Designing a meaningful workplace wellbeing strategy
Trying to avoid another wellbeing strategy that's nothing more than poorly-attended yoga classes and a sorry-looking fruit bowl? Read our guide on designing a meaningful workplace well-being strategy that will genuinely enhance employee health, engagement, and productivity.
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Taking steps to enhance wellbeing at work not only benefits your employees, but it’s also key to improving organisational performance. We know that a healthy and happy workforce is also one that is more engaged and motivated; that the majority of employees would feel more motivated if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing, and that happier employees are much less likely to look elsewhere.
The last few years have been a challenge for most of us, and many employees will have experienced an effect on their health and wellbeing. Amongst some of the most difficult economic challenges we’ve faced in decades, if employee retention and talent attraction is at the top of your organisation’s priority list, you’re definitely not alone.
How to write a workplace wellbeing strategy
A workplace wellbeing strategy is an action plan that focuses on the health and wellbeing of your employees. It may be part of your overall people strategy, and sets out not just what you’re going to do, but the impact your actions will have and how it will be measured. It should focus on different areas of wellbeing (such as mental, financial and physical), and consider both short term actions and long-term approaches to creating a happier, healthier place to work.
So how do you develop an impactful wellbeing strategy that leads to positive outcomes for your organisation and colleagues?
Our 5 step approach to designing a wellbeing strategy will help you to create an action plan that has a real impact on your organisation.
5 steps to implementing a meaningful wellbeing strategy
Step 1: Begin with the end in mind
There is also no ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating a wellbeing strategy. A meaningful strategy will be designed for your organisation and align with your strategic goals, values and mission. It will also be future-focused and proactive, as well as aimed at resolving both short and long-term challenges.
Whilst your wellbeing strategy will continue to evolve and develop over time, it’s important to consider your objectives and the impact you want to achieve before you begin.
Start by asking yourself how you will know that your wellbeing strategy has been successful. What would you see, what would you hear, and what would your data be telling you?
Would it be reduced absence? Improved employee engagement scores? Better online reviews? Improved performance or productivity? Fewer leavers? Establishing what you’re trying to improve and setting out how you’ll measure it at the beginning can be the difference between a successful wellbeing strategy and a pointless HR exercise.
Step 2: Do your research
One of the most important things you can do to ensure your wellbeing strategy is meaningful is to involve employees in its design. Carrying out surveys, polls, focus groups and workshops are all effective ways to gather feedback about what’s important to people in your organisation and ideas around what will work.
It's also important to include senior managers in this initial planning and research, as getting their buy-in will be critical to making sure your wellbeing strategy is properly supported and fully embedded into your organisation’s culture in the future.
Step 3: Create your action plan
Once you’ve considered the outcomes you want to achieve and have some meaningful feedback from employees, you can start to identify the areas you want to focus on. How you break this down will depend on your organisation, its ways of working and strategic aims.
Again, although there isn’t any single approach to creating a wellbeing strategy, we often recommend breaking it down into these 3 essential areas for creating a healthier workplace. These are promoting positive wellbeing at work, tackling the causes of poor wellbeing, and providing support when people need it.
Step 4: Engage employees
Engaging colleagues in your new wellbeing strategy will be crucial to its success. If you’ve involved them early by seeking their feedback, they’re much more likely to be receptive to your strategy when you’re ready to launch, and to continue to provide feedback to help you develop it.
Step 5: Evaluate
Evaluating the impact of your wellbeing strategy is key to making sure it stays relevant and valuable, and to helping you to demonstrate this to the organisation. You’ll have already identified a selection of meaningful objectives and measures which you can use to monitor its success, so take the time to revisit these on a regular basis and use the data to refine your strategy.
What to include in your workplace wellbeing plan
How to promote wellbeing at work
The first area focuses on taking a proactive approach to promoting positive wellbeing and health, and empowering employees to do the same. Put simply, this is all about creating a workplace that helps colleagues to stay healthy.
This might include:
A benefits package that focuses on helping to maintain the physical, mental and financial health and wellbeing of your employees
An individualised approach to flexible working
Effective line-manager training
Designing a fair, transparent and equitable pay and reward framework
Developing and maintaining culture of open, two-way communication and feedback
Enabling shared decision making, collaboration and then sharing of ideas
Encouraging employees to take control of their physical, mental and financial health for example through education, peer support and resources
Providing development opportunities that encourage continuous learning, growth and progression
A significant part of promoting positive wellbeing is also creating a ‘friendship-friendly’ culture. Studies have repeatedly shown that having best friends at work is key to employee engagement and strongly linked to productivity, performance and retention. Therefore, designing a work environment that allows for collaboration, relationship-building and regular social activities can have a huge impact on wellbeing – as well as your organisation’s bottom line. A free team lunch once a month won’t transform wellbeing, but it can make a difference by bringing people together to create meaningful connections and friendships.
How can you prevent poor wellbeing at work?
The second area focuses on the actions you will take to remove existing barriers within your ways of working or organisational culture that get in the way of your employees’ health and wellbeing. Actions speak louder than words – and taking the time to remove the real barriers that people face at work is one of the most impactful ways to show employees that you’re truly committed to their wellbeing.
According to the CIPD, some of the main causes for stress at work include excessive workload, management style and poor work-life balance. Understanding the biggest challenges in your organisation will be invaluable in helping to identify what will have the most impact.
For example, if work-life balance is recognised as an issue in your organisation, it will be useful to understand what slows people down or gets in the way of them achieving the balance they need. Your strategy may then include actions that focus on helping managers to better prioritise, coaching to help people set healthy boundaries, reviewing responsibilities, developing your internal communications strategy, or refreshing your approach to feedback and development. It could even be as simple as looking at your organisation’s approach to meetings (did you know that we have 250% more meetings every day than before the pandemic?!).
Providing wellbeing support to employees
The aim within this area is to provide resources and support for colleagues who are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with their wellbeing – whether its physical, psychological or financial. This is likely to include having an effective Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that gives colleagues access to therapy and support in times of need. You may also want to consider your approach to making adjustments for disabled colleagues, and supporting those returning to work after a period of ill-health.
A key consideration in this area will also be managers’ ability to identify the signs of stress, burnout and poor mental health; signpost colleagues to support; put in place workplace adjustments and have open, supportive conversations with colleagues living with mental health problems. Your strategy may therefore include providing training, resources and additional support for managers.
Generating buy-in for your wellbeing strategy
A strong communications plan will be important for making sure colleagues are aware of the strategy, which should be accessible to all employees and repeated across different platforms and spaces. It’s also important to ensure that senior leaders and managers understand their role in communicating, implementing, and supporting key wellbeing initiatives.
Consider asking employees who have a particular interest in supporting mental health and wellbeing to act as ‘Wellbeing Champions’. They can help you to communicate and embed key projects, as well as gather feedback and ideas from colleagues.
How to know if your wellbeing strategy is working
It’s important to remember that any strategy is unlikely to have an impact on your organisation’s performance overnight. The most effective wellbeing strategies will refine over a period of months and years; continuing to be flexible and aligned to the needs of the people it’s designed for. Putting in the time to develop one though is certainly a worthwhile investment – especially at a time when there are so many external challenges for both employers and employees.
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