RSS Feed


More Articles: Latest Popular Archives

Time to take health and wellbeing seriously

Blair McPherson - Former Director, Author and Blogger
An initially sceptical senior management team had been convinced by a well researched report from HR that taking the health and well-being of employees seriously would go a long way to improving performance and enabling the organisation to achieve more with less. As a result HR were commissioned to come up with a Health and Wellbeing strategy that pulled together a list of wellbeing initiatives. The strategy would need to be  future proof, data-driven, targeted and integrated. The aim was to transform the way the organisation managed health and wellbeing by providing easy to access support tailored to individual need.

It wasn’t that difficult to write the strategy. The forward to the Annual Report by the Chair and Chief Executive set the right tone with the emphases on ,” our people being our most valuable resource “ the commitment to ,”compassionate “ management and ensuring the workforce was both diverse and inclusive.

The resulting strategy document pulled to gather a range of relevant initiatives, made explicit their contribution to the health and well-being agenda,  demonstrated how initiatives would be coordinated, identified how progress would be monitored and measured. The document cross reference the existing relevant supportive policies and procedures and identified the available management information.

As such it was an impressive yet succinct and accessible document. However the authors thought the senior management team was missing the point. Everything in the document was already in place there were no new policies or initiatives. The organisation’s leadership had already endorsed and supported these actions. The real issue was not the need for an explicitly strategy but the need to change the culture. After all managers already had the means to be flexible, supportive and compassionate.

So why did employees report unsympathetic managers reluctant to agree requests for flexible working. Failure to provide regular supervision and support. Unwilling to release employees to attend support groups in work time, disinterested in their domestic circumstances or carers responsibilities  and wanting the organisation to take a tougher approach to absenteeism. Why were there persistent reports of management bullying and of failing to challenge bad behaviour and poor practice?

The managers would say that it was pressure of work, teams already short staffed, concerns about skiving and taking advantage of the system. That reports of bullying were a reaction to managers asking employees to do more just as they themselves were being required to do more with less. They would agree bad behaviour should be challenged but didn’t always feel that HR/the organisation back them up when they wanted to take disciplinary action and the same was true of tackling employees whose work was not up to standard. They their efforts often risked finding themselves the subject of a formal grievance.

It’s clear that taking the health and well-being of employee seriously involves more that a series of initiatives or a well  coordinated strategy. It asks fundamental questions about the culture of the organisation, how managers manage and how the tension between the pressure to deliver, often in challenging circumstances, and the Heath and wellbeing of employees is addressed.

    Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)