their assessment and receive additional perks and discounts when they reach them. These encourage participation, giving you more data to work with. It can also help to improve team dynamics by encouraging healthy competition between colleagues with similar goals.

Get in touch

We hope this guide has helped you learn how well-being initiatives can benefit your business and promote positive relationships. If you'd like to explore the support available with employee health insurance, contact us for tailored advice.

Aaron Parkin

Aaron Parkin

Aaron's energy, passion, infectious energy, and an insatiable appetite to help others are why he's been so successful in the past and why we had to have him with us at Globacare.

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