Wellbeing; the buzz word on the tip of every employer’s tongue in 2018.

Many think a lot of time, effort and, more importantly, money needs to go into creating and implementing a workplace health and wellbeing programme but that’s not always the case. Sure, we won’t deny it helps if you have the budget to kit everyone out with the latest fitness tech, but that’s rarely the reality, unless you work for a cool start-up in Silicon Valley! With practical DIY steps, every employer can set up a new health and wellbeing programme quickly and easily.

Setting a programme from two angles

Of course it’s our business to know about health and wellbeing in the workplace, but we hadn’t previously implemented a dedicated programme for our own team of 60 staff. We decided to approach it from two angles. Firstly, a management led initiative. We instructed a wellness company to conduct a survey of all staff to identify common health trends and needs amongst our workforce. That allowed us to create a programme of training and awareness workshops on appropriate topics – stress and resilience; nutrition and healthy eating; men’s/women’s health; and alcohol awareness.

Secondly, an employee led initiative. We felt it was important that, while sponsored by the Executive team, activities should be led by employees themselves. This leads to a more inclusive and relevant programme addressing the real needs of employees. So we created a Health & Wellbeing team with the purpose of improving work life for employees, and helping them to better consider and be aware of their physical, mental and financial wellbeing.

How we got the ball rolling

Firstly we created a small health and wellbeing team of staff volunteers. Our first meeting consisted of research and discussions about what we thought would make a successful and engaging health and wellbeing programme. This was put into a staff survey to get feedback so we could design a programme around their needs. This method provided everyone across the business with a voice. We then prioritised the results that came from the survey. Any that were quick and easy to implement and we thought wouldn’t be met with any resistance were immediately put to our Executive team. These included a company-wide walking challenge, more flexibility in our working hours and remote working, mindfulness workshops, volunteer days and a permanent casual dress code.

We also decided to create a new health and wellbeing group on our company social media. This was so we could clearly communicate with the company about what changes would be made, when and to share interesting health articles to improve understanding and increase engagement within the company. We celebrated this launch with a pizza lunch…!

Results

Not all ideas put forward were agreed by the Executive team. An extra day’s holiday for birthdays was denied, as was background music being played in the office. It was thought mindfulness workshops wouldn’t be very popular and the survey results supported this.

However, from the survey results we successfully implemented the following:

  • A permanent casual dress code, not just dress down Fridays. This has been welcomed with open arms by staff, especially because of the extended 2018 heat wave we experienced!
  • An extra fruit delivery during the week. This has been popular, clearly evident as there is never any leftover fruit by the end of the week!
  • More tea/coffee/milk choices for staff
  • Company-wide walking challenge
  • Volunteer days
  • 1-2-1s and team meetings held outside of the office

 

Feedback and learnings

We had great feedback from staff on the small things we implemented and on the pizza lunch. Staff were excited about the volunteer days and there have been plenty of ideas of suitable charities we could work with. We’re starting the walking challenge in October and have 37 staff signed up, which is a pretty good turnout.

We’ve also had more ideas put forward by staff to the Health & Wellbeing team and there certainly seems to be much more interest and engagement from staff than we perhaps anticipated at the outset. Providing everyone with a voice, and implementing many of the suggestions early is clearly key to getting good early engagement.

Another reflection which we were very conscious of when designing the programme, was the extent to which Ellipse as the employer should intervene in an employee’s health and wellbeing.

Healthy employees can only be good for business and good physical health is closely linked to good mental health. However, there needs to be boundaries set by employers. We don’t want to pressure employees to feel like they have to take part and everything we offer is optional. It’s important to inform staff but to also give them choice. We were careful not to create an environment where people felt uncomfortable or pressured, after all diversity in all respects is a very positive attribute in every workforce.

“As a leadership team we introduced a Health and Wellbeing initiative because it felt like the right thing to do for our people, to offer them practical help and guidance to improve and maintain their overall physical and mental health. Since launching we have handed the ownership for this over to an Employee team who are now driving the programme and putting forward proposals for where we go next. I’m really pleased with the engagement we have had from our people and if this ultimately helps them enjoy a happier and healthier work and home life then I think that is a great outcome.”

 

In a nutshell

Employers are increasingly realising the impact physical and mental health issues can have on business performance. For all the talk of health and wellbeing strategies it can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. But that is not the only way to go about it. Here we’ve outlined some ideas of how to do it on a budget and with an immediate effect. We want to ensure the changes are simple and can be done relatively easily. Small change, big impact.

But this doesn’t work for everyone. An employer can have the best sentiments to change their staff environment and improve the health and wellbeing of their employees. A lot comes down to how much the employees want to embrace and make change. A health and wellbeing programme is not something you can buy ready-made. Getting managers’ support and having staff lead it can result in better take up and engagement.

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