Engagement with health and wellbeing programmes at work can boost the quality of work relationships and reduce bullying within organisations, a study has shown.
The University of East Anglia (UEA) and Vitality study, which was published in the British Journal of Management, found that participation in programmes aimed at supporting employee health and wellbeing also benefited social relationships at work.
It is often noted that health and wellbeing programmes and benefits are less effective without senior leadership buy-in, but that programmes still benefited relationships at work even when senior managers did not appear to be committed to them.
Lead author Dr Annilee Game from UEA’s Norwich Business School said: “These findings are especially relevant for managers to consider as organisations develop new patterns of working in the post-Covid era. People’s wellbeing has been significantly affected by the pandemic. Investing in [health and wellbeing programmes] brings both relationship and health benefits that can help support employees adjusting to the new normal.”
Dr Roberta Fida, lead author also from UEA’s Norwich Business School, added: “When organisations invest in wellbeing they communicate care for their employees and this is reciprocated with more respectful interpersonal interactions. This in turn significantly reduces the onset of workplace bullying and improves longer term mental and physical health as well as job satisfaction.”
The three-year study used 2015-2017 data from Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study, covering 7,785 UK employees at 64 organisations.
The researchers said the findings reinforced the importance of organisations signalling their care for employee wellbeing, stating that this could also improve job satisfaction.
The paper says: “Involving employees in future decisions about programme content and a targeted communication strategy employing a range of channels (e.g. newsletters, staff meetings, social media, dedicated staff webpages) could help not only to raise awareness of [health and wellbeing programmes], but also to show how the organisation is responding with genuine interest and concern.
“These measures, and the provision of especially valued health-related resources, could increase employees’ perceptions of organisational support and the climate for psychological safety.
“In turn, this may strengthen the sense of obligation to reciprocate the care shown with more of the respectful social interactions that may be associated with longer-term changes in wellbeing and job attitudes.”
Dr Martin Stepanek, lead researcher at Vitality, said: “This study confirms just how wide-reaching the benefits of implementing employee health and wellbeing programmes can be. There are numerous positive consequences of wellbeing interventions – beyond the obvious intended benefits – for the organisation and its employees, and wider society.
“By offering such programmes, organisations not only directly affect employees’ wellbeing, they help to create a culture of positive change in which employees are more likely to thrive.”