April 14, 2018 Written by: Craig Carnochan

From the automotive industry through to sales and marketing, an issue concerning many senior executive leaders right now is staff wellbeing.

As a result of governmental policy changes, the rise of digitisation, Brexit, and a host of other factors, the shifting landscape of industry is making for an unsettling yet demanding era.

In my view, more than ever, a happy and healthy workforce is vital for business to flourish. Apparently, we are living in a time of the so-called “sandwich generation” – people in their 40s and 50s looking after young children and elderly parents concurrently, while technologically connected to work and home at all times.

A Chartered Institute of Personnel Directors (CIPD) survey found that such people suffering from mental health problems at work, including anxiety, stress or depression, had increased from a quarter to a third over the five years previous.

This subject hasn’t gone unnoticed by many CEOs, as highlighted in a recent Workplace Insight feature I read. The mental health of employees, especially those working within high-pressured roles, is now a top concern for UK chief executives.

Using data from the annual wellbeing report ‘Employee Wellbeing Research 2018’ from Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA), the article notes that nearly three quarters (73 percent) of respondents named intense working environments as the biggest threat to wellbeing. The report states:

“Just a third of respondents provide mental health training for line managers, and […]  one in six say they have no plans to introduce this sort of training.

“Although mental health in the workplace is the top priority for almost three in five CEOs in the UK […] currently, the key drivers of wellbeing strategies are to improve engagement and culture.”

The remarkable issue, however, is that wellbeing is not driven at Board level. Less than one in ten CEOs said their Board actively pushes the organisation’s wellbeing agenda and one in twenty (5%) reported their Board has “little or no interest in employee wellbeing.”

This is a shocking statistic in 2018. Where lip service to wellbeing in the past was a room of beanbags and a ping-pong table, now astute businesses are recognising the need for a holistic strategy for tackling welfare and mental health in the workplace.

I believe it is vital that organisations recognise this and implement wellbeing programmes that are incorporated into their culture genuinely and rolled out applying strategic communications.

One example of best practice is the Chamber Business Award winner, Flynn. Coming top in last year’s Health & Wellbeing category, Flynn provides a wide range of building and maintenance services to clients across the public and commercial sectors.

Flynn has around 250 directly-employed staff as well as an extensive supply chain. Flynn developed an overarching strategy called ‘BOOST’ that looks after the wellbeing of every employee and, unusually, subcontractor working for the organisation.  A judge commented:

“The BOOST programme is an example of excellence in health and wellbeing and offers clear benefits for both employees and the business. The inclusion of contractors in the programme goes above and beyond what might be hoped for in such a scheme.”

So how have they made their initiative such a success? Here are a few suggestions:

Lead from the top

The key to a successful wellbeing strategy is buy-in at all levels, and that means senior leaders setting an example for their staff. Sustained interest, promotion, and visibility are critical. If you or other senior leaders at executive level have a personal interest in a particular pursuit – from a sport to a mindful activity – use it to inspire others.

Cultural embedding

The most successful wellbeing schemes and those with longevity appear to be those truly embedded in the culture of an organisation. Staff are astute enough to recognise a fleeting tick-box exercise. Don’t embark on a new initiative unless you can show genuine and sustained support.

Know your champions

Let’s face it. Within all organisations, there will always be staff who are vocal and passionate about new things and those who, frankly, will not. Work with your HR and Marketing teams to establish a wellbeing champion or ambassador network. Likewise, managers at all levels need to be early adopters who enthuse others and set a favourable example.

Consider your organisation

Think about how wellbeing and mindfulness sit alongside your established brand and organisational values. The staff make-up will obviously be entirely different for, say, a chemical manufacturing firm compared to one specialising in procurement. Therefore, a wellbeing strategy needs to be fit for purpose and flexible. Take into consideration your employee demographics, work patterns and shifts, and split-culture across varied local or international sites.

Offer bespoke incentives

Similar to the above point, be mindful of what the best motivation is for your staff. Know what will work, from giveaways to time off. Recognise that such incentives may vary by employee type or even location, so let people choose for themselves or offer a menu of rewards.

Momentum, impact, and communication

All too often, such schemes can start well but fizzle out quickly. A wellbeing strategy needs to consider the immediate and mid-term health of your organisation and have a plan to maintain interest and enthusiasm. Motivate your staff, be creative, measure impact and metrics, and communicate exciting case studies.

As Investors in People – the standard for people management – has rightly put it:
The biggest asset your organisation has is its people; the biggest asset they have is their health and wellbeing – so it makes good business sense for you to look after it.”

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