In May, the CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report found HR had a crucial role to play in driving the wellbeing agenda. The British Safety Council’s 2018 report reached a similar conclusion, suggesting: “Workers’ health and wellbeing can no longer be relegated to the bottom of managers’ to do lists, absent from strategy meetings, exempt from financial forecasts.”
January is the perfect time for HR to set the wellbeing agenda and capitalise on the energy and enthusiasm a New Year brings for employees.
Some 86 per cent of respondents to the CIPD survey said they had observed ‘presenteeism’ in their organisation over the previous 12 months, while 69 per cent reported ‘leavism’ (working in allocated time off, outside contracted hours or while unwell) had taken place.
Health and wellbeing activities are ideally placed to help these issues. Respondents whose organisation had such activities in place during 2017 believed they had seen positive results, including better employee morale and engagement (44 per cent), a healthier and more inclusive culture (35 per cent) and lower sickness absence (31 per cent).
January is when staff are thinking about wellbeing. And HR can capitalise in three steps:
When HR leads, others will follow. Two fifths of respondents in the CIPD’s report had a standalone wellbeing strategy but most acted flexibly on an ad hoc basis. Proactive organisations were more likely to report a range of positive outcomes resulting from their efforts.
Colleen Lutz, senior HR business partner at Wunderman, says: "January is when we set the tone for the year ahead. We organise wellness activities every day of the month, from barre classes to boxercise, resilience sessions, nutrition classes, creative workshops and more." All Wunderman’s efforts are designed with a clear goal in mind; to help the team feel happier and healthier.
Set a wellbeing strategy and define the problem you are solving, whether that be beating stress, boosting productivity or building a healthy culture.
As Kate Fergusson, head of responsible business at law firm Pinsent Masons, says: “Communication is key when it comes to wellbeing. We’ve involved as many people as reasonably possible in strategy and implementation. Our wellbeing steering group includes directors and managers from HR, D&I and other functions.” Buy-in from senior leadership and line managers is key. They do not need expert credentials; but they do need to understand why workplace wellbeing matters.
Working bottom-up is just as important. Kate adds: “Engaging different people and teams has helped boost awareness across the firm about what we already do."
"Listening and feedback sits at the heart of our culture," says Jess Dealey, people operations manager at Brainlabs Digital. "We have feedback forums for each aspect of our culture and ensure our wellbeing programme covers physical and mental health support, from in-office exercise classes to counselling provided through our employee assistance programme.”
Working with people is complex. Learn from what works and what doesn’t.
Almost three quarters of UK adults failed to keep all their New Year Resolutions in 2017, according to YouGov. But research shows missing one opportunity to perform a behaviour does not materially affect habit formation.
Likewise, not all wellbeing activities will work perfectly. The important thing is that improvements are made. As an example, Wunderman ensures the energy put into activities in January flows through later into the year. As Colleen explains: "We get feedback and learn from what works well in January to inform the annual programme. Yes, there's a core team that organises the schedule, but it’s based on feedback from what everyone wants to see happening in the agency."
Change happens over time. The more energy you put into the wellbeing agenda, the more benefits you will get throughout 2019. Lead from the front to increase awareness of the value of a healthy workforce and build a strategy based on listening to the people you are trying to help.
Chris Pinner is the founder of workplace wellness provider Innerfit