Most companies probably have a community strategy that supports local interests through all kinds of activities — from reducing their carbon footprint to volunteering at the community fête. But it’s unlikely these strategies are linked to employee engagement and productivity. This is bound to change, as the opportunity to make a connection that boosts organisational wellbeing while helping neighbors is too good to pass up.
Employers are realising that wellbeing — the state of human comfort, health and happiness — requires engaging the whole person. So workplace efforts to address total employee wellbeing must combine the interdependent aspects of physical, emotional, career and financial health. And that takes a holistic approach.
Community matters to employees — and the business
Employees are increasingly interested in having the chance to support the communities where they work. And this trend comes at a time when the physical and emotional elements of total wellbeing appear to be linked with critical drivers like community involvement, resilience and stress management.
Research bears this out. One study of Swiss workers showed that volunteering was associated with less work-life conflict, burnout and stress, and better positive mental health.1 It also found that participants’ perceptions of [work-life] balance partly explained the relationship between volunteering and health.
Of course, earning a reputation for doing good deeds locally is a fairly reliable way to positively impact recruitment. Millennials, especially, are known to evaluate potential employers based on their commitment to this cause.
Start with the basics
When a community responsibility (CR) team is already in place, a good starting point is to look more closely at their projects. It’s important to assess how current efforts are selected and measured, and the level of employee involvement. With this information at hand, the next step is to discuss and apply the best methods of aligning the team’s work with the organisation’s overall wellbeing strategy.
Employers without a team need not despair — the resources to form one are probably readily available. With widespread employee enthusiasm for community involvement, it should be possible to create, for instance, a work streamed by an employee group. This team could take on some budget responsibility as well as the task of garnering workforce opinions on local projects. And a leader in the organisation could help initiate projects and outline targeted project outcomes.
Build towards a holistic wellbeing strategy
Once the CR team has a firm foothold, community initiatives may be built into the total wellbeing strategy. This approach and the processes it defines should not only be customised to the local community, but also the company’s unique workforce demographics, job types, and culture.
Regular reviews of the holisitic strategy will help ensure that existing resources — including health and wellbeing benefits — are used to their full advantage. For this purpose, an employee wellbeing assessment can add value by pinpointing gaps and opportunities. Making the right improvements often entails gathering more information, removing silos, tweaking resources and reinforcing communication.
Employee wellbeing is a cornerstone of organisational health. At its core, this pursuit is about cost effectively meeting the needs of employees where they are in their personal and professional lives. Fostering an environment of total wellbeing will almost certainly strengthen an employer, but only to the extent that it strengthens individuals and creates a prosperous community — within the organisation and beyond.
- Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, ‘Corporate America and Community Health: Exploring the Business Case for Investment’, May 2015