Why communication is critical to workplace wellbeing

Caroline Russell - profile image
By Caroline Russell
Account Director

There are myriad reasons why wellbeing matters to businesses. If you want to go into detail, explore these insights from McKinsey, or check out this five-minute read. But if you just want the short summary: employee wellbeing boosts productivity, attracts and retains talent, and boosts creativity and innovation. 

This is a topic that matters. That’s why our first ever Caburn Hope podcast was a deep dive into wellbeing at work. How do you generate it, how do you embed it, and how do you maintain it? 

To answer those questions Strategy Director Chris Andrew spoke to one of our favourite people: the inspirational reward and wellbeing strategist, and founder of The Wellbeing Leader, Evan Davidge. During the discussion, two knotty problems were addressed: 

  • Knotty problem one: How do businesses best support the wellbeing and productivity of employees, when those employees are both working and dealing with other big life challenges? 
  • Knotty problem two: How do businesses communicate meaningful support to employees, whilst also communicating their ongoing business needs? 

If you’d like to listen to the podcast in full, click hereOtherwise, read on to discover Evan’s five-step guide to creating a culture of sustainable wellbeing at work. 

Wellbeing at work: five key steps to success

Step one: Understanding what your people want. 

To create a genuine – and ongoing – sense of wellbeing at work starts with intention. Your intention to build a supportive and caring workplace culture

That’s essential, but on its own, it’s not enough. It’s just as vital to ensure that you understand what your people view as supportive and caring. What do they want? Are their workplace needs social? Financial? Focused on professional progression? 

The critical point here is that you have to avoid making assumptions about the things that your people value. Instead, you need to ask. Doing this produces two positive outcomes:

  • By involving employees from the outset, you’ll identify the key wellbeing issues that need to be addressed in your workplace, and you’ll see which of those issues are most urgent.
  • Through those conversations, your employees will see – in a very real way - that you do really care about their livelihoods and wellbeing.

Once you’ve built understanding, it’s time to take a close look at the realities within your organisation. Do your policies and practices, your processes, and your communication reflect your wellbeing intentions, and meet your employees’ needs - or do they contradict them? 

Step two: Identify the reasons behind employee churn

As well as understanding what your people want, it’s vital to know the things that they actively dislike: the issues that can prompt absenteeism, employee churn, or dent organisational reputation. 

You can gather this feedback via focus groups or anonymised surveys. The key thing you’re looking to understand is: What are the factors that are compromising wellbeing at work? 

The answer may be workplace relationships, or poor communication. It may be unrealistic demands or expectations. It may also be something more subtle and nuanced: a disconnect between your peoples’ priorities, and your organisational priorities. 

The new generation coming into the workplace are vocal - more so than any previous cohort - about their desire to work for companies that mirror their values: people-centric, environmentally aware, and socially active. Unless those values are matched, they’re likely to go elsewhere. 

Step three: Clear and consistent communication

Increasing employee wellbeing involves change. The hard truth is that even when change brings positive benefits, it can provoke resistance. From the perspective of neuroscience, that’s because our evolutionary survival instinct is to see difference as a potential threat. So, the reaction that kicks in at the sight of any change is fight or flight. 

The simplest way to address that instinctive response is through clear, consistent, and ongoing communication. Explaining what’s happening. Explaining the benefits. Building in core themes that will resonate with employees. Reinforcing those themes as an ongoing part of workplace life. The better the communication – and the more regular and consistent the messaging - the easier it is to effect the change. 

Step four: Including everyone

When you’re thinking about communication, you need to think about content and about the channels through which that content is disseminated. How do you ensure that you reach every employee, across what may be a very dispersed workforce? 

The answer is to take a two-pronged approach. In today’s digital world, the easiest way to access the largest number of people is through creating a common wellbeing platform. However else it’s accessed, this platform should be optimised for mobiles. Why? Because even in economically developing nations, mobile ownership is high. So, to reach the most employees, your wellbeing programme should be available via smartphone.

The other way to reach all employees is via colleagues. Human contact! Here, the key is to not rely solely on managers. With the best will in the world, managers are always hard-pressed for time. Instead, create a network of wellbeing champions. Over time, these colleagues can facilitate honest two-way communication: sharing the company’s wellbeing messaging and providing feedback about how those messages are received on the ground. That connectivity is a fast-track way to understand how any given approach to wellbeing needs to evolve. 

Step five: Ongoing training

Across your organisation, all employees need to understand your wellbeing philosophy and purpose and how it applies to them. But the final step towards making it sustainable in the workplace is to invest in ongoing stratified training at different career levels and life stages. 

  • At the senior leadership level, the focus shifts to executive coaching: understanding how to create the vision that encompasses your wellbeing aims and objectives and having the compassion and energy to transmit that across the workplace. An organisation is likely to have a successful transformation to a wellbeing culture, if leaders step up to the plate and role-model the behaviour changes they will be asking their employees to make.
  • Line managers should enhance their capabilities for building team wellbeing and enhancing colleague resilience.
  • All employees should be empowered to improve their personal resilience and effectiveness through hybrid learning, support and resources.


The five steps? Intention. Understanding. Communication. Inclusion. Training. Want to find out more? Listen and subscribe to the full podcast, today.

Caroline Russell - profile image
By Caroline Russell
Account Director