Wellbeing: tips for starting a workplace programme
Following on from our What the heck is “wellbeing” article, here are our tips for starting a wellbeing at work programme.
1. Don’t rush it
With so much to go at, it’s tempting to rush into a wellbeing programme and start kicking-off initiatives left, right and centre. But if you want your wellbeing programme to have traction and longevity, and not be written off as just another HR fad, it is worth taking the time to do your research, think it through and plan the implementation up front.
2. Before you set off, work out where you are
Before setting out on your wellbeing journey you need a clear idea of where you are starting from. You need to establish a baseline from which you can identify your priorities and measure your performance. Good ways to establish this baseline include:
- Collating as much wellbeing data from existing source as possible, such as: sickness absence rates and costs, accidents/incidents, referrals to Occupational Health, employee retention, amount of training and the results of appraisals.
- Conducting an employee survey. To provide the data you need to form an effective baseline and identify priorities, the employee survey needs to be wide-ranging, covering areas such as: physical health (BMI index), smoking and alcohol consumption, exercise, motivation and recognition, work load, working environment, relationships (colleagues, managers), communications, mental health (stress, anxiety) and work life balance
There are now a number of proprietary wellbeing surveys available that cover the whole of the agenda and can be tailored you organisation.
- Benchmarking against a published wellbeing standard, such as the Wellbeing Charter
3. Develop your own wellbeing programme and priorities
While published wellbeing standards and frameworks can be really useful, you don’t have to be constrained by them. There is merit in working out what wellbeing means for your organisation and developing your own programme, based on a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Equally, the wellbeing agenda is so large and wide-reaching, it is difficult to address it all at once. From the baselining exercise you will be able to identify what the priorities are for your organisation and what areas of wellbeing you want to focus on. You don’t have to do it all at once.
4. Make sure you mean it
You will have a greater chance of success if you and your organisation recognise that wellbeing is a strategic programme. The implications of this are:
- it is long-term, i.e. it needs to be planned, funded and sustained over a number of years;
- it should be to be integrated into the overall business plan, rather than an HR add on, so it should be clear how the wellbeing programme relates to the overall business objectives;
- it will need support, buy-in and engagement from across the organisation.
5. Gain top level commitment and engagement
This item appears at or near the top of the “to do” list for any change management programme, and it’s particularly true for wellbeing. It is important that the Chief Executive and the senior management team:
- understands what wellbeing is all about;
- recognise its place in the strategic plan;
- are willing to endorse it and lead by example.
Things that help with this include:
- developing a clear business case for the programme;
- collating peer information – what similar organisations have done or are doing;
- using appropriate communication to engage senior staff.
You need to be able to give a clear and credible answer to the question “How is the wellbeing programme going to improve our bottom line?”
6. Identify and involve your stakeholders from the start
If people are involved in planning and designing the programme, they are much more likely to actively support it. Key groups that you may need to think about include:
- Senior managers
- Frontline managers
- Health and Safety and Occupational Health staff
Take the time to do genuine consultation from the start, i.e. “This is what we are planning, what do you think?” Give serious consideration to setting up a Wellbeing Project Steering Team, with representation from all the stakeholder groups, to lead and co-ordinate the programme.
7. Get the communication right
Successful wellbeing programmes depend on the engagement of a large number of people, so good communications is critical to success. Tips include:
- Take the time to work out a clear and easy to understand statement, free of HR -speak, of what wellbeing means for your organisation. You don’t even have to use the word “wellbeing”, for example, BT branded their programme “Work Fit”.
- Use language and messages that are appropriate to your audience and its culture – what might work in a desk-bound call centre probably won’t resonate on a construction site.
- Make an effort to make your material relevant and engaging – there are an awful lot of terminally dull wellbeing policies out there – make it fun, human and inspiring.
- Use a range of media and methods to get the message across – face-to-face, social media, intranet, newsletters, email video.