7 steps to successful workplace wellbeing
January’s “New Year’s resolution” season brings with it new beginnings and new possibilities. A chance to evaluate your situation and develop a plan to improve, whether it’s in your personal or work life – and more often than not the constant challenge of balancing the two.
It’s also the perfect time for organisations to reaccess their business visions, values and goals for the year ahead – to think about creating a company culture that makes your people want to stick around. A wise decision, because believe it or not, employees are evaluating their futures too.
In this article, I’ll share the importance of developing a healthy workplace culture in 2023 and beyond. How ensuring the welling of your employees is not just an organisation’s responsibility but also its’ opportunity to build a happy, loyal and productive working environment for all to enjoy.
I’ll outline 7 key steps to successful workplace wellbeing that will help you hold on to top talent and allow your business to thrive instead of just survive in what could be a very competitive year ahead.
The Great Resignation vs The Great Retention
Riding the coattails of last year’s ‘Great Resignation’, employees are demanding more out of their employers than ever and coupled with the new year’s ‘fresh start effect’ – they’re on the lookout for more fulfilling roles with organisations that value their wellbeing.
Pretty important considerations for any employer given that a 2021 Censuswide survey (commissioned by Juno) found that 57% of workers are currently suffering from low morale in the workplace and 21% said they now had a lack of care for the company they work for.
And you might be forgiven to think that higher salaries would be the obvious answer, however, it appears this is not the case with job candidates now being more interested in how an organisation will look after their health and wellbeing rather than just their bank balance.
In Scotland, a staggering 82% of employees said that attractive benefits like better work-life balance, workplace culture, access to benefits (e.g. childcare, healthcare) and the wellness tools at another organisation, were the key factors behind their decision to move to another job.
A CIPD Health and Wellbeing report shows that employers with wellbeing initiatives have a massive 44% better employee morale and engagement and 31% lower sickness absence. While Deloitte research indicates that it’s not just good for employees but good for business too with an average return on investment of £5 for every £1 spent investing in wellbeing initiatives.
So if you want to keep your star players and benefit your bottom line, it’s time to start thinking about how you can offer your employees a workplace that truly caters to their wellbeing and development. How can an organisation do that I hear you ask? Well, developing an effective workplace wellbeing strategy is the answer!
Many organisations already have wellbeing initiatives in place to support employees in the workplace – it is commonplace to offer some secondary and tertiary interventions. Although both types are extremely valuable and would undoubtedly make inroads into improving the wellbeing of many individuals, they are not long-term solutions to improving employee wellbeing.
They will not deliver the kind of cultural change that organisations need and something more significant is required to create a sustainable company culture. Primary interventions are essential to properly address the root causes of poor wellbeing in the workplace at the source. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure.
The differences between initiatives
Primary interventions are proactive measures. They are aimed at the organisation and implemented before hazards or harm are present.
Examples of primary interventions include:
- Pre-Employment Health Assessments
- Wellbeing program
- Flexible work arrangements
- Job design
- Leadership training and professional development opportunities
- Strong company culture
Secondary interventions are usually aimed at ‘at-risk’ groups or individuals providing support for those who are struggling. They are implemented at the workforce level with the aim of early intervention to reduce harm.
Examples of secondary Interventions include:
- Employee Assistance Program
- Occupational health services
- Offering counselling or coaching
- Workload adjustments
- Workplace loans
- Wellbeing programs
Although not our primary goal, secondary intervention should not be overlooked. Training can be a powerful asset in helping employees build the skills they need to tackle tough work issues like stress, harassment and bullying. With greater awareness of how these problems manifest themselves in their workplace, they become better able to identify and respond to them quickly!
Tertiary interventions are ‘helping people cope’ programmes that are generally delivered to groups and include things such as healthy eating initiatives, time management training, and access to physical fitness opportunities such as lunchtime yoga or gym memberships.
Tertiary interventions are reactive measures implemented after harm to health. The aim is to restore the mental health of the worker after the fact to help them return to work.
Examples of tertiary interventions include:
- Return to work coordination
- Healthy eating initiatives
- Time management training
- Access to gym memberships
- Lunchtime yoga sessions
With more emphasis on the organisation and work environment that affects employees rather than the individuals themselves, primary and secondary interventions are likely to be more effective for long-term success as they address the root causes of poor wellbeing in the workplace. For this to be implemented successfully you need a sound strategy in place.
A workplace wellbeing strategy is key
The Oxford dictionary defines strategy as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim” and that is exactly what we should be doing when developing a workplace wellbeing strategy – thinking long-term.
It is not a band-aid or tick-box exercise, given to the HR department to ‘patch up’ for superficial appearances or to yield short-term gains. This will not mend a ‘broken’ system or deliver the results you want.
Rather than a collection of well-meaning activities, which in themselves do not make a strategy, it must be organisation-wide, initiated by the ‘top brass’ with long-term aims woven into the company’s make-up. You want to develop a logical, structured and measurable strategy that will deliver long-term benefits for your people and build positive working relationships.
Share the business case for putting people first. A novel idea, I know! But it’s well documented that businesses that put their people first, benefit from improved employee retention, enhanced performance and reduced costs associated with absenteeism in the long run.
7 key steps for developing a wellbeing strategy that works
1. Identifying what it is that you want to achieve with your wellbeing strategy
Make it specific and think about what you want to achieve in the long term. Avoid vague statements as these lead to wishy-washy strategies – think SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound). Create the vision you see for your organisation and commit to a path to realising it.
2. Take time to evaluate the current situation
What is working well and what areas are causing problems for people? Gather existing data about absences, recruitment, and retention, both within your organisation and also within the wider industry you are part of. Engage employees in surveys and workshops. Consider what wellbeing initiatives are already in place, and what existing policies and procedures will the wellbeing strategy need to work alongside.
3. Build a framework for your strategy that suits your organisation
There are many wellbeing models out there you can utilise and it can be confusing to decide what will work best for you. Look for something that is evidence-based with a proven track record such as the 5 pillars of wellbeing or the CANBE wellbeing model. Ensure the model you choose aligns with and strengthens your organisational culture and identifies areas of focus. This will help inform the development of a strategy that works for your organisation.
4. Map what you already have in place into your framework and identify the disparities
Take stock of what is in place within your organisation and honestly determine where the gaps are. Consider how well existing initiatives fit into your wellbeing model. Do they need to be changed in some way? Can they be improved or expanded? This is the time to be brave and make some tough decisions about what will be scrapped or amended for the strategy to work effectively.
5. Plan the way ahead, in terms of short, medium and long-term actions
What do you need to do to fill the gaps? What needs to be tweaked or overhauled completely to fit the vision you have for your organisation? Break down your ambitions into achievable chunks, with set activities and outcomes that are timebound and set out a detailed plan of action, with clear roles, responsibilities and timelines.
6. Establish how you will measure your success
This will likely include comparing the existing data you have gathered on staff absence, retention and recruitment with the same future data after your strategy has been implemented but also consider other options such as employee surveys and focus groups. Make sure you have access to feedback from employees regularly, so you can ensure they are feeling supported and engaged by the initiatives in place.
7. Review, evaluate and adapt
Like any good business plan, your wellbeing strategy is a constant process that needs to adapt and improve with time and revisiting it regularly will help make it a core business priority. Keep track of your progress and make sure the strategy is always being evaluated and updated when necessary. Celebrate successes, share them with employees and measure the return on investment in terms of wellbeing outcomes.
These steps may seem simple, but developing a wellbeing strategy takes a lot of research, planning and development. However, when you get it right, not only will you reap the rewards of healthy and productive employees, but soon you will be the employer everyone wants to work for.
A well-thought-out wellness strategy can have a huge impact on productivity, morale and ultimately your financial bottom line and is essential to ensuring employees feel supported and engaged. Taking the time to invest in workplace wellbeing will not only help safeguard your organisation against any stress issues that may arise but will also develop your company into an attractive option for potential job seekers, turning ‘the great resignation’ into ‘the great retention’.
Input from a wellbeing professional will make the process much easier and more effective in the long run. They can provide invaluable guidance and advice on what works best in terms of wellbeing strategies, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed with funding the right wellbeing model for your organisation.