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What’s the most effective way to improve staff wellbeing at work?

Fancy a massage over lunch? Or maybe unlimited holidays?

The Social Chain Group are a company most famous for having a role named the ‘Director of Happiness’, responsible for employee wellbeing and realising one of the company’s values – ‘Most of all, we give a s**t always.’ The role is innovative, tackling the desire for employees to roll over and snooze their alarm in the morning, by making the work place somewhere they want to go to everyday. The company offer unlimited holidays, a ‘see the world’ policy where staff are permitted to go travelling without the fear of their job not being there when they return, social clubs like football and yoga, and an interior designed by the workforce with a slide, basketball hoop and games room. Dr Kristen Fuller says, “hugging a dog or cat releases oxytocin and dopamine, hormones that reduce stress, lower blood pressure and heart rates, and increase happiness…”, probably part of the reason why the company has seven dogs that are based in the workplace.

There is a shift towards providing a more holistic approach to wellbeing and people management at work and more and more companies are imitating The Social Chain Group in this. However, is this really the most effective way of giving your staff the best experience at work and not moving on?

The President at CIPD says there needs to be a more focused approach on wellbeing at work, and that should be on management, not the environmental factors mentioned above

He believes, massages at your desk and mindfulness training at lunch time are purely short-term fixes. Employers should be addressing work culture, and the environmental factors are just one element of this. Do your staff feel like they can effectively and capably do their job with the right support from their manager? It’s fine to offer unlimited holidays and dogs at work, but are these really long-term fixes? When asked what people who love their jobs have in common, the top 5 results were:

  1. They enjoy their coworkers.

  2. They know what’s expected of them.

  3. They can make a real impact.

  4. They’re proud to work where they do.

  5. They feel recognised.

This blog hasn’t been written to identify which of these approaches is right or wrong. Enjoying where you work, having interesting and approachable colleagues and a welcoming work environment are all important and add to the wellbeing of staff. But they shouldn’t be used as long terms fixes for staff wellbeing and working culture. They should be used alongside good people management, capable managers who provide the resource and equipment so their employees can do their job well, evidence that they value them as workers, and show them where their work is adding value.

Like with anything, a healthy, balanced approach is best.

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