How to Create new Workplace Wellbeing Initiatives

How to Create new Workplace Wellbeing Initiatives

How to Create new Workplace Wellbeing Initiatives

As many employers are trying to open up their Covid-secure offices, leaders and HR are having to come up with new and relevant wellbeing initiatives.  The offer of free fruit, gym memberships, and car parking spaces became obsolete overnight on 23rd March 2020 when almost half the UK workforce was asked to work from home.  With the reluctance of many employees to return to full-time office working (as many as 70% according to some surveys), new and innovative ways to look after and retain staff have become necessary, taking in to consideration the increasing demands from workers for more home and flexible working.

Despite the pandemic, sickness absence figures have actually lowered, partly due to team members being able to continue working  remotely when feeling ill and not having a long commute, but also very few employees have been suffering from colds and other viruses as a result of lockdowns, home schooling, social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing.  Pre-Covid, surveys identified the clear correlation between staff wellbeing and engagement, productivity, quality of work, and overall individual, team, and business performance, and of course - ultimately profit; so it’s no surprise that organizations are trying to encourage workers back to the office with attractive wellbeing initiatives.

Pre-Covid, some company wellbeing initiatives simply included the provision of free fruit and break out or games areas. However, an employee’s wellbeing is complex and involves their physical, physiological and emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.  The American WELL Building Standard® addresses the old issue of sick building syndrome by considering the effect on employees of air, water, nourishment, light, comfort, as well as looking at levels of employee fitness and state and attitude of mind.  This is similar to the SMART Working initiatives embraced years ago by companies such as Plantronics, who introduced different work areas for concentration, collaboration, contemplation, and communication in their UK head office, encouraged remote working and healthy living, and as a result saw sickness absence levels fall to below 3%.

As a result of the pandemic, the issue of air conditioning has become even more important, with cases reported of Covid-19 being spread via this method alone.  Organizations are looking to create the safest work environments possible, including using digital Covid passports demonstrating regular negative tests and automatic temperature-taking on arrival.  In order to ensure your wellbeing strategy and policies are relevant and will be welcomed by the workforce, it is recommended that workplace wellbeing is assessed utilizing staff surveys, pressure profiles, and risk assessments to identify any additional and new pressure points.  Many companies have been criticized by being seen to ‘tick the wellness box’ by introducing simple agreements, such as not responding to emails after 8pm or before 8am, not sending emails at the weekend, or not allowing workers to eat at their desks in the past, but these ideas have often backfired as there is no buy-in or role-modelling from management.

Wellbeing strategies need to originate from the leadership team, as well as HR, and be role-modelled by line managers and embedded in to the organization’s culture, from selection to onboarding, to performance management, to exit interviews:  It is pointless for a company to insist employees take their allocated four or five weeks annual leave each year, when the senior management team may only manage a week in August and one at Christmas and during both times continue to respond to emails around the clock.

Well-being strategies should also be tailored to individuals, for example Millennials are more likely to be interested in cash bonuses than in pension advice or vouchers for high street stores.  A holistic and preventative approach to health and wellbeing may be more of a challenge with the number of cases of Covid, with alternative therapies such as meditation, massage, mindfulness, yoga, reflexology, and reiki not being allowed onsite.  However, encouragement to make healthy lifestyle choices including food, drink, and exercise should also be considered. Again, employers need to be ‘mindful’ that many individuals will not be comfortable with some of these holistic practices and generational differences should also be taken in to account; simple initiatives such as book clubs and foosball had become more popular as a break from hours sitting at a desk. 

Overall, the guidelines for Workplace Wellbeing strategies and policies include the following criteria: 

1. A clear, communicated vision/mission so that employees can recognise how their work responsibilities, tasks, and objectives contribute to the company’s purpose, such as the janitor at NASA saying ‘I help put men on the moon.

2. A Competency Framework with clearly identified acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, which are understood and measured at regular review meetings.

3. Leaders who walk the talk and live the company’s values, competencies and behaviours.

4. In the ‘new normal’ honest authentic leaders and managers with high Emotional Intelligence demonstrating Compassionate Leadership, who act as role models, can maximise the potential of their teams.

5. A clear understanding by all stakeholders of the demands being made of employees and their individual ability to prioritize and manage their workload.

6. The level of autonomy and empowerment employees and managers have for making decisions.

7. A swift and documented approach to Conflict Management and the handling of interpersonal disputes, with red flags to identify those who may be experiencing high stress levels.

8. The level and means of support the line manager, team and organization offer, including access to confidential EAPs which provide counselling services, as well as financial and legal advice.  Free Counselling has been identified as the most popular reward by employees.

9. Change Management and Resilience Programmes to proactively communicate and manage change and pressure.

10. The encouragement of true collaboration and teamwork, where employees set their own objectives, are rewarded for achieving team targets, and a Coaching and Mentoring culture is encouraged.

11. Coaching and Training interventions are mostly regarded as positive and motivational, therefore they help to promote feelings of well-being.  22% of Millennials recently surveyed said that the amount or lack of Training and Development was the most important factor in them leaving or staying with a company.

12. An opportunity to progress in the company with a structured approach to Talent Management and Succession Planning.

13. Consistency in pay, conditions, and benefits, where inequality can lead to resentment and ultimately resignation.

15. A positive work culture, led from the top, which may be initiated by professionally delivered 360 Feedback Reviews for senior managers in order to encourage more openness and trust.

15. The promotion and role modelling of a work/life balance.

With the war on talent being aggravated by the skills crisis post Brexit, the existence of 5 generations in the workplace, and over 33% of women now choosing self-employment, workplace wellbeing will continue to feature highly in the top 10 priorities for HR in a hybrid working model.

'The Resilience Training has made a huge positive impact and the outcomes are very visible - higher engagement and improved staff morale, as well as reduced sickness absence.'  HR Director  


About Jill Maidment

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