How to get employee wellbeing right in your business in 2019

Written by Matthew Carlton, Founder, Shine Workplace Wellbeing

If you’ve attended any business conference or read articles in the business press over the past couple of years, chances are you’ll be familiar with the concept of marginal gains and how incremental changes can have positive business impacts.

Developing an employee wellbeing programme is one way to achieve this. Often SMEs assume that such initiatives are expensive, time consuming, (in some cases) gimmicky, and aren’t appropriate for a company their size. This simply isn’t the case and benefits are multiple – including lower absenteeism, increased staff loyalty, and more productive and creative workers – with schemes often providing a swift ROI.

There is no one size fits all approach to employee wellbeing, given that the dynamics, personnel, challenges, and culture all vary so much from one company to the next. However, some basics apply for businesses striving to develop a meaningful wellbeing policy.

Define wellbeing

Firstly, define what wellbeing means to your business and involve your staff in the process of achieving and maintaining this. A definition we often use with clients is: “Creating the conditions for employees to succeed – promoting positive physical and mental health and understanding the needs of the workforce.”

Involve employees from the start

The right conditions can be shaped by employees within your organisation. Health and wellbeing are areas many people are interested in and some will have skills to offer and ideas that you should consider. Gauge interest through an initial (and possibly confidential) staff survey to ascertain happiness levels, how supported staff currently feel when it comes to their wellbeing, ideas, and interest.

An introductory wellbeing workshop is often a good place to start – bringing together all or key members of staff – and highlighting a number of areas that contribute to wellbeing, such as physical activity, mental health, good diet, adequate sleep, and support across the organisation.

Provide the right support

The importance of supporting your employees with wellbeing should not be underestimated. It’s key that managers appreciate the benefits of enhancing individuals’ wellbeing, the means to achieve this, and the business benefits it can lead to in the future.

Schemes fail if staff are, for example, encouraged to exercise occasionally at lunchtimes, but a line manager seems unhappy that members of his or her team are taking more time for lunch than normal. In this instance the manager should appreciate that an employee undertaking some physical activity at lunch is more likely to be more productive in the afternoon than had they worked through or taken a short lunch break. Over time, and with a number of staff perhaps participating, the business gains of physically healthier staff can be substantial.

Involve employees and let them shape programmes

Staff keen to get involved in wellbeing initiatives should, for example, be invited to join a wellbeing steering group, which is likely to give them a greater sense of purpose within the organisation. And throughout the company, staff should feel more appreciated if their employer is investing time and resources to improve workforce wellbeing.

Such a committee could meet monthly or quarterly to implement changes, organise activities and potentially develop an employee wellbeing policy – and meeting regularly ensures momentum is maintained. And while it may be headed up by someone from HR, a good cross section of seniority levels and staff from different departments should ensure a balanced representation.

Further balance and objectivity can be achieved through using third party support. Staff often feel more comfortable providing feedback when an independent company is involved and such support can accelerate the process, run workshops, and offer expertise from a neutral perspective.