Rethinking your workplace wellbeing strategy
Article contributed by Paycare
October 28 2020 - Organisations across the UK have been steadily realising the importance of staff wellbeing over the years - and rightly so; yet, only half of businesses consistently supported all of their employees with wellbeing as we entered 2020.
This year has shown us more than ever why it's important to be physically and emotionally healthy - with many using lockdown to begin and sustain new hobbies and habits. And that's why the Paycare team (Health Cash Plan providers and Wellbeing organisation) is urging all employers to implement or refresh their workplace wellbeing strategy:
Around two thirds of us reported exercising to boost our mental health in the first few weeks of the Coronavirus lockdown. Now with many people returning to work after being furloughed, some offices opening up after being closed for many months, and most of the retail and hospitality sectors beginning to reopen, are these people going to have the same time and desire to incorporate exercise into their daily routine?
Supporting staff to incorporate these positive practices into their life post-lockdown is something all employers should now be looking at; gone are the days where individuals were expected to manage their own health and wellbeing without letting it impact their working day. Now, we understand that looking after the holistic health of the workforce is hugely beneficial not only to them, but also to the company as a whole.
According to Paycare's research, before the current health crisis, half of all businesses reported having a wellbeing strategy in place - presumably with the other half either providing support in an ad hoc manner or not at all; but the world has changed so dramatically in the last few months, meaning now is absolutely the right time to be considering refreshing an existing strategy or creating a new one.
It's expected that half a million more people will experience mental ill health over the next two years; there are more than 41,000 UK families going through the grief of losing a loved one to Covid-19; and 9.4 million employees experienced the uncertainty of being furloughed. In addition to that, every single one of us has gone through some sort of upheaval, whether it's a partner being made redundant, working from home, boredom, loneliness, shielding, home-schooling, the stress of constant media reports about Coronavirus, the list is endless...
What should a Workplace Wellbeing Strategy include?
A Wellbeing Strategy should protect the emotional, mental, physical and financial wellbeing of every member of the team. Naturally, employees should be supported through any specific problems which arise, but the strategy should also focus on preventing issues and making health and wellness a priority at all times, not just when a specific team member is experiencing an issue.
The strategy should cover the benefits offered to employees such as Health Cash Plans, gym passes, healthy snacks, access to a virtual GP, or workplace counselling. But just as important are the other factors: what health and wellbeing training can they access? What's the flexible working policy? Who do they go to if they need support? What happens if they need to see a health professional during the working day? Can adjustments be made if health conditions are making certain aspects of their job more difficult for them?
Ensuring the strategy is relevant in a post-Covid world:
The likelihood is your flexible and at-home working practices may have changed in recent months, so your strategy needs to reflect this. If you're going back to a rigid 9-5 structure having had employees working from home for many months, then do ask yourself why. Is it because you really need to for your business to continue successfully, or is it because you want to get back to status quo without considering how you could use 2020 as chance to adapt and refresh? Allowing your team to set their own working hours, work from another location, and manage their own workflow has been shown to increase productivity, it certainly helps with a work/life balance, and it's free!
If investment is a problem and you're going to have to remove one or two benefits, firstly ensure you go through the proper legal processes in order to do so (it's much easier to modify than remove) and secondly consider the lower-cost benefits you can introduce as an alternative. A benefit might cost the company a couple of pounds per month, but the real-life advantages to the team as a result, could be huge.
To know how introducing new policies would impact staff, you need to be listening to them. It's easy to assume team members will benefit from (or even be grateful for) anything they get from their company, but in reality, you might be offering something they don't want or need. Establishing a Wellbeing Champion who can gather the thoughts of all team members, opening up a direct line of communication between Staff and the Board, or making it simple and quick to fill out a quarterly staff survey about physical and mental health are all easy ways to ensure your strategy meets their expectations and needs.
This communication should be two-way: there is absolutely no point having a Wellbeing Strategy if it's locked away in a cupboard and no one has any idea what's included. Using a mixture of communication methods such as message boards, newsletters, emails and posters will ensure as many people as possible know what they're entitled to.
If you have more people working from home than before, then considering how they would access the same level of support and benefits as their office-based colleagues is a must, as well as ensuring that two-way communication remains solid and they feel included in the process.
The year 2020 has been full of dark days, worry, stress and trauma. But if there's one good thing which has come from it for UK businesses and their staff, it's been employee health and wellbeing moving up the agenda. We all need a little extra support right now, and any extra help you can give will result in loyalty, productivity, and higher morale among the team.
Letting the opportunity to refresh your Wellbeing Strategy go to waste at a time when that support network is so vitally needed by so many would be a real shame - it's time for a rewrite. Give every single team member the best support to move onwards and upwards into 2021 in the best place possible, both physically and mentally.
For more information about workplace wellbeing, visit https://www.paycare.org/wellbeing/.
Since 1874, Paycare (formerly known as Patient's Aid Association) has worked to help individuals, families, businesses, and their employees access a variety of preventative and reactive healthcare services which protect their financial, physical and mental health and wellbeing. Its dedicated mental health service - Paycare Wellbeing - launched in 2019 and provides qualified and confidential training to Corporate Groups including Managers, CEOs and HR teams.