At We Are Adam, we’re downright fanatical about workplace wellbeing. Our people are our greatest asset, and it’s vital that we keep them healthy and happy at work. As employers, we have a duty of care to our staff that we take very seriously.
In April, We Are Adam Director Vanessa Jackson joined 4 other HR experts to discuss the role wellbeing plays at work, in association with Bruntwood Spark.
Alexia Roberts – Head of People @ Bruntwood
Leah Heath – Brand Ambassador @ Worklife by OpenMoney
Rob Marshall – Managing Director @ Worklife by OpenMoney
Andy Romero-Birkbeck – Founder @ We Are Wellbeing
What is Workplace Wellbeing?
Ultimately, it’s about happiness and health. As health is tangible and measurable, it’s traditionally been the focus of wellbeing programmes. Happiness is subjective, making it much harder to measure.It’s lead to a fundamental part of wellbeing getting neglected.
Despite the events of 2020, wellbeing is sometimes perceived as ‘fluffy’. The reality is that it impacts on organisational effectiveness and your business’ overall performance. People only get engaged in their company culture if that environment makes them happy. Overall, wellness in the workplace is connected to three key indicators: positive relationships, the environment and security.
The challenge is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Those who are already engaged with it, will get involved easily. How you reach disinterested employees should be your top priority. As your programme needs to be inclusive, it must be wide reaching. With that in mind it can be tricky to know what to do for the best.
Has COVID-19 changed employee expectations?
We can’t get away from the fact that the pandemic has impacted significantly on our mental health and financial security. We’ve lost income due to furlough, and human connection due to physical distancing. Many people have joked about struggling to make conversation when they return to the office, but it’s no laughing matter. Social anxiety is a very real threat to our workforce.
Worklife shared the results of their recent survey. Of 750 employers, only 22% are concerned about the wellbeing of their employees. That’s a significant disconnect. According to mental health charity Mind, 37% of the UK workforce are anxious about getting ill if they return to work. Reports of financial anxiety are increasing, and the rise in burnout is well documented across the globe.
COVID-19 has shifted the dynamic, and employers have no choice but to adapt. We’ve blurred the lines, and though we may feel the benefits of a shorter commute, we’re also not resting effectively anymore. Shutting off at night is becoming harder and harder as the lines between work and play are dissolved. What works for one, doesn’t work for another. In our business alone we have some people chomping at the bit to get back into the office, and others who are content working remotely. Businesses will need to support individuals rather than treat employees as one entity. We must give people a choice.
Why does wellbeing matter?
We surveyed our network and found that 84% of people would like to see their employer trial a 4-day week. Our research also revealed that as little as 7.5% of people would be happy with a full time return to the office, and 7 in 10 candidates are turning down roles that aren’t offering some form of flex such as hybrid or agile working. You can download the full guide here.
One thing that is important to remember is that a great wellbeing programme benefits your business. The aftermath of COVID has given us limitless opportunities. We can only take advantage of those possibilities with a healthy, engaged, and productive workforce.
Did you know that pre-pandemic, the average UK worker lost 35 days per year to a lack of productivity? (Source: Vitality) There’s no way to sugar-coat it, that’s a significant loss to your business.
By embracing agility in your set up, you could find:
· Savings in overheads due to reduced rent & bills, IT & supplies, furniture requirements and even lower business rates.
· Team resilience is improved as they are less stressed and in control of their time.
· Reduced sickness rates as employees can work at a time and place that suits them.
· Reduced attrition. We all know employee turnover is a costly business and judging by the demand for flex on working patterns, you’re more likely to retain your current workforce. Read more about the true cost of attrition here.
· Access to better talent. Removing geographical restrictions when hiring means you can get the right person for the role, and not just the one who sort-of fits and lives close to the office.
Where should you start?
Benefits are a drain on your budget if they are not utilised. The key to getting it right is your culture. For people to actively utilise the benefits you offer, there needs to be a culture of trust. There’s a certain stigma indirectly associated with wellbeing. That being off sick - physically or mentally - may mean you are incapable of doing your job. That same stigma stops us from accessing the preventative initiatives offered by our employers, driven by the fear of being viewed negatively.
Historically, wellbeing is dropped on the HR department, but that only offers you one perspective. Workplace wellbeing goes beyond perks and benefits and incorporates health and safety too. Because of this, you should establish who is responsible for what. And that doesn’t mean it all sits on your shoulders. Employees can be made accountable too. Develop a clear statement of intent and communicate it effectively.
For wellbeing to be successfully adopted company-wide, you need to understand what it looks like across the organisation. You could do this via a survey or facilitate a cross-department discovery session to establish needs. Data-backed decisions allow you to introduce specific policies that directly address your teams’ needs, rather than taking a broad-brush approach and hoping it works.
Review what you already have, if any, and combine that with ideas from your survey. Categorise them into the following key pillars:
Financial | Mental | Physical | Social | Environmental
Once you know what you are going to offer and who is accountable, you can start to implement your new programme. Human beings are resistant to change by nature, so it’s important to be incremental in your roll out. Start small, get your employees engaged, and then expand the offering over time.
How do we communicate it?
One of the strongest tools in your arsenal for embedding a wellbeing programme is totally free – positive role modelling. This should come from the top down, with senior leaders paving the way for others by being open and authentic. There needs to be absolute clarity in your communication, no matter what your wellbeing programme looks like. Don’t leave employees guessing or they will always jump to conclusions.
Again, there’s no one size fits all solution to effectively communicating this as it’s all about the tools you have at your disposal. Here are some ideas:
· Advertise on your intranet.
· Send a monthly wellbeing newsletter.
· Embed into 121’s with line managers and yearly reviews.
· Discuss in daily stand ups.
· Senior stakeholder ‘open door’ sessions for wellness.
· Weave into induction and onboarding.
· Appoint volunteers as Wellbeing Champions to advocate for it daily and cut through the noise of business as usual.
· Give employees headspace in their working week. A few hours off will allow them to focus on wellbeing rather than being swamped by delivery.
· Take advantage of themed days, such as Mental Health Awareness Week to run workshops, advertise existing benefits and gather ideas for new initiatives.
Most importantly, you need to make it easy to access. Help remove the stigma by making it accessible anonymously where possible and keep wellbeing at the centre of conversations.