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Five ways to introduce employee wellbeing at work

25 Jun 2018

Paper fortune teller game on a beach showing 'work life balance'Wellbeing has become one of those buzzwords used by businesses. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this subject, and this can be confusing for anyone trying to introduce any sort of wellbeing programme into their organisation.

So, we’ve gathered together advice from five business leaders to help you on the journey towards improving the health and happiness of your workforce.

Change must start from the top

C-J Green is the UK CEO of leading facilities management company Servest, that employs over 20,000 people across the country. She says, “Unless you lead by example, wellbeing won’t become common practice. A major challenge in this arena is how leaders can encourage their colleagues to look after themselves.

“You can’t just nag people to take health and wellbeing seriously; nor can you simply display lots of posters recommending ‘five a day’ or ‘stairways over lifts’ and hope for the best. It’s about influencing the culture; the language and the behaviour.

“Yes, offering healthy food in the workplace is important; as is demonstrating that exercise is healthy. But a wellbeing strategy should go beyond that. Senior leadership should encourage it across the business if it’s to take on a life on its own. It’s about making it fun and ingraining it into the everyday.

“There’s no wellbeing magic wand. But the more you talk about it, the more it will become part of a common language. Words won’t cut it on their own – it is action that makes the difference.”  

Take a reality check

Richard Holmes is the Director of Wellbeing for Westfield Health, an award-winning provider of health and wellbeing services. He says that the key to success is to set realistic goals. The biggest mistake a business can make is to do too much, too soon, which can ultimately do more harm than good.

"Humans are inherently lazy," he says. "We like things simple and laid on a plate. Part of the process of building plans for people is about giving them simple things to do. So, we focus from the provider side in terms of developing programmes with daily rituals – five or six things you can do each day to help you eat a little healthier, sleep a bit better, move a little more."

Holmes adds, “It’s broken down into simple steps, that everybody feels are achievable from the outset. Quite often a lot of us will say ‘I’ve got to make this huge lifestyle change to get healthier’ and we don’t. We just need to make little adjustments and do small things bit by bit but on a regular and continuous basis rather than a massive attempt where we realise it’s all too much and we give in.”

It's good to talk…and walk

There are simple and immediate changes a business can make towards making its staff healthier and more productive and they don’t cost a penny.

Phil Jones is a Fellow of the IoD and the MD of office tech vendor Brother UK. He has spent time studying psychology and neuroscience and says “It’s an area that fascinates me – how you perform to the very highest level, how you stay in great physical and mental shape. And I started to learn about how blood flows around the brain and that if you want to be more creative you have to get up and start walking or do some exercise.”

He firmly believes that walking meetings can improve your performance and leads by example. “I tend to say, ‘Put your phone in your pocket, put your trainers on, we’re going out to walk.’ It means you don’t have other distractions.

“What you get is better ideas, better solutions and a better overall quality of conversation. What we want are people able to deliver their best work, and if you begin to constrain how that work is delivered – say, it has to be behind a desk or in a meeting room – then you might be missing a trick.”

Creating a healthier environment

Mark Twigg is an Executive Director at Cicero Group, a communications and marketing agency with offices in London, Brussels and Dublin.

He says, “There are things that employers can do that make a big difference. Our workforce is largely desk-based. Just making sure their desk space is ergonomically assessed so they’re not getting lower back pain or neck pain or shoulder pain, which over the course of 20 or 30 years will do a lot of damage.

“We have the free gym, we have the yoga lessons, we have the bike to work scheme. So, there are lots of things we do around soft benefits, but we can’t get away from the fact that for seven, eight, nine hours a day our workers are sitting down. But we can change that environment to make it healthier.”

Make a Stand

Jane Asscher is a managing partner and chairman at creative agency 23red. She worked on a campaign to reinvent adult health and says, “Many organisations have health and wellbeing programmes but, for too many, these are just a tick-box exercise. Even in businesses with well-established programmes, the reality is only a small proportion – perhaps 10 or 15 per cent – of the workforce actively participate. And companies are rarely actively engaged in finding out how to get their staff to participate more and benefit from them.”

One solution Asscher recommends is to have standing desks and meetings at work. “Studies show that a person could burn 30,000 more calories a year – equivalent to losing 8lbs – from standing for just two to three hours a day.”

The Takeaway

Quite simply, employee wellbeing should be a priority for any business. David Capper is the Commercial Director at Westfield Health and he says that “the workplace is a captive audience and there is such a clear benefit for UK PLC from us driving healthier choices through the workforce.

“Look at the productivity challenges this country faces. We’ve got Brexit looming which creates competitive pressure. We need a fit, happy, productive workforce to take that challenge on.”

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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