Wellbeing without a strategy is like coffee without the caffeine, it’s just a bit pointless! As director and company, I’m in a fortunate position to get to spend time with lots of organisations and get a glimpse into their culture. Sometimes I go into an organisation and leave after a days work thinking to myself “what amazing place to work!” Equally there are also the organisations where I walk out wondering how people keep going back day after day. Ultimately the way workplace feels is down to the culture and the culture comes down to the people.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that wellbeing has risen through the ranks and become high on most organisations agenda’s in recent years. From the nice to have benefits to must have support for mental health, the wellbeing landscape has entirely changed. With almost every organisation now investing in some way shape or form I wanted to provide some insight into the difference between an organisation that as wellbeing well and those that completely missed the mark.
Let’s start with those that are simply ticking the box. This is an easy one, if you are investing in services aimed at employees such as webinars, health checks and wellbeing apps in hope that employee wellbeing will improve you’re throwing money down the pan. We class these as tertiary interventions, employees will notice them, likely enjoy them but ultimately won’t make a scrap of difference to the long term culture of the business.
There needs to be something deeper driving the wellbeing rationale in your organisations. If you can’t answer why you’re running a certain initiative I personally would hold off until you can. Loads of organisations out there are simply firefighting when it comes to workplace wellbeing. The approach many businesses take is simply reactive. This may be an unpopular statement with some, but if your companies response to mental health is to train some Mental Health First Aiders you are simply reacting. First Aid is there to identify when people are struggling and help them to get the support they need.
What we need is a proactive approach to wellbeing that over time shapes a culture where people are supported, can talk openly about how they feel and are able to thrive personally and professionally. This is where a strategy for well-being holds its own. In my experience well-being gets dropped on HR who funnily enough are already fairly busy. With good intentions and a limited budget do their best. HR are critical to the success of the wellbeing program but should not be the only people involved.
I would highly recommend creating a well-being steering group comprised of employees, managers and directors. Open conversation and transparency are crucial to getting a well-being program off to the right start. If you do not have a well-being expert within the business I would also recommend working with a wellbeing consultant to give you an insight into what other organisations are doing well and not so well. You can save time, effort and money by identifying the mistakes others have made.
Well-being strategies do not need to be complicated, in fact the simpler the strategy the easier it is to implement. Some organisations will focus on the four pillars of wellbeing; Physical, Mental, Social & Financial. This isn’t a bad place to start as pretty much everything you do on the well-being can be tied to one of the four pillars. Another approach some organisations take his to underpin their strategy with the five ways to wellbeing, created by the new economics foundation.
As I mentioned earlier there should be a rationale behind anything and everything you do for well-being at work. This can start by running a companywide well-being survey. Most organisations run the annual employee engagement survey that may have a couple of questions relating to well-being. I would recommend a specific well-being survey that can be completed annually as a review and also mini pulse survey is to identify the current situation. 2020 has been a rollercoaster for everyone and a survey six months ago would not represent how people feel now.
You might also want to consider looking at primary, secondary and tertiary welding interventions for your business. Primary interventions such as policy, values and Analysis re crucial to culture but employees probably won’t notice them. Secondary interventions ay include the training of line managers on how to look after the well-being of their teams, mental health first-aid and my personal favourite well-being champions. Tertiary interventions are really the add-ons that impact the employee experience and should be seen as the nice to haves. They do have an impact on wellbeing but if you invest in the tertiary interventions alone without policy without rationale and without training you will be unlikely to see a long-term change to the culture.
Finally that is a saying in well-being that if you don’t assess you simply guess. Before running a well-being program you need to consider how you will measure its success. This can be done through the annual survey, retention rates, productivity, absenteeism levels and the ability to identify the return on investment. It’s extremely important that wellbeing comes from the top down, if the board are not fully committed and bought in to wellbeing I guarantee the employees will realise you are just trying to tick the box.
Andy Romero-Birkbeck, Founder & Director – We are Wellbeing Ltd