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Wellbeing at work is very much the hot topic, largely due to the rising mental illness statistics and increased number of public figures opening up about their personal experiences.  To kick things off I want to take a look at the definition of wellbeing.  This is very much a personal perception but is generally defined as a persons health and happiness.  We know that health is generally measurable, for example I could take your heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol profile and various other biological measures and provide you with a cardiovascular risk score. Health is measurable! 

Happiness however is much harder to define and measure, I could ask you “how happy were you yesterday” but your answer is subjective.   Because happiness isn’t as measurable its not necessarily peer reviewed (academically validated) and therefore doesn’t end up on any public or organisational policy.  Non of the organisations we work with have anything in their policy to say “we endeavour to keep our people this happy, this amount of the time.”  But, how important is a persons happiness?

Without happiness we lose engagement and motivation.  To add to this many managers struggle to identify key motivators of their individual team members and often find it difficult to engage in wellbeing conversations.  Is it any wonder people lose engagement and ultimately become unhappy?

Wellbeing (Health & Happiness) is considered today to comprise of four main pillars, which are:

> Physical Wellbeing
> Psychological Wellbeing
> Social Wellbeing
> Financial Wellbeing

For many of us much of the wellbeing emphasis has been on improving our physical health through exercise, physical activity and nutrition.  However, in recent years there has been a shift in public health messages targeting the psychological.   This leads us to ask the question; are people more stressed now than they use to be? The statistics would indicate so, in 2016 there were 11.7 million working days lost in the UK to stress, anxiety and depression.  This rose to over 15.4 million in 2018. 

Considering “Wellbeing” is a holistic term that’s covers the 4 named pillars it’s a mammoth of a subject.  Wellbeing at work in my experience usually gets dropped on already busy HR teams, often with no budget or support.  Even with budget and support it’s a difficult one to get right.  One piece of advice I would give to any organisation looking to invest in wellbeing is not to rush into anything.  I’ve seen so many businesses waste thousands rushing in and rolling out what I call a “smoke and mirrors” wellbeing programme that ultimately feels like a tick box exercise.  And to add to this, employees can see it for what it is.

If your idea of wellbeing is to train a few employees up as mental health first aiders and bang a photo on LinkedIn for all to see I’m afraid you’re unlikely to make a difference.  Wellbeing needs to be run from top to bottom and back up.  Before rolling out a programme you should identify how your people feel about wellbeing.  This can be achieved by running a Wellbeing Discovery Report.   It’s also important to identify who is responsible for wellbeing at each level i.e what is the organisation responsible for?  What are managers responsible for? And what are employees responsible for?

Here is an example:
Organisation Responsibilities: Policy, Funding, Facilitation, Training etc
Manager Responsibilities: Implementation, 1:2:1’s, Sign Posting
Employee Responsibilities: Manageable Health (Sleep, Diet & Physical Activity)

Communication is fundamental to wellbeing success.  If there isn’t good communication through all levels of the business it’s impossible for wellbeing efforts to make a real difference.  It comes down to the culture.  Culture is shaped by the people, if the people at the top don’t truly buy-in to the ideology of wellbeing it really difficult to see long term change.  However, when wellbeing is invested in for the right reasons and has senior level buy-in amazing things can happen.

Andy Romero-Birkbeck, Content & Delivery Director – Hero Wellbeing

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