Leaders – Do YOU Really Understand Your Employees’ Health and Well-being Needs?

Leadership of a whole company is such a big task that the true leader would have delegated some of these aspects further down the line to spread the responsibility, save time and have staff step up to the task of not only managing but leading as well. Just as importantly, effective leaders will strive to engage employee buy-in of the goals and mission of the company.

Leaders have varying qualities and abilities, and if they are not well versed in the psychology of human behaviour, some of the most basic or obvious needs of employees can be overlooked. In fact, some of these may not even be apparent or known.

Looking at the diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Psychological Needs, he has grouped together various conditions that must be met for a need to be satisfied. The hierarchy indicates that people have an innate desire to be, do and have more and their overall need is to be the best version of themselves, always striving towards self-actualisation. Necessarily, there are steps to satisfy before they can successfully move from a lower level to a higher level of needs.

A person’s most basic needs are physiological. These needs include air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing and the ability to reproduce. Once these survival needs are met, a person’s next priority is safety needs such as personal security, employment, resources, health and property; these provide a sense of satisfaction and achievement.

The next level, love and belonging, is where humans feel the need to belong to a tribe: friendship, intimacy, family and a sense of connection are included at this level.

After that they start working on esteem issues such as respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength and freedom. As they are navigating the lower levels, people have a need to feel valued and to be recognised and acknowledged and rewarded for their effort.

These steps all lead towards self-actualisation, as humans have a desire to become the most that they can be. They have a need to feel that they are making their contribution or leaving their legacy to the world.

When assessing the health and well-being of the employees of the business, the leader needs to be aware of these needs. The areas highlighted in the diagram at each level are the areas of most concern that need to be addressed in order to get the whole of the workforce up to speed.

The issues most affecting employees at the physiological level are air, water, food and sleep. Lack of proper nutrition and hydration, longer working hours, insufficient quality sleep time, and other factors can make it difficult for workers to meet their physiological needs and function effectively at work.

Moving to the next level, safety needs, if employees, who are already stressed from the first level, are feeling insecure at work, are being bullied, harassed or are not meeting unacceptable workload demands, their personal safety needs will not be met and this will further impinge on their health.

Moving to the next level of needs, love and belonging, if the employees’ most basic needs are not being met at the survival level, then they won’t feel safe at work and their health is affected; if they are experiencing bullying, harassment, poor communications and overwork at their place of employment, is it any wonder that there is no sense of connection (i.e., worker disengagement)?

So, here we are at the first three levels with employees’ most basic needs not being met, how is it possible for them to generate self-respect, let alone have the self-esteem and achieve the recognition and status they crave?

How is it possible to achieve self-actualisation for the employee, and how can the company achieve the level of greatness that is aspires to?

When striving towards an holistic approach to helping employees’ mental health and well-being issues, most companies take a “safety” approach by instigating risk procedures which cover accidents and machinery operation, so that workers know that if anything goes wrong they just need to follow the procedure and all will be well.

However, this is not the case with health and well-being issues. A better approach might be to add the well-being aspect and ask: How can I help my employees perform to their potential? What do we need to implement to meet their needs first? By doing this, worker engagement will increase as well as the health and well-being of the employee – and by osmosis, the health and well-being of the company will improve as well.