Wellbeing top of the agenda in Lunchtime Debate

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Strong health and wellbeing practices can boost employee engagement and productivity by as much as 50%, according to Anthony Douglas CEO of Cafcass.

Speaking at HR magazine’s latest Lunchtime Debate 'Building the business case for wellbeing', supported by Unum, Douglas said that wellbeing has become central to his organisation. “We made an equation – what we had spent on ill-health, we spent on health and wellbeing.”

Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation, Stephen Bevan confirmed this approach is representative of an overall shift in perceptions of wellbeing. “There has been a big shift in terms of awareness. It’s now a central business issue, and not before time,” he said.

He added people are now starting to see the link between wellbeing and engagement rather than categorising such initiatives purely as benefits. “Too many organisations have been paying lip service, and wellbeing has been seen as a staff benefit,” he said.

Bevan said he hoped to see more companies tailoring initiatives to different employee groups in the future. He said wearable fitness devices could be valuable in allowing employees to modify their own behaviour.

“Certain interactions will only work with certain groups,” he said, adding: “Technology can be used to help employees make more informed choices, and employers have a role to play in facilitating that.”

Joanne Abate, assistant vice president of global health management for Unum, added that wellbeing must be enshrined in an organisation’s values. “It has to be front and centre. For years we were told to leave all of our outside stress at the door, but that’s not how it works.

“People need the security of being themselves at work,” she added.

Senior HR director for PepsiCo, Matt Freeland brought up the difficulties of getting senior leaders on board. “With a particular leader, finding the thing to engage him or her could be the key – trying to persuade a whole board might be challenging.”

Overall the panel agreed that wellbeing will only grow in importance in the future. Douglas summed up the significance of the issue neatly: “HR can change lives.”

The 24 June HR Lunchtime Debate will be available to watch on demand on the HR magazine website soon.