Time for employers to get proactive on workplace wellbeing

Oliver Gray , 22 May 2012


Employee wellbeing might be firmly on the agenda for some organisations but are employers any nearer to really reaping all of the benefits associated with it?

Too many organisations take a reactive approach to wellbeing which leaves them missing out.

Too often organisations take a reactive approach to employee well-being. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean employers have failed to think about well-being or aren't putting solutions in place, because many are. In fact, many medium to large organisations invest thousands of pounds every month paying for private medical insurance and annual health checks. But this is all reactive.

Private medical insurance can add huge value to businesses and individuals in terms of speeding up rehabilitation and getting employees back to work quickly. But it does not really help employees who are not sick or injured. Successful organisations know that there are huge benefits to be had from combining reactive health interventions, like private medical insurance, with proactive sessions to help employees really understand what simple changes they need to make to improve their health.

The forward thinking companies know that by taking a more proactive approach, focusing on both physical and mental well-being, and promoting healthy ways of living they have a real opportunity to make a positive change to the health, energy and performance of their staff. It is this that will reduce the cost of reactive health interventions, increase positivity throughout the organisation and have a positive impact on the financial health of the organisation.

In order to deliver real change we need to move away from thinking about well-being as a standalone activity, it is something that needs to be threaded through all talent management activities and that really becomes part of the culture. It is not enough to simply hold one event or workshop just to tick a box - putting in place healthy habits take time and therefore well-being activities need to be delivered regularly.

Only by helping employees understand what simple changes they need to make to change their habits will organisations reap all of the benefits of healthy, energised, high performing staff. By organising health and wellbeing sessions that are relevant, dynamic, engaging and informative employees will be motivated to take action and it is this that will enable them to perform at their best.

Take stress as an example. Rather than focusing on stress, which is a word that creates so much negativity, instead organisations need to invest time coaching staff so that they become more resilient and are able to handle pressure. By training employees to be more resilient, giving them the tools to manage pressure effectively, employees are more likely to be able to handle the challenges that come their way. This means they are less likely to go off sick due to stress and are able to get on with their day job.

Organisations that are taking a proactive approach and making employee well-being part of their culture with directors, managers and employees buying into the concept are reaping the benefits. They are not only seeing a reduction in sickness absence and staff turnover but also an increase in performance, higher staff engagement and reduced healthcare costs.

Oliver Gray (pictured), managing director of energiseYou


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is stronger resilience a solution?

Helmut Buss 22 May 2012

While I support the need for strengthening of workplace wellbeing, I am wondering whether the strengthening of resilience is the best tool. The message seems to be: there is more to do, you need to strengthen your ability to cope with that. An alternative message could be: we are boxed into a management and business logic that claims that a lot of the activities we are involved in (e.g. risk analysis, performance measurement, evaluation, controlling, continuous change)are needed to make us better organizations. We need to question that logic and maintain values such as trust, common sense, professionalism, experience. Supporting wellbeing goes far beyond strengthening physical and mental fitness; it must include elements that make people feel valued and motivated, including respect, participation, transparency, ownership, excellence in people management or management "with a human face".

Challenges exist

Oliver Gray 23 May 2012

I agree that maintaining positive values, such as trust and ensuring excellence in people management, is essential in supporting employee wellbeing. But we would be wrong to ignore resilience. The reality is that challenges surround us, both at work and in our personal life. They are not all going to go away. By putting the right people management systems in place and helping employees develop resilience skills we can help reduce stress, enable them to manage pressure, both at home and work, effectively and strengthen their ability to respond positively to challenges. This plays a key part in helping employees achieve a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Mind Body Way to Confront Workplace Stress

claire cohn 07 Jun 2012

Your article makes good sense: healthy employees create healthy workplaces where wellness is supported, rewarded and sustained. My consulting company, On Your Feet Wellness provides workshops, mini-seminars, and brown bag programs to prevent burnout and reduce chronic absenteeism and turnover. Traditional exercise and diet recommendations aren't enough to alleviate work-related stress.

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