How to develop the right workplace wellbeing strategy for your organisation

Organisations are increasingly seeing the benefit of workplace wellbeing, not just in terms of greater productivity but also in building a culture that attracts and retains the best talent. A positive approach to physical and mental wellbeing can make a huge difference to how your people feel about working for you.

What’s more, mental health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year.

So, isn’t it time you developed a workplace wellbeing strategy?

That was the message of Debbie Kleiner who covered the topic in the latest talk by the Bristol Media People Forum on 7th March.

Debbie is Head of Workplace Happiness at PES who’s motto is Happy People, Happy Business. As well as covering workplace happiness/wellbeing theory, she provided evidence that an investment in wellbeing works for companies.

Here are some of the main points:

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a broad topic, and the talk started by setting the scene in relation to the workplace.

The stretch zone

Debbie started by looking at stress in relation to wellbeing and put the case that some pressure (rather than stress) can be good and aid performance. With too little pressure, staff don’t perform but of course too much is bad and can be detrimental to health. She described a ‘stretch zone’ where pressure adds enough momentum to push people a little beyond their normal level of productivity.

Emotion - ‘bring your whole self to work’

Emotion is the crux of mental health - and some organisations are better at recognising this than others. There is a ‘bring your whole self to work’ movement that suggests we should be able to be ourselves in the workplace, especially with the ‘always on’ culture, thanks to technology. In this context, the ‘home self’ and the ‘work self’ tend to blur, and organisations could and should be more accepting of the ‘whole self’ behind their people - providing those people want to share it.

Debbie covered research from MIND that showed four out of five 20-35 year olds admit to putting on a brave face, so companies need to work towards de-stigmatising mental health so people don’t need to hide their true emotional state. There is a strong business case for being yourself.

Your personal choices

The importance of emotion is further supported when we consider the impact of personal outlook on happiness and wellbeing. Research by Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that 50% of happiness is genetically predetermined, while 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40 percent is the result of your own personal outlook.

Mad World Forum - a source of facts, figures and more

Debbie shared this organisation’s work on workplace wellbeing as a source of information and resources. Amongst other facts they quote:

  • Organisations promoting wellbeing are three and a half times more likely to be creative and innovative.
  • 53% of millennials say that a healthy work-life balance would make them stay in their job.
  • Anxiety and depression among workers in the UK has hit a record high, rising by nearly a third in the past 4 years.

Find out more here.

The importance of a good employee experience

Debbie’s job title as Head of Workplace Happiness rather than ‘Wellbeing’ demonstrates the importance she and PES place on a good and happy workplace culture.

Some of the things she considers important to a workplace wellbeing strategy therefore include:

Line managers - as the link between the employee and the business, they are most important people in an organisation and can have a beneficial or negative effect on workplace wellbeing. Their competencies and training are therefore important but they also need to be informed about your wellbeing benefits so they can make their team aware of them.

Values - if employees are aligned to an organisations values they are more likely to be engaged, benefitting their wellbeing. Debbie added that recruiting to the values of your organisation would support this from the outset.

On-boarding - joining a new organisation can be stressful, so the better the on-boarding process, the more likely the new employee will feel part of the organisation, be productive quicker and stay longer.

Financial health - personal financial problems can have a negative impact on stress and wellbeing. Investing in helping their employees understand their financial wellbeing is beneficial for both employee and employer.

Mental health first aid at work - organisations could invest in training Mental Health First Aiders - valuable in providing early intervention help for someone who may be developing a mental health issue. But they can’t do it alone, line managers must play their part too in looking for signs of stress.

Building your strategy

PES have a workplace wellbeing process structured around three steps - Check | Plan | Deliver.

Before you can measure workplace wellbeing, you need to identify baseline data which comes from an audit allowing employees to identify their individual wellbeing and lifestyle risks. You should also look at absence data and make sure you are capturing the right information.

At the planning stage, organisations would do well to recognise that wellbeing has to be built into its DNA. The plan should be integrated across all levels, embraced by the board, featured in team meetings and also reflected in the recruitment and induction process.

Many of the component parts of a wellbeing strategy are covered here on the PES website. They include:

  • An overhaul of your sickness absence policy
  • A review of your organisational values.
  • New line manager competencies and training
  • Improved employee benefits
  • Providing fruit and healthy snacks in the office

In conclusion

Debbie concluded that workplace health and wellbeing programmes not only have a positive impact on your employees’ wellness, they can also lead to a significant increase in engagement and overall productivity.

But it’s important to make sure that your employees believe in it - and this is helped by a positive employee experience and workplace culture with line managers fully aware of, and on-board with the strategy.

And, equally important, what might seem like small gestures matter and can go a long way. So go on, install that coffee machine you’ve been meaning to!

About the Bristol People Forum

This was a talk by the Bristol People Forum. We meet across the year to hear informative speakers covering a wide range of HR and ‘people’ topics. Find out more and join our LinkedIn group here.

Author: Richard Roberts
Posted on: Thursday 14th March 2019

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