steps to wellbeing

Our sister-company Brunel Employee Benefits and Unum, a leading employee benefits provider offering financial protection through the workplace, have teamed up to offer guidance and tips to ensure businesses are thinking about their wellbeing strategy and the importance of a healthy and happy workforce – both physically and mentally.

Taking steps to wellbeing doesn’t have to cost time or money.

Yet a 2019 study found that 82% of small businesses have no wellbeing strategy, (1) despite 65% of people saying they believed their health and wellbeing had improved where one was in place. (2)

Where employers did invest in employees’ physical and mental health, it also resulted in better employee morale and engagement (52%) and lower sickness absence (33%) (3) – a boost for all businesses, whatever their size.

Of course, if you’re unsure where to begin, developing and implementing such a strategy can seem like a daunting task.

So, we’ve put together some suggestions to help employers provide a robust wellbeing strategy – starting today.

Step one – Dig into the data

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey 2019 states that absence rates are at an all-time low, at 5.9 days a year per employee.

It’s important to know exactly what’s going on in your business, so you should ask yourself:

  • Are we in line with the CIPD’s absence rates?
  • Are we better? Worse?
  • What are the main causes of absence?
  • Are there specific areas of our business that struggle with sickness absence more than others?

See how you stack up compared to others. Take a look at absence data across your workforce, taking into account remote, manual, lone and sedentary workers.

According to the CIPD report, the top three causes of long-term absence are mental ill-health (59%), stress (54%) and musculoskeletal injuries (54%).

Are your employees taking sick leave due to mental health-related issues? Compare this with previous years to see whether this number has risen.

The measure of a successful wellbeing programme is whether it reduces sickness absence, and increases employee engagement and productivity.

But if you don’t know the issues facing your staff, it’s difficult to focus on the right support or measure any intervention plans you intend to put in place.

CIPD’s report suggests: ‘three-quarters of organisations report positive outcomes from their health and wellbeing activity – but this year they report an increased number of achievements.

Better morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture and lower sickness absence remain the most common benefits.’

Look at the demographics of your business too – it can really help knowing how your workforce is made up.

For example, gender, age and whether your employees have a disability can all affect an individual’s responsibilities, needs and wellbeing.

Steps to wellbeing – actions:

  • Know your numbers and know your people
  • View your absence data for the past year
  • Note the main causes of absence (stress, mental health, etc.)
  • Note which areas of your businesses have the most sickness absence

Step two – Find out what your employees value

Don’t think for a minute that you know what’s best for your staff.

You might believe that they’d love gym passes (if you have the budget for them), but they may actually prefer something on-site, like a yoga class once a week or a quiet room.

This is where it’s important to understand your company’s demographic.

A younger workforce might be more likely to value app-based wellbeing programmes and wearable tech whereas older employees might prefer a free health check or nutrition advice.

A simple way of understanding staff requirements and wish lists is to create a series of easy multiple-choice questions.

These can be sent to all your employees via a free website survey, like SurveyMonkey.

Remember that your aim is to find out what could truly help them, within your budget. Bear this in mind when you prepare your questions!

Ensuring your survey has free text boxes allowing verbatim comments and that it’s also anonymised will help you receive candid feedback.

Think about the key areas of wellbeing when preparing your survey – lifestyle, finances, physical and emotional.

From the results, you’ll be able to discover what your employees value and what to set aside.

Pick three areas to focus on as a start, rather than trying to deliver on every requirement.

Steps to wellbeing – actions:

  • Prepare and send a wellbeing survey to all staff
  • Ensure you include lifestyle physical, emotional and financial questions
  • From the results, select three areas to focus on

Step three – Organise a wellbeing committee

Wellbeing can be a tricky concept to bring to a company for a number of reasons.

Launching a wellbeing strategy could be viewed as ‘the right thing to do’ or some may do it because ‘everyone else is doing it’.

If you don’t believe in it, however, why should your people?

Equally, driving something through without your employees’ insight or engagement is also likely to get their backs up. Besides, enforcing wellbeing – which is pretty much a contradiction – negates the positives.

And there’s the chance that without proper communication, employees may even reject the idea.

So how can companies get buy-in from their staff?

The answer is to make them part of it from the off and organising a committee is a great way to start.

There will be a number of employees who view wellbeing as important. You’ll also get feedback and insights straight from the proverbial ‘horse’s mouth’.

Remember to get approval from your senior leadership team and if there’s someone within that team who you know already champions wellbeing either personally or professionally, why not ask them to sponsor the committee to give it more traction?

The committee and your senior sponsor will also be your advocates for wellbeing initiatives.

As such, they’re more likely to be able to demonstrate the importance of initiating a company wellbeing strategy than a directive handed down from on high by senior management.

The committee can also report on how wellbeing initiatives are being received by staff and how best to tweak them.

Steps to wellbeing – actions:

  • Request volunteers to form a wellbeing committee
  • Try to include one volunteer from every part of the business

Step four – Current providers

So far, there’s been zero cost to your business, but you should have established:

  • A wellbeing committee
  • Three areas to focus on, via the employee survey
  • Some key measurables from your data – levels of absence, areas of absence, employee engagement etc.

With that in mind, who, if any, are you current providers?

Take a closer look at what they provide you and your staff, including any built-in aspects. Sometimes customers aren’t fully aware of all the added value services that may be part of their core employee benefits.

These might include an Employee Assistance Programme, return to work service or workshops. And if you have PMI (Private Medical Insurance), check to see what extras they might provide.

These can include health and wellbeing, health checks, flu vaccines, etc.

See how these providers can support the areas you want to focus on.

Steps to wellbeing – actions

  • Review all elements of your existing providers.

Step five – Local initiatives

Local community centres can be a good source of classes or services that you could highlight or even introduce to your workplace.

Stop smoking clinics, yoga teachers, Weight WatchersSlimming World or running clubs are all local initiatives that can be accessed at a small cost to the employee – or no cost to your business.

Even where there is a fee, there’s still the potential to host classes at your workplace.

Your employees are likely to be happy to pay for it if you arrange the session, and it’s quick and easy for them to join in.

Most personal trainers or teachers will gladly welcome ads appearing on the office notice boards or intranet explaining what they do, and inviting people to take part in sessions.

Steps to wellbeing – actions

  • Link in with the locals!

Step six – Apps

As technology advances, it’s never been easier to monitor and aid physical and mental wellbeing.

There’s now a wide choice of wearable tech and smartphone apps that can help your employees look after themselves.

Even if your business is not in a position to offer incentives, you can point staff in the direction of apps that match your wellbeing goals.

Today, apps are available that cover everything from meditation, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, monitoring sleep patterns, and stopping smoking to calorie counting, healthy recipes, and fitness and exercise programmes.

Check out Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android.

Of course, apps and even smartphones aren’t for everyone.

So for something all employees can get behind, think about introducing a step challenge.

Not only is walking good for physical health, it can also help emotional wellbeing.

Pedometers can be bought pretty cheaply for those people who are less tech-savvy.

And even if people don’t fancy taking part, encourage them to step away from their desks, and get out and about.

Steps to wellbeing – actions

  • Take (literal) steps to a healthier workforce.

Step seven – Competition time

One way to help motivate and engage employees is to encourage a little bit of healthy competition.

Teams and individuals often get a buzz out of challenging themselves, their colleagues and other teams for fun. In some cases, there are bragging rights at stake (until next time).

Some suggestions include step challenges, fun runs, charity events or sports days. Especially the gentler school type sports days, where sack races, three-legged races, egg and spoon can increase the fun factor.

However, taking top spot isn’t everyone’s ambition, so don’t make it compulsory, but do encourage non-participants to come along to support their teams.

Don’t forget a smartphone or tablet for those all-important video replays for disputed photo finishes. And if you want to up the ante a bit, you can always opt for small (or big, if you prefer) prizes.

Chances are, some people will have overcome a problem to take part, so – with their consent – highlighting some telling performances as beacons of wellbeing can encourage others.

Steps to wellbeing – actions

  • Get the sack (in the nicest possible way).

Step eight – Mind your Tech

While technology can be a real boon when it comes to wellbeing, too much can bring its own wellbeing problems.

As tech advances, the line between people’s work and leisure times are disappearing.

Chances are, the majority of us have taken a look at work emails in the evening or working on that project or presentation as deadlines loom, or even Facetiming or Skyping a colleague in a different time zone.

While most people will accept the occasional need to work beyond the usual hours, keep an eye out and an ear open for employees who may seem under pressure.

An unreasonable workload is the biggest cause of workplace stress, according to the CIPD, so ensure that people are supported, deadlines are managed realistically, and that switching off really does mean switching off.

Steps to wellbeing – actions

  • Pulling the plug when you need to can help people rest, recharge and feel refreshed.

Step nine – Steps to wellbeing and the business strategy

Finally, remember that any wellbeing initiatives need to align with the business strategy, and be seen to be endorsed and embraced by senior leaders in a top-down approach.

If not, employees will see through it as a tick-box exercise where it’s ‘do as I say, not do as I do’.

Senior leaders can feel the stress and suffer from poor health and wellbeing as much as any employee so in reality, they should take little convincing of its worth – especially if you put the work in early on to ‘dig into the data’ as suggested earlier, and get a true picture of your organisation’s absence.

Facts are difficult to ignore.

Even if you’re looking pretty good, there are still a whole host of little things you can put in place to improve wellbeing.

Whether it’s a bigger project like ergonomic assessments to reducing back pain, RSI etc, to free reusable water bottles to encourage hydration or even pointing people to free mental health resources such as Mind, there are benefits to be had for all of us from taking steps to better wellbeing.

 

Brunel Professions’ sister-company Brunel Employee Benefits are specialists in employee benefits packages for businesses of all sizes to suit their budgets. Having partnered with Unum, Brunel’s experienced experts can offer clients exclusive arrangements on a selection of wellbeing products. To find out more, visit the website or call Head of Employee Benefits, Anders Lewis, on 0117 456 7418 to discuss your package.

 

(1, 2) AXA PPP Healthcare, via Employeebenefits.co.uk

(3) CIPD Health and well-being report April 2019

 

Article written by Unum and distributed by Brunel Group.