“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans”
We are inundated with articles, books, interviews and reports all citing the personal, social and economic benefits of Wellbeing. Mindfulness, yoga, nutrition and more, there is a huge range of activities aiming to help us think, feel and act better so that we can cope better.
No surprise then that the drive for Wellbeing has reached the workplace. An IBEC 2017 “HR Update” reported that employee wellbeing is an increasing area of interest with two thirds of respondents expecting their investment in workplace wellbeing to increase in the next 5 years.
However, the same report also noted that while the majority of respondents rated wellbeing as very important or important, only 27% had a formal strategy in place. This backs up anecdotal evidence suggesting that the rush to offer wellbeing activities at work is not necessarily strategically thought out and integrated into the business
Here are some points for senior decision makers to consider in terms of a strategic approach to Wellbeing at Work.
1. Lead the Way
For many senior decision makers taking time to invest personally and organisationally in Wellbeing at work may not be an obvious priority, particularly when it vies for attention with many other competing demands.
However, without the personal investment of senior decision makers Wellbeing at work programmes may be destined to fail ultimately.
Leaders need to make it clear that Wellbeing at work is important and an effective way to begin is to demonstrate commitment by developing a strategy. However, before embarking on the strategy find a Wellbeing expert to partner with and pause.
Take some time to explore and learn more about what Wellbeing at work is and is not.
Learn more about mental health, stigma and organisational culture.
Explore how the organisation currently supports people to be the driver of their own Wellness in the workplace.
Most importantly explore what a personal commitment to your own Wellbeing at work means in practical terms. Perhaps this is the greatest challenge because you are committing to exploring your own views about Wellbeing and how you think about mental health.
Doing this requires putting your ego aside, demonstrating humility, being authentic and being open to think differently, to being the change, all frequently cited as distinguishing qualities of outstanding leaders.
When the Senior Management team have spent some time building their own understanding of Wellbeing at work they can move forward.
2. The Goal
As Stephen Covey advises “Begin with the end in mind.” Apply the same rigorous approach as you do to other functional areas and define your high-level goal for wellbeing at work.
Think about how your wellbeing goal is linked to and reflects the Corporate Vision, Mission and Values.
Ask why this goal? What competitive advantage will achieving this goal bring? While some organisations argue they have Wellbeing goals these may not be sufficiently specific or robustly backed up with hard and soft outcome measures in the same way as other areas of the business.
In terms of employee engagement, people connect most strongly to goals that have meaning for them, that evoke some positive emotion, so on a human level what difference will it make to employees if they buy in to achieving this goal?
Where Wellbeing sits functionally in the organisation reflects how it is viewed.
Does it sit in Health and Safety and is seen in the context of Psychological risk and legislative compliance?
Does it belong in Occupational Health and tends to be associated with responding to ill health?
Is Wellbeing part of personal development plans?
The examples cited above are not necessarily wrong, but it is important to explore and clarify where Wellbeing belongs because that will influence perceptions of its’ purpose.
A Wellbeing strategy needs to have strong links to organisational values. Values communicate what is important to the organisation so in the context of the Wellbeing strategy how will those values be reflected and demonstrated in our behaviour?
5. Strategy as Process
Wellbeing is a process and an outcome, i.e. the way we work should enhance Wellbeing and result in at least maintaining and ideally improving our level of Wellbeing.
Developing and implementing a strategic plan for Wellbeing at work is vital. Activities in the workplace are welcome but activity without direction, without commitment, will not deliver on the Wellbeing promise.