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Keeping wellbeing simple

If the past two years have taught us anything, it's the importance of wellbeing and our job's role in maintaining our happiness and a healthier physical and mental wellbeing.

Therefore, investing in workplace wellbeing is a great first step for companies wanting to make a lasting impact on employee health.

However, many companies know what they want the outcome of their wellbeing strategy to be but have little idea where to begin.

A robust and clear strategy must be in place to truly influence organisational change. And for the plan to have an impact throughout the organisation, company culture must also be transparent.

Wellbeing in UK workplaces:

Wellbeing should be on a par with health and safety, says BSC

How to create a wellbeing strategy that works for all

What’s going wrong with workplace wellbeing?


Creating great wellbeing culture: where to start

A detailed wellbeing policy means nothing unless you bring it to life with your actions. Research has found a startling but clear link between workplace culture and productivity.

Aligning your wellbeing strategy, company values and workplace culture will give you a clear focus and help you influence decisions in the boardroom.

Culture is powerful. It can make or break a workplace, as employees will leave their organisation if they feel the culture doesn’t fit or align with their own personal values.

Culture is crucial for organisations to get right, but arguably making significant changes is one of the most difficult challenges leaders are currently facing. 

You can check how well your values and culture align by getting feedback from people across your organisation. Consider different perspectives — a new starter might see things differently from a business manager or company director. You might ask questions such as: ‘What do we expect of our employees’, or ‘What can our employees expect from us?’


Building a wellbeing strategy

Like any effective business plan, a wellbeing strategy is an ongoing process. A cyclical plan will help you embed wellbeing as a core priority, make targeted adjustments and demonstrate its impact on business growth.

How often you revisit your strategy depends on your company's capacity and business structure. One common method is to set the direction of your plan yearly, review your priorities quarterly and monitor individual activities on a more reactive basis.

Wellbeing also means different things to different people – for some, it can refer to financial wellbeing; for others, it may mean mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, or women’s/men’s health.

Therefore, companies need to make sure culture fits well for their people; when it comes to devising a strategy, it needs to consider the different individual needs across the workforce.

This means listening, speaking, and reacting to what employees are saying.

The best and easiest way to do this is via staff surveys. However, it’s also important to open-up communication between employees and their managers by encouraging open and honest conversations to find out how they feel.

Once you know what your employees are after, begin thinking about how to implement change.

Throughout this process it is important to be honest. Speak up on what changes you cannot make and communicate why to employees. Keeping them involved in the conversation will make people feel heard and valued.


Making your wellbeing strategy work

The average worker spends 80,000 hours working throughout their career. This means a wellbeing strategy has to extend beyond offering a competitive salary; it must guide and support employees to manage their stresses and make them feel more valued and engaged within the company.

While each employee will be at a different stage of the behaviour change process, you can help them build positive habits by ensuring your wellbeing activities are visible, varied, and versatile.

To navigate through this, a whole-of-workforce approach is best. This will consider everyone’s needs and cater to individual preferences, while remaining consistent and in line with the company’s culture and macro strategy.

A good wellbeing strategy needs to be acted on. While starting with a policy or webinars might be a good first step, employers must be active and consistent, not allowing policies to be forgotten about after they're launched.

Businesses should lead from the top; senior leadership teams should think about their own wellbeing and their colleagues and practice what they preach.

Putting in a conscious effort to change company culture to maintain a better work-life balance in everyday actions is essential.

Companies also need to be fluid and adaptable – sometimes, mistakes can help you get things right. Don’t just tick boxes; things may very well be different in six months’ time, and sometimes it takes a little while for wellbeing to become an engrained habit for employees and employers.

As it takes time to change and create new habits, some things companies can foster to help promote better wellbeing are:

  • Ensuring there is ongoing, timely communication.
  • Regular fresh-air breaks
  • Training in coaching skills
  • Promoting DE&I initiatives actively
  • Recognising individual and team successes

Once improvements have been implemented, evaluate them, conduct temperature checks to see how the changes are being received, and be open to feedback.

Businesses can then use the insights to adapt their strategy, reshape workplace culture and empower our people to make positive lifestyle changes.

Vicky Walker is group director of people at Westfield Health