Today marks ‘Time to Talk Day’, a national mental health initiative, highlighting the need for employers and their employees to do more to encourage conversation around mental health and support colleagues suffering from mental health problems.
Employee wellbeing programmes should be a key component of any business strategy. Most adults spend a third of their lives at work, so it’s only natural they want to feel assured that employers have their best interests at heart. When done right, initiatives can improve productivity and staff retention, and help the organisation to attract the brightest and best candidates to new roles.
Yet few employers evaluate the impact of their health and wellbeing initiatives. As they start another year, organisations should refocus their efforts in this area to improve transparency and work harder to ensure holistic wellbeing programmes are supported at all levels of the organisation.
Although the benefits of wellbeing programmes are well publicised, success can be difficult to achieve. Part of the problem comes from defining exactly what “wellbeing” should entail, and then measuring outcomes effectively. Programmes can also be undermined by the attitude of senior decision makers and line managers.
Wellbeing initiatives are ultimately tied to job quality, so employers must first ensure staff have a safe and healthy working environment, fair wages, good working relationships, responsibility, a balanced workload, and suitable career development. Leadership on initiatives must come from the top down, linked to corporate objectives, with programmes regularly evaluated and managers trained in mental health awareness. Staff participation in the creation and development of schemes is also crucial to success.
A new culture
At Ark we see a lot of organisations implement initiatives for mainly cosmetic reasons, failing to truly embrace the necessary cultural change. Many are afraid to go anywhere near issues like mental health, or else pretend their staff aren’t affected. This is rather short-sighted, given the impact on corporate reputation, productivity and ultimately the bottom line that workplace stress and absence can have.
What’s more, the new occupational health and safety standard ISO 45001 has a major focus on wellbeing. Organisations needing to comply will no longer be able to pay lip service. For a programme to be successful it must touch all parts of the business, with buy-in from the top. Transparency is key: start with a working party to sit down and develop initiatives with full participation by employees.
The CIPD approach
Part of the challenge is the range of activities which fall under the “wellbeing” umbrella. CIPD has a great report detailing how to work through these issues to create a workplace in which employee health and well-being is a number one priority. Its wellbeing pyramid illustrates the five key elements which need to be addressed, with culture, people management and leadership the foundation of any effective programme.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, good line management is a vital pre-requisite for any successful wellbeing programmes. As the report says, the interaction between individual and organisation is also key across all domains of health, work, personal growth, values/principles and collective/social.
For more information or to evaluate wellbeing programmes with long-term benefits for your organisation, please get in touch with us on +44 (0) 20 7397 1450.