How to develop an employee wellbeing policy for your business
Does your organisation have a wellbeing policy? If not, or if it could do with an update, Craig Bulow, founder of Corporate Away Days, takes us through the steps to developing an effective wellbeing policy that will engage your staff and boost morale, productivity and wellbeing.
Given the current pandemic, we have an even greater focus than ever on Health & Safety, and employee wellbeing. So now is a good time to review our wellbeing policy or to introduce one.
A wellbeing policy can help to improve a company’s culture, environment and long-term productivity by improving the wellbeing of the staff.
So how do you create a company wellbeing policy?
1) Find your wellbeing team
- Wellbeing working group: Encourage volunteers from different parts of the organisation to join a working group to design, publicise and monitor wellbeing activities. Meetings can, of course, take place online while we have social distancing constraints.
- Wellbeing champions: Encourage employees with enthusiasm, or a particular skill or sporting talent, to volunteer to organise and deliver parts of the wellbeing programme and sell the ideas to the rest of the organisation. Drawing champions from different parts of the organisation is likely to maximise participation.
- Wellbeing coordinator: Appoint a wellbeing coordinator from the group of wellbeing champions. The wellbeing coordinator is often the individual who has the initial idea and drive for a particular programme. They would be responsible for driving the wellbeing strategy and would chair the wellbeing working group.
2) Your brand and vision
It is important that your wellbeing policy matches your company brand and vision. Set out what you, as a company, are prepared to offer your employees that shows you are looking after their wellbeing.
It might be a bike to work scheme, onsite or online yoga class, corporate gym membership, healthy office snacks, collaboration spaces where individuals can share ideas and discuss face-to-face encouraging connection, a mindfulness training day, a daily inspirational quote on the intranet, a group talk from a wellbeing or mental health professional for senior management to act as agents for change to implement the knowledge into their teams. Many activities e.g. training, talks, even yoga or other exercise classes can be undertaken remotely for the time being.
3) Take a collaborative approach
Wellbeing is unlikely to improve if employees feel that wellbeing activities are condescending, or if they are suspicious about the organisation's motives for launching wellbeing activities. So, ensure you take a collaborative approach when developing the wellbeing programme.
Line managers and employees should be involved from the start in the development of policies. This could be as members of a policy-development working group, or through email questionnaires, or brainstorming sessions (online for now, unless socially distanced meetings are practical).
4) Who is it for?
When designing a policy think about the people within the business – there is no ‘one size fits all’ policy that will work for every business.
For example, some jobs require a lot of manual labour and heavy lifting and virtually no office work, whereas others are almost entirely sedentary. Some businesses have a much younger workforce while others tend to attract older employees. Likewise, some businesses have more women or more men. Look at your staff demographic and design a policy that meets their needs and addresses their challenges.
5) What to include
There is a distinct difference in a wellbeing policy to an occupational health policy.
A wellbeing policy aims to set out calls to action for initiatives, activities and events that have a wellbeing focus to engage individuals.
Gather all the ideas and suggestions from your wellbeing team and use them to develop the wellbeing policy document. The aim is a clear, concise document, so you’ll need to filter through the suggestions and, as a group, work out what stays in and what is left out.
At this stage you may need external help – someone who understands workplace wellbeing and can help navigate the way through all the ideas and ensure that a coherent policy is created that is balanced, caters to all the people in the organisation and is achievable.
Every wellbeing policy should include:
- A short introduction about why caring for wellbeing in the workplace is important and why the business is championing this.
- Clear advice on the three key elements to a healthy sustained lifestyle - sleep, diet and exercise.
- Describe clearly what the company offers to help care for employee wellbeing. For example, do you have free gym membership, or a person who comes in once a week to give chair massages, or a quiet space for relaxation? Are you committing to offering a number of away days per year to help with employee wellbeing?
Away days put individuals in the moment whilst being present with the people we spend most of our lives with. Being out of the office puts a new perspective on how we see each other as individuals in a non-work way. This encourages openness and understanding. While we chat with colleagues, face-to-face, about non-work-related issues we build stronger relationships.
To be effective, away days need to be activities that we would book or experience ourselves, in our own time and happily pay for. For example you might consider the following:
- Are you arranging some wellbeing classes, e.g. on nutrition, or meditation? Do you give paid time off to staff to attend counselling sessions? Whatever you offer – make sure you list it clearly in the document and include details of how to access the benefit.
- Show how you are going to create a fun, creative, collaborative and social atmosphere at work. It can be as simple as just talking to one another to begin with. You can encourage this is by, for example, having a breakout area or collaborative section of the office where talking is encouraged, where people show their interest in others, what are they working on. Perhaps provide some ideas to help? Showing an interest in their hobbies, interests, movies, holidays...
Other conversation starters include: internal competitions, trophy for the week, a positive quote for the day, treats on a Friday, a coffee/tea chat, healthy snacks in the office, layout of desks that encourage connections i.e. no dividers, arranging your next away days!
Whilst social distancing is still necessary remote activities can also be organised, for example, a ‘Not Away Day’. It will take some creative thinking but perhaps they could all go fishing at their own local catch-and-return lake and have a competition to see who can catch the biggest. Or, instead of go-karting, they could play online karting games together. What about a day at the races? Your team could dress up, get the prosecco on ice and bet on races being run abroad. You know your team. In difficult times it is good to get creative and give them a treat!
6) Sanity check
It’s always good to get an independent set of eyes to look over the document and offer advice on any changes or missing elements and to ensure you are within the law.
7) Tell everyone!
Distribute the wellbeing policy to ALL staff. But don’t stop there. The organisation should use the full range of in-house communication media to keep wellbeing messages alive, including employee newsletters, payslips, its intranet and video screens in common areas. Personalised communication can encourage employees to participate in creating the plan and then getting involved in the wellbeing activities that are offered.
8) Annual review
Once a year get your wellbeing team to look at the policy. Did it work over the last 12 months? Who took advantage of the opportunities on offer? Did it cater to all staff needs? Were some people left out? What could be improved? How could you expand it over the next 12 months?
Although wellbeing is very difficult to measure and some of the benefits are intangible, an effectively delivered wellbeing policy can improve so many areas of the business, so keep a log of the improvements; some will be measurable, some anecdotal. But success is a motivator for everyone – so find the successes and celebrate them.
9) Reporting on wellbeing
Include information about your wellbeing policy in your public reporting, for example, your annual reports and accounts. This demonstrates to employees, potential employees, investors and other stakeholders that you are observing good practice and that this is having a positive effect on the organisation.
Customers are also looking for companies with genuine corporate social responsibility. A policy that shows you put wellbeing at the heart of the business can help attract customers too.
10) Employment contracts
The Wellbeing policy can be an addition to the employment contract. If it is good enough, it can be used as a competitive edge to attract and retain the best talent - saving on expensive recruitment costs.
A good wellbeing plan will boost morale, create a more engaged workforce, increase productivity and improve company performance. The added bonus is retaining and attracting the best talent to your business, saving on recruitment costs and reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, stress and anxiety.
Craig Bulow is the founder of Corporate Away Days, a corporate wellbeing events company delivering engaging, inspiring and exciting events focused on wellbeing and reward activities. Corporate Away Days also creates, designs and builds corporate wellbeing policies and provides leading experts for interactive workshops, seminars and talks on improving mental health and overall wellbeing.