Employing people

6 ways to support employee health and wellbeing

Free gym subscriptions and fruit aren't enough to support employee wellbeing in the workplace. Here are six ways to make it part of your company culture.

People sitting at desks in a large office

It’s a fact. Companies with wellbeing programs in place are rewarded when it comes to productivity.

Better employee morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture, and lower absence are just some of the benefits that follow.

However, a wellbeing program must be an integral part of the company culture to be effective – not just a nice to have.

So, here’s our top tips for HR and People teams to create a wellbeing culture to support your employees effectively and holistically.

1. Get buy-in from the top

Reach out to senior leaders who don’t have a good work-life balance and engage them.

Offer guidance to them around their personal wellbeing and provide support on how they can lead by example. Simple but effective initiatives include being seen to finish working on time and not emailing out of hours.

For example, Vynamic, a healthcare consulting firm, implemented a company policy to discourage emailing after hours – including senior managers. Employees were banned from sending work emails from 10 pm to 7 am on weekdays and anytime on weekends. This simple change helped mitigate stress.

Elsewhere, Jeanette Martin, VP and Employee Wellness Program Manager at BankUnited engaged the leadership early on in their own wellbeing strategies, and now sits in on all of their senior leadership meetings – which brings us to our second tip…

2. Have a dedicated member of staff responsible for wellbeing

If your organization is serious about supporting employees’ health and wellbeing, consider creating a role within your HR or People team dedicated to this.

A good health and wellbeing professional will create programs for different abilities and ages and foster a culture of wellbeing. They will ensure the topic is always front and center for managers.

3. Tweak your wellbeing programs depending on your workers

Create, develop and tweak your plans over time depending on your employees’ engagement levels.

At the beginning, your focus might be participation. Not every program will interest everyone, so you will need to test a range that people of all ages and abilities can be a part of. For example, you could try something as gentle as a online calming yoga group to high impact virtual kick boxing sessions.

4. Have a specific long-term goal

Once your programs are established, you can change your goals to be more outcome-orientated.

Have a clear goal so that your program is easily understood and trusted. Whether your program is designed to reduce work-related ailments or prevent burnout, stay focused. Find out the top one or two health issues prevalent in your organization or the top wellbeing things your employees are asking for and devise a program to tackle them.

Also, be realistic. if you’re just starting out on this culture shift, you may not be able to cover all bases of health and wellbeing. Start off with one aim and when that is successful, you can build on it.

The most effective programs offer a combination of holistic, alternative, and clinical approaches to general wellbeing, mental health and financial health issues which cater to the needs of a diverse employee population.

5. Use data to understand patterns in behavior

Use People analytics to understand your people better. For example, are there specific teams who are disengaged?

Once you’ve done that, ask your people what would make them feel more supported by the organization. Whether it’s stress or a family issue for example, once you understand the issues thanks to data, you’re closer to effectively solving them.

6. Don’t ignore the easy wins

While creating an effective wellbeing strategy is a longer burn, there will be some easy wins right away.

Provide resources for your people as and when you introduce a new initiative or simply if you want to reiterate the importance of something that’s critical to your employees’ wellbeing.

Whether that be a central place for top tips for keeping your people engaged, or increasing your internal communications with latest updates then it’ll allow your employees to keep up to date with the wellbeing strategy.

For example, lunch breaks may seem trivial but they’re vitally important for wellbeing. Despite that, the average lunch break is just 22 minutes and nearly 20% of employees believe they’ll be seen as less hardworking if they do take one.

Remind your people of the importance of taking a break and speak to managers so they’re aware of the benefits breaks have for employees.

Wellbeing takes time

On average, organizations with a culture of health have been offering health and wellness programs for at least six years – but they’re well worth the wait. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes for the better starting now.

Effective and successful wellbeing programs can help improve an organization’s culture and change lives. Companies can also benefit from lower turnover rates, fewer absences, increases in productivity and higher job satisfaction.

What wellbeing initiatives do you have in place?