Mathew Carlton: How to kickstart wellbeing in 2019

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Lifestyle trumps pay for British employees

The new year has turned, and it is surely a great time to make some positive changes in your workplace. An effective workplace wellbeing scheme can yield numerous benefits for companies – and results can become swiftly evident. Positive outcomes include: a healthier and happier workforce; greater staff loyalty and retention; increased productivity and creativity, lower absenteeism and presenteeism and stronger bonds between employees and employers.

Here are five ways to achieve results like these in your organization this year:

Start by gauging staff feeling and then involving them
Workers can be a cynical bunch and a company announcement about a wellbeing effort may not go down well if staff haven’t been consulted first. A consultation is relatively easy to carry out – an anonymous staff survey can gauge how happy staff are, how they feel you currently support their wellbeing, and it gives them an opportunity to offer suggestions around wellbeing initiatives. You can even ask staff what they’d like to cover in the survey, to make them feel more involved. A logical next step is then to run an introductory wellbeing workshop bringing together all or key members of staff – and highlighting a number of areas that contribute to wellbeing, such as physical activity, mental health, good diet, adequate sleep, and support across the organisation. Employees should be encouraged to help organise wellbeing activities – if they want to – and wellbeing champions or wellbeing group members can be part of shaping the direction of policies and schemes.

Be open about mental health
Mental health awareness should be an integral part of a wellbeing strategy. Huge progress has been made in this area over the past few years, but there’s still an element of stigma around workers who suffer from mental ill-health. There are a number of ways to tackle this, one being making an Employer Pledge and joining Time to Change, a social movement looking to end discrimination around mental health. When a business signs the Employer Pledge, they demonstrate their commitment to changing perceptions and actions about mental health in the workplace and to ensuring that employees who are facing these problems feel supported. Time to Change works with ‘pledging companies’ to develop a plan to involve staff. This may include small activities like staging events for World Mental Health Day, and offering guidance to line managers so they are able to spot warning signs and feel comfortable having conversations about mental health with their teams.

Let staff choose how they get fit
According to research from the Health Enhancement Research Organization, employees who exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, are 15 percent more likely to perform better at work. Additionally, absenteeism is 27 percent lower for workers who exercise regularly. It’s easy to offer a reduced gym membership, but bear in mind that that not all staff will appreciate or use a gym. So offer each member of staff an amount towards their choice of physical activity or sports club membership (e.g. golf, tennis, swimming, yoga, 5 a-side-football) or even National Trust membership to get staff out and enjoying the great outdoors. Employees will feel empowered that the choice is theirs and making such an offer will help strengthen relationships with them.

Get management buy-in
Even the best staff wellbeing policies can be undermined if managers don’t appreciate their worth. Senior staff and management should lead by example with wellbeing (as best they can). If junior staff see managers taking their full lunch break, participating in any organised physical activities, and perhaps talking openly about mental health, they are more likely to follow suit. A manager who appears unhappy if members of their team take their full lunch allocation to exercise – rather than working through – will scupper the chances of wellbeing schemes being successful. Managers should appreciate that an employee undertaking some physical activity at lunch is more likely to be more productive in the afternoon. Over time, and with a number of staff perhaps participating, the business gains of physically healthier staff can be substantial. So in some cases, you may need to organise a brief training session for managers to make them aware of the benefits of workplace wellbeing schemes.

Have a goal in mind (and bring in support)
Running wellbeing initiatives is a step in the right direction, but having goals in mind will help give a scheme a clear focus. These could be to attain certain charter standards, to decrease days lost to absenteeism, to improve the health of staff, or to increase employee satisfaction scores following regular staff feedback. Results like these are not difficult to measure. Objectivity can be achieved through using external support. Employees often feel more comfortable providing feedback when an independent company is involved and such support can accelerate the process, run workshops, and offer expertise from a neutral perspective.

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About Matthew Carlton

Matthew Carlton is the founder and principal consultant at Shine Workplace Wellbeing. A former marketing professional, in 2017 he decided to change career paths and set up a business offering an all-encompassing wellbeing service to companies – particularly SMEs – that care about their employees’ wellbeing, but perhaps don’t know where to start when it comes to delivering such initiatives.

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