How to engage staff in your organisation’s wellbeing initiatives
With many companies taking a fresh look at their operations as they continue to adapt to the changing business climate, an area you may wish to consider is your wellbeing initiatives. Here, Amrit Sandhar CEO of The Engagement Coach, shares his advice to ensure your employees get the most from your wellbeing initiatives and your resources are being used wisely.
In 2020, 118m days were lost across the UK due to sickness according to the ONS. That figure sounds astonishing, but it is actually the lowest rate in almost 25 years. It’s hard to know whether the 2020 data is an improvement over previous years with the furlough scheme potentially impacting. But even if we took an average from the last five years, (from 2015 to 2019) this figure is 134m sick days. The same ONS data shows mental health as being one of the main causes of sickness. This is supported by research from the CIPD showing that the ‘main risks to employee health are now psychological’ as well as physical. It’s therefore understandable that so many organisations are focused on employee wellbeing.
However, before we think about implementing any wellbeing programmes across an organisation, we need to be sure that the right initiatives are being implemented, to ensure any programmes are relevant and impactful.
You want to minimise any negative perceptions – seemingly irrelevant initiatives can reinforce views of a detached organisation, out of touch with how employees are really feeling. Employees want to feel cared for and valued, and there are a few steps that can help employees better engage with wellbeing programmes.
- Identify the right wellbeing initiatives.
It’s easier to engage in initiatives that address genuine challenges. Every organisation is different, and to identify which wellbeing initiative your employees will benefit from, you need to first look at the available people data.
Data such as absence/sickness rates and reasons, employee engagement surveys, outputs from focus groups, and leavers interviews can paint a rich picture of your culture and how employees are feeling at work.
Combining quantitative and qualitative data from across your organisation will help decide which initiatives will support employees best, meaning you will spend valuable resources in the right areas.
- Create a culture of wellbeing.
Employee wellbeing cannot be introduced in isolation to the culture of the organisation – it is a fundamental part of it. Having fantastic wellbeing initiatives are of little value if your culture is one of working long hours, toxicity, and little care and compassion about how employees are treated, leaving employees feeling undervalued. Naturally, in a culture like this, any wellbeing initiatives will be treated with cynicism and will likely fail.
It’s important that leaders and managers understand their role in creating trusting and inclusive cultures, where work experiences are a prime focus.
Once the right culture is in place, managers should lead by example in embracing wellbeing initiatives to support their own wellbeing, as well as their team’s.
Ensuring there is a good understanding of the real-world benefits of simple actions such as a healthy diet, enough sleep, drinking enough water, and having regular breaks away from a computer screen, can result in greater wellbeing and productivity. If managers are working long hours or not taking their full holiday allocation, what message does this send to the people around them?
The wellbeing of your employees depends on the culture you create, not on the initiatives you have in place.
- Implement or adapt your wellbeing initiatives to work for everyone.
With the world of work changing so much, the physical location where people work is going to be an important aspect of how well they engage with any wellbeing programmes.
For example, if you have a gym or yoga classes at work for employees to access at lunchtime then those working remotely won’t get the value. So, consider how you can offer equivalent alternative solutions, such as vouchers for remote employees to get money off these services from external providers local to them.
Allowing employees to access wellbeing initiatives from wherever they work will ensure greater adoption, resulting in employees being able to experience the full benefits intended for them.
- Communicate the initiatives available.
While this sound obvious, communication is often cited in many employee engagement surveys, as an area requiring improvement.
Of course, communication can be challenging enough to do well when employees are onsite, but now more people work remotely at least some of the time. So, make a deliberate effort to ensure all employees, remote or otherwise, are regularly reminded of the benefits available to them.
Keep your communications simple by limiting the number of initiatives you have. Too much choice can be confusing and harder for you to communicate, while a small number of focused and relevant initiatives can result in greater uptake and happier employees.
Regularly review the awareness and uptake of wellbeing initiatives to help you improve your communication of what’s available and ensure that your resources are being spent effectively.
- Make wellbeing initiatives accessible.
With all the previous steps in place, it’s important to ensure any wellbeing support is easily accessible.
Having to log into a portal, only to find the password doesn’t work, or the site is confusing and too complicated to navigate around, can quickly disengage employees. Integrating any support into the flow of work will allow your employees to access what they need, when they need it.
Microsoft have recently launched Cortana and the ‘daily briefing’ which is designed to improve productivity, including a reminder to take screen breaks.
Technology can also be used to help promote wellbeing. For example, organisations such as KPMG, Wiley and Monster offer apps to make wellbeing support more accessible, promoting emotional, physical or financial wellbeing.
It’s possible to add visual/auditory alerts on computer screens to remind your employees to get up and take a break at regular intervals, wherever they work. But you could go further by incentivising employees, offering tangible rewards and benefits. Imagine the levels of engagement if your employees accumulated points when regularly taking screen breaks, allowing them to leave 20 minutes early on a Friday, for example.
Incentivising behaviours that promote wellbeing, and ensuring initiatives are easily accessible in the flow of work, can ensure that everyone is involved in the collective effort of improving employee wellbeing.
- Wellbeing initiatives are important to support the physical and emotional wellbeing of employees wherever they are based – consider refreshing your available initiatives to take account of changed working practices
- To ensure successful engagement with wellbeing initiatives, it’s important that they are relevant, applicable to all, supported, communicated, and accessible, to ensure that organisations continue to put their employees first
- For inspiration, take a look at what some large organisations are doing and see what you could adapt for your business: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2021/03/14/wellness-and-the-future-of-work-some-of-the-best-companies-share-their-new-solutions/
- Keep a check on awareness and engagement levels to ensure that your resources are being spent on the most effective initiatives
- For more inspiring content on running your business, visit UMi’s platform: https://www.weareumi.co.uk/webapp/running-a-business/building-a-great-business/
About Amrit Sandhar, CEO of The Engagement Coach
The Engagement Coach was founded by Amrit Sandhar, who has worked with a number of well-known brands across the UK, to improve employee engagement/experience, ultimately to improve organisational productivity.
With a particular passion for neuroscience and psychology to drive behavioural change, combined with his experience in employee engagement, Amrit uses a data-driven approach to identify the issues organisations are struggling with, and to work with them to create solutions leading to drive sustainable change.
Amrit is a values-led individual who has a passion for developing people, as he believes highly engaged leaders drive better business performance by getting the best out of their colleagues.