Do Standalone Wellbeing Initiatives Really Work?

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7 min read

Traditional wellbeing at organisational level in the past has been driven by providing learning, development, and engagement opportunities for employees.  The training might have looked at topics like nutrition, mental health, being active and to a degree, this approach would have been ok, it would have done the job and ticked the employee wellbeing box.

Standalone initiatives tend to be created by business leaders, HR business partners and those in seats of influence or decision making.  There is a sense that these people have their fingers on the pulse, that they have an awareness of what employees need. They might also have a better understanding of what is happening in the market, the trends or what is working well for their competitors.

In 2019 a government report found that poor wellbeing is costing UK employers up to £42bn, annually.  Despite this, discussing health and wellbeing at work pre-COVID remained a taboo subject.  Has this changed, nearly two years later?

Tick box wellbeing doesn’t deliver to the masses, it won’t talk to employee feedback and will never be employee centric.  What’s more, ticking the wellbeing box might even damage engagement as employees learn that they aren’t being listened to in a way that supports them and their needs and let’s face it, people who don’t feel engaged and supported vote with their feet.

So, getting the approach to wellbeing right doesn’t just support employees to be well at work and home, it also reduces attrition, increases loyalty, and makes a company more desirable.

What Do Leaders Need to be Considering?

Business Leaders (or leadership teams) need to establish what it is that they want to be known for when it comes to wellbeing and create a compelling strategy that creates followership and a sense of belonging. 

In my own work, I know, and can evidence that when you ask employees to describe what workplace wellbeing means to them, they pretty much talk about anything that affects their condition and this, fundamentally, is what leaders need to listen to. 

Moving away from the traditional wellbeing approach to truly understanding what it is that is affecting employees in their day-to-day lives and stopping them from being well will make the difference to how they show up at work and how they contribute to the bigger organisational picture.

We know of many stories of companies that offer perks like free bar Fridays from 5pm or end of day yoga.  Of course, in the initial launch of such initiatives the organisation looks good for at least showing up in the wellbeing space but the challenge with these types of activities is that they don’t really stick or make a long-lasting difference that embeds a culture of wellbeing into an organisation.  They are worthwhile and should be included in the mix, but they will not drive long-term cultural change. 

What’s more, if an employee can’t get away from their desk on time to enjoy these perks the impact of this ends up being more damaging than offering the initiative in the first place, as trying to attend and then not being able to, just adds more pressure and stress

Employees are a little like consumers to brands.  As a consumer, we now expect the brand to understand us, suggest what we need based on what they know about us and treat us as an individual.  The same could be said for the relationship and level of understanding between employee and leader or employer.

Employee Wellbeing Tips for Leaders.

  1. Listen to understand, not to respond.  Invest time in understanding employee wellbeing needs and get to know your teams as individuals.
  2. Invest in being on the ground with those in the cold face of the organisation, taking the time to learn by listening to as many layers of the company as possible.  Leaders can learn that they don’t always know best but often their people do.

What Does This Mean for Future Growth?

Imagine a world where leaders listen to their people and then respond in ways where action is taken?  A ‘you said, we did’ culture of feedback-to-action can shift the dynamics of a working group significantly. 

When we ask a question and then respond to what we really learn, with action or explanation, engagement changes.  Employees learn to understand what it feels like to be valued and listened too and they are far more likely to stay put and not vote with their feet.

It’s also important to be a role model as a leader, it’s not an act, it’s real.  Role modelling isn’t about a leader acting up to show the world how amazing they are and only ever displaying the so-called positives behaviours required by the organisation.  In fact, the embodiment of wellbeing in leaders is what’s required.  This means they show up as real, authentic human-beings first and leaders second.  Relationships with employees and potential employees will change as leaders become accessible and are seen as real. 

Vulnerability is a good place to start.  Leaders telling their stories and showing their true selves with care, empathy, openly and with self-compassion will lower the drawbridge of emotional blockers for employee populations. 

Nurturing a culture of ‘I see you’ across an organisation is a scary place to be, but a place that will capture the hearts and minds of employees, reduce attrition, and increase loyalty.  People can be themselves 24/7 and in turn can ‘be seen themselves.’

I read recently that two-thirds (67%) of employees surveyed admitted they didn’t tell their employer about their mental ill-health. The main reasons:

  • embarrassment (23%),
  • Didn’t think their employer could help (24%)
  • Feared it would harm their career (19%). 

If employees aren’t talking about their whole human condition, then that indicates that they may not feel supported, they may not trust the company to stand by them and do the right thing at their time of need.  Instead, the drawbridge comes up and they bring just 50% of themselves to work. 

How Can Infinity Wellness Support You in This Change?

The essence and advice that I give in this blog is essentially how things get done at Infinity Wellness.  DDA or discover, design, and activate is our core methodology . 

We support our organisational partners in getting to the detail of what employees really need to thrive, feel engaged, have purpose and most of all be seen.  We understand quickly what is required for them to feel well at work and we use this insight to design and then activate change in a collaborative way.

The work we do is truly employee centric but, importantly, done in parallel with company strategy and vision.  The way we work can seem a bit scary on the face of it, maybe even as though we want to encourage organisations to give employees anything they want.  This isn’t the case.

Through a supporting mechanism of a cultural change framework, we can mobilise employee centric wellbeing transformation through employee’s eyes but also those of the company and customer. In the end, no matter what we do at organisational level, if we don’t ask the questions and find out what really makes people tick and importantly what it is that they need to be well at work (and at home), there is a real risk that any initiatives shaped and delivered just won’t hit the mark. 

Remember, wellbeing must be about anything that affects the human condition as we move away from the traditional wellbeing route and open our hearts and minds to what could really be.  This approach won’t only engage your workforce, increase loyalty, reduce attrition, and attract talent, it will also increase profits and revenue.

We have experienced this and it’s a wonderful place to work! To find out more click here or get in touch – stephanie@infinity-wellness.co.uk


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