9 tips for developing a sustainable well-being strategy at work

Well-being strategies aren’t a new phenomenon. They’ve been dabbled with for decades in an attempt to tackle absenteeism. In the business world, staff well-being is an increasingly important consideration.

Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on work related stress, anxiety and depression, show the total number of lost working days due to work related stress in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. And stress at work in 2015/16 accounted for 45 percent of all working days lost due to ill health. It’s a serious concern.

The HSE cite the causes of work related stress as workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. The good news – innovative big corporates are embracing the well-being concept, and SMEs are slowly following suit.

Well-being programmes aren’t new. They have been shown to increase productivity, motivation and happiness, as well as improve employees’ health and have a positive impact on the level of employee sickness. They are also a lot more than the absence management strategies of old.

The truth is well-being programmes can have wider societal implications and are much more than a perk. They benefit businesses and individuals on a number of levels. Some would go as far as saying they could they be the panacea for releasing pressure on the NHS.

We’ll forgive you for thinking well-being strategies are a doddle. They’re not. Implementing a successful well-being strategy involves a lot more than fruit bowls and bicycle discounts. They require commitment, a lot of organisation and continual input. But the word is they are more than worth it.

The difficulties in developing a well-being strategy

Developing a sustainable well-being strategy isn’t as easy as it sounds. Difficulties include:

• Convincing the higher echelons that it’s a great idea. Leaders need to be on board.
• Convincing staff to join in.
• Training middle management to embrace the concept and encourage staff.
• Sustaining well-being programmes. It requires commitment and dedication.
• Understanding employee demographics.

Some employers seem to have a hard time justifying the costs. Sewing the seeds and selling the benefits of an employment well-being strategy to the board or MD is the first step. Small steps can still make a significant difference, and you have to start somewhere.

9 top tips for introducing and growing a well-being strategy at work

1. Ensure the well-being programme is endorsed by senior managers

Leaders have to be on board if well-being strategies are to work. Otherwise there is a constant danger of activities and support being undermined, rescheduled or cancelled. Leaders should also engage in the programme. They of all people should understand the idea of walking the talk.

2. Start slowly and grow the concept organically

Set out clear goals and gradually introduce a well-being programme. Many employees don’t like change, even when it’s for the good! You don’t want staff to feel overwhelmed or pressured to sign up. The well-being strategy should be clear in its direction and encompass mental health as well as physical.

Drip feed initiatives throughout the year. It’s important not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Link specific initiatives with local and national health awareness days, such as “no smoking day” or “back care awareness week“.

3. Develop a coherent programme rather than ad-hoc activities

Before you start coming up with any ideas for your well-being programme, outline your company objectives, business goals and company values, as well as existing employee benefits. Build your well-being programme into the business plan, and regularly review it. It should be a valued and normal part of company life.

4. Build an evaluation aspect into the programme

It’s crucial to evaluate the impact of your well-being strategy. You’ll want to see what works and what doesn’t. Staff feedback is invaluable in this process.
Use staff surveys to regularly evaluate all aspects of your well-being activities and policies.

5. Make sure the well-being activities are accessible to all

When staff work different shifts, it can be difficult to organise activities to suit everyone. Repeating the same activity across different rotas is important so that staff feel there’s a level playing field.

Organising rotas and getting the message to staff isn’t always easy. Consider using an online rota system, like that offered by Planday. It takes the headache out of rota organisation and well-being activities can easily be communicated to all staff.

6. Don’t make the mistake of ‘one size fits all’

Look at your employee demographics. In a virtually all-female call centre you’ll need to tailor well-being events and activities to your existing employees. But, also remember you are dealing with individuals. Listen to staff feedback so you can hone and adapt the programme to suit most of the staff, and be prepared to add some things in for the few. Not one size fits all.

Offer a range of activities from relaxation sessions to choirs, book clubs, creative writing courses and exercise boot camps. Encourage staff to share their own interests and run activities too.

7. Don’t force employees to participate

You need to find a balance between offering too little and too much. You also can’t force people to participate. You can encourage and adapt to suit demand. Some things like providing fruit may have small but significant benefits. Grabbing an apple, rather than nipping out for a chocolate bar may over time become the norm. Don’t expect everyone to jump on board overnight. You need to have long-term goals too.

8. Don’t spend a huge amount of money, but do secure adequate funding

Don’t make the programme about the business. It shouldn’t be sold as a means to make bottom-line profits increase. Be prepared to invest in your people. Businesses spend thousands of pounds on equipment and tools, so why not make sure workers are cared for with the same financial commitment. There are lots of low-cost alternatives for smaller businesses. Don’t rule out Government initiatives or charity projects.

9. It’s not just a ‘nice thing to have’

Again, it’s all about making it an entrenched part of company culture. It’s not something that should be axed at the first sign of financial difficulty or if the people responsible for keeping it afloat lose interest. Make health and well-being at work a central company value.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: JoshuaDoulton

Joshua Doulton is a business writer and online marketing specialist. Using data provided by HR software company Planday, Josh is currently studying the implementation of office behaviours on corporations and SMEs.

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