Employee health and wellbeing programmes can have a positive impact on social relationships and reduce bullying, according to a study from Vitality and the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The three-year study found the more employees engage with programmes the better the quality of co-worker relationships, the less they experienced bullying, and the better their longer-term wellbeing and job satisfaction.
The research also suggested that even when senior managers were not committed, employee engagement with health and wellbeing programmes (HWPs) was associated with better relationships at work and the same subsequent positive benefits.
In all 7,785 UK employees at 64 organisations were part of the study with results published in the British Journal of Management.
Researchers on the project said the findings were particularly relevant given the new patterns of working which have emerged as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Lead authors Dr Roberta Fida and Dr Annilee Game, from UEA’s Norwich Business School, said the evidence indicated that promoting wellbeing interventions in organisations has “unintended” positive consequences.
“While organisations may adopt these programmes primarily to target employee health and wellbeing directly, we found that employees’ social relationships also benefit,” said Dr Fida.
“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.”
Dr Game continued: “People’s wellbeing has been significantly affected by the pandemic. Investing in HWPs brings both relationship and health benefits that can help support employees adjusting to the new normal.”
The research drew on 2015-2017 data from Vitality’s annual Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, studies providing datasets on organisational performance and wellbeing of UK organisations and their employees.
Dr Martin Stepanek, lead researcher at Vitality and co-author of the latest research, added: “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.”