Wellbeing Culture Piece

One of the most important things to get right whether you’re starting or scaling a business is your culture. You can have the best ideas, products and services in the world, but if you haven’t underpinned that with a set of values and behaviours everyone in your team can sign up to, you will struggle to realise your potential. Duo Global Consulting’s Sarah Callender spends much of her time advising businesses on culture change and here, she explains why taking care of the mental health and wellbeing of your staff is one of the best things you can do.

In the post-pandemic landscape, you’d struggle to find any employer who isn’t thinking seriously about what their culture says about their business and how it’s impacting their bottom line.  

Increasingly, it is the way companies support the mental health and wellbeing of their teams that is becoming the most important metric.  

As the line between work and personal life becomes increasingly blurred and campaigns like World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week call attention to the growing prevalence of mental illness among employees, the need for businesses to wrap their arms around their people has never been greater.  

The best way for firms to do that is to create a wellbeing culture – one where staff feel comfortable, can show vulnerability and don’t always have to pretend like everything’s fine if it’s not.  

Building solid foundations 

Creating that culture starts with building solid foundations that everyone in your team understands.    

Sarah Callender, Commercial Director at Duo Global Consulting, says: “Everyone involved with a business is responsible for driving a good culture.  

“You need to have the pillars of good company culture in place so that when you’re onboarding new people, they know what to expect, and when you’re engaging with existing staff, they know what’s expected of them and are helping drive the culture.”  

For Sarah, the culture of an organisation consists of the values and behaviours that its people observe and uphold.  

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the leadership team or those working in customer-facing roles, all must be on board with the change you are trying to achieve.  

“Leadership will set the tone, but particularly from a values perspective, we always encourage input from people across the business,” adds Sarah.  

The culture club 

One of the best ways to stimulate that wider input and drive improvement is to implement what Sarah calls “the culture club”.  

She says: “The culture club is about bringing a cross section of the business together.  

“It would include a representative from each part of the team who would meet regularly to bring shared values to light, raise challenges and discuss new ideas.” 

Sarah explains that what comes up often in these culture club forums are issues around mental health and wellbeing.  

This is where the leadership can really lead by example.  

“If leaders can build trust with their people, their people will be much more likely to come forward when they’re having a tough time,” says Sarah.  

“A lot of businesses make the mistake of just having a free phone number people can call, but if that’s not underpinned by the right behaviours and a culture of wellbeing, it won’t make a difference. 

“You’ve got to make sure that you’re not doing things just to tick a box.”  

Looking for signs 

Something else leaders can do to support mental health and wellbeing at work is train themselves and their managers to spot changes in body language and behaviour so they can tell when certain members of staff may be struggling.  

Sarah says: “For example, if someone is normally really chatty and they go really quiet, don’t be afraid to ask them what’s going on.” 

It can sometimes be difficult for leaders to have these conversations with employees as they might fear saying the wrong thing or not having the right answers.    

For Sarah, the best way to overcome these fears is for leaders themselves to be authentic and willing to show some of their own vulnerabilities, as often they are working in stressful environments and may have their own issues to share.  

“It’s important to make sure that you don’t feel like you have to behave in a certain way because you’re in a leadership role,” she says.  

“Actually, you’re still a person and you don’t have to pretend like you don’t have your own things going on.  

“Make sure that you’re being authentic and not putting on a persona because you think you have to lead.” 

The benefits of wellbeing 

The case for making these cultural changes stretches beyond it simply being the right thing to do for your people.  

More and more, it is the culture of a business that is determining how it’s performing financially and operationally, and how capable it is of attracting and retaining the best talent.   

Sarah says: “Research shows that people are expecting more from their employers and there’s a much bigger emphasis on company culture.  

“Businesses need to understand that this stuff is not just pink and fluffy, but really impacts your bottom line.  

“Just think about how much it costs a business if someone leaves. Think about how much it costs if they go on sickness leave. Think about how much it costs if they’re not being productive.” 

All in all, a wellbeing culture is something that all businesses should be actively pursuing.  

From the smallest start-ups to the biggest corporates, investing a little time and effort now to make sure your values and behaviours are conducive to supporting mental health and wellbeing, will pay back big dividends in the long run. 

Key takeaways:  

Richard Dawson
Article by Richard Dawson
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