Businesses are waking up to the importance of wellbeing at work. It’s one thing to acknowledge the issue, but it’s another thing entirely to expect SMEs to instantly get a successful programme up and running when they are dealing with so many other day-to-day matters.
Westfield Health advises companies across the UK on how to introduce wellbeing programmes at work. Here, they provide essential advice for anyone who wants to encourage positive and lasting changes within the workplace that will not only help improve health and morale but also boost the bottom line…
1. Walk don’t run
The need for a paced change
A major dilemma we face in the 21st Century is the sheer pace of life and the speed with which we are expected to respond and look at new ways of doing things. Try to do too much too soon and there is a danger of stumbling and falling over our own feet. A paced and controlled move in the right direction, with time to reflect, is far more aligned to a more balanced feeling of wellbeing.
There are a number of clear advantages to pacing any cultural transformation towards a new desired state. This is particularly relevant with something as important as staff wellbeing, which is an integral part of the DNA of any organisation.
The leading thinkers in change models and theories, such as John Kotter and Kurt Lewin, strongly advocate the importance of powerful, enthusiastic volunteers as crucial for leaders looking to put new strategies into effect.
They can drive the wellbeing strategy forward through their enthusiasm. When employees identify with colleagues they know well and work directly with, influencing behaviour change is easier.
The team at Westfield recently worked with a large UK construction company on a wellbeing initiative and met a team of volunteers who were to ‘champion’ the programme. They were all staff who previously didn’t even exercise, but had since personally embraced their own wellbeing goals and challenges, achieving amazing results from weight loss to running marathons. They overcame mental health challenges and physical conditions through structured, supported and paced programmes of personal change.
Nobody tried to force change at a pace that was unnatural to their own speed – but they got there. Their inspiration to others was influential and infectious. Crucially, they learned to walk first.
2. Focus on a few critical shifts in behaviour
Encouraging colleagues to make simple changes, like stopping old habits and introducing new healthier ones, can make a significant difference in all aspects of our wellbeing. For example:
- Are we sitting at our desks less?
- Are we taking time out to eat lunch away from the desk?
- Have we started walking more?
- Using the stairs more.
- Taking time out to relax periodically during the day.
- Are we going to bed at a set time each night?
- Making time for a healthy breakfast to start each day.
- Avoiding using digital technology and checking emails too late into the evening.
- Drinking more water.
3. Choose events that are in line with your employee interests
We might think we know everything about our employees – but do we really know what motivates and drives them toward possible behaviour change? Many people are motivated just to maintain a steady state.
It is also worth noting that moving towards positivity can be much more motivational than moving away from scary health conditions that people don’t always want to discuss.
You will probably get more interest in running an event titled ‘How to Build Personal Resilience’ or ‘How to Thrive Under Pressure’ than one called ‘Manage Your Stress Levels’, even if much of the content will focus on the same psychological and physiological areas.
Often, it’s a simple process of asking employees what would be of interest. What works for some may not work for everyone but if you can offer a range of behaviour change options that relate towards improving wellbeing, then you have more chance of making it work.
Smaller, more frequent, ongoing initiatives require less effort and integrate positive behaviour changes as part of normal daily practice. Eventually they become the cultural norms of ‘the way we do things around here’.
4. Use apps to make it more interactive
Our world is now seen through screens and although we need to embrace technology, we don’t want it to dictate and rule everything we do. We know all too well of the health consequences of doing so.
However, we must also recognise the advantages of using digital tools that can track, monitor, remind, motivate and share the adoption of healthy wellbeing practice. There are some great apps out there that have made a significant impact on countless people in their pursuit of wellbeing goals.
If wellbeing apps help us achieve our goals and aspirations by making life easier and more organised, it has to be good. Of course, it is always a case of ‘each to their own’ and if a pen, a diary, or post-it notes on the fridge work better for some people, then there’s no need to enforce change simply for the sake of it.
5. Continually measure progress to avoid it going off the radar
Track wellbeing initiative progress in 4 key areas:
1 - Business performance
Are KPIs improving since the wellbeing initiative started? Are relevant growth targets being reached more frequently? What is happening with less obvious indicators such as decreases in customer complaints?
2 - Critical behaviours
Have enough people at multiple levels started to exhibit the wellbeing behaviours that matter most? For example, are people leaving on time more often or not feeling guilty about taking their hour lunch break? Has absenteeism improved?
3 - Underlying beliefs, feelings, and mindsets
Are key cultural attitudes moving in the right direction, as indicated by the results of employee surveys? Are people generally feeling better and more engaged, or suffering less stress, depression and anxiety?
And finally, don't abandon the strengths of your existing culture
It’s easy to dwell on the negative traits of your culture. But if you can find ways to demonstrate the relevance of the original values and share stories that illustrate why people believe in them, they can still serve your organisation well. Acknowledging the existing culture’s assets will also make major change feel less like a top-down imposition and more like a shared evolution.
When you begin to truly believe in the physical and emotional wellbeing of your staff it can completely transform the face of your business, improve productivity and create a positive working environment, helping you to retain staff and making you a desirable place for prospective employees to work.
Westfield Health, our preferred partner of Health and Wellbeing Services, can help ensure your employees are well beings. IoD members can access specially negotiated discounts on a range of products and services.
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