How to design a successful wellbeing programme

Businesses may want to improve employee health, but good intentions need to be matched by a strategic focus, says Chris Pinner

Almost all managers see a direct correlation between workplace wellbeing and performance. Yet, according to the CIPD’s 2019 Health and wellbeing at work report, only a third of private sector employers have a specific wellbeing strategy.  

The chances are, you have ticked some wellbeing boxes, but to throw in a few activities and feel like you are ‘doing wellbeing’ is missing out on huge potential. Would you get in a car with no sat nav and no idea where you were going? Having a strategy is knowing your destination, the best route to get there and how much time and fuel you have saved.  

The cost implications of poor wellbeing are far greater than absence and reduced productivity. They include failure to attract and retain top talent, employees not working well together, high levels of absenteeism and presenteeism and poor performance. 

Listening, assessing need and providing the right activities for your employees means maximum engagement, and maximum impact. Leading companies collect data and learn from it, refining their wellbeing programme over time. It sounds simple, but the CIPD research shows only 22 per cent of businesses critically assess the quality of wellbeing outcomes for those who participate in activities. 

No two companies are the same. One may be losing talent because of stress, while another grapples with low energy and engagement. Yet they often approach wellbeing programme design from a remarkably similar place.

Setting a clear benchmark, vision and plan are all prerequisites to a successful wellbeing scheme. But not all businesses choose to do this. Possibly, they are not sure how to implement an effective strategy, or how to measure the effects for stakeholders and managers. It can be tough to know where to start. 

Your strategy in four easy steps 

  • Goals. Start with the end goal – your ‘destination’ – and how you will measure it. If you commit to measurement, you are already doing more than most. Example success metrics could include employee engagement, absence rate or self-reported performance. Beyond that, try to ensure you capture actionable data. Asking behavioural questions such as ‘to what extent do you worry about your workload?’ can help. 
  • Reality. Know where you are right now. Benchmarking your current reality is a good place to start, and helps prove the impact wellbeing has down the line. Spend time auditing what you already offer: workplace ergonomics, employee engagement, talks, lunchtime walks, fitness sessions, drinking water, etc. Ask for opinions and embrace feedback, and use qualitative and quantitative methods to ascertain the areas in need of the most urgent focus. Highlight key areas that will have the greatest impact and add the highest value. 
  • Options. Understand what you could offer. Find out what your competitors offer and consider every option: fitness sessions, motivational speakers, employee assistance programmes, free apps, nutrition and hydration input, to name just a few. Allocate a dedicated wellbeing team to be responsible and accountable for setting a strategy calendar. Make your strategy varied and year-round, including one-off and regular sessions, talks and physical and mental health activities.  
  • Will. Commit to a sustainable wellbeing strategy. You could start off small, but ultimately the aim is for long-term improvement brought about by a process of consultation, trial, feedback and review. Take one positive step, right now. 

The right wellbeing strategy is a wise investment proven to improve productivity. It is a proactive way to attract and retain talent and reduce absence, as people are healthier and happier at work. Your strategy doesn’t need to be complicated or costly but it is essential that it is based on comprehensive research to establish the wellbeing activities your employees are most likely to engage in.  

Chris Pinner is the founder of Innerfit