The UK has an old Health & Safety Act (1974) which states that employer must “provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of your workplace employees.”
This was updated in The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999). The update required employers to have arrangements in place to ensure the health and safety of their employees by, for example, undertaking risk assessments, providing employees with information and training, and promoting employee wellbeing through effective health surveillance programmes.
In neither of these laws are there any real calls to action and, in my opinion, they are out of step with what is happening in our workplaces and what is needed to address current issues. Some alarming statistics back this up: Employees take over 13 million sick days per year as a result of work-related stress, depression and anxiety; stress costs the British economy almost £4 billion per year, which is eight times the cost of accidents and injuries; £billions are being lost in the corporate and the working world to absence, presenteeism, low morale and mood, all of which result in low productivity.
And yet, despite the clear importance of looking after employee wellbeing, REBA (Reward & Employment Benefits Association) reports that only 8% of boards of directors actively drive their company’s wellbeing policy.
A wellbeing policy can help to improve the culture, environment and long-term productivity of a business by improving the wellbeing of its employees. Here, Craig Bulow from Corporate Away Days highlights 10 steps to creating an employee wellbeing policy for your business.
How can you get a Wellbeing policy in place in your business?
1) Find your wellbeing team
Wellbeing working group: Encourage volunteers from different parts of the business to join a working group to design, publicise and monitor wellbeing activities.
Wellbeing champions: Encourage employees with enthusiasm, or a particular skill or sporting talent, to volunteer to organise and deliver parts of the wellbeing programme and sell the ideas to the rest of the organisation. Drawing champions from different parts of the business is likely to maximise participation.
Wellbeing Coordinator: Appoint a wellbeing coordinator from the group of wellbeing champions. The wellbeing coordinator is often the individual who has the initial idea and drive for a particular programme. He or she would be responsible for driving the wellbeing strategy and would chair the wellbeing working group.
2) Your brand and vision
It is important that your wellbeing policy matches your company brand and vision. Set out what you, as a company, are prepared to offer your employees that show you are looking after their wellbeing.
It might be a lunchtime massage, bike to work schemes, onsite yoga class, corporate gym membership, healthy office snacks, collaboration spaces where individuals can share ideas and discuss face-to-face encouraging connection, a mindfulness training day etc.
3) Take a collaborative approach
Wellbeing is unlikely to improve if employees feel that wellbeing activities are condescending, or if they are suspicious about the organisation’s motives for launching wellbeing activities. So, ensure you take a collaborative approach when developing the wellbeing programme.
Line managers and employees should be involved from the start in the development of policies. This could be as members of a policy-development working group or through email questionnaires, or brainstorming sessions.
4) Who is it for?
When designing a policy think about the people within the business – there is no ‘one size fits all’ policy that will work for every business.
For example, some jobs require a lot of manual labour and heavy lifting and virtually no office work, whereas others are almost entirely sedentary. Some businesses have a much younger workforce while others tend to attract older employees. Likewise, some businesses have more women or more men. So look at your staff demographic and design a policy that meets their needs and addresses their challenges.
5) What to include
There is a distinct difference in a Wellbeing Policy to an Occupational Health Policy.
A Wellbeing Policy aims to set out calls to actions for initiatives, activities and events that have a wellbeing focus to engage individuals (only 15% of the world workforce is engaged) enhance connections and communication (73% of individuals in an open plan office fail to speak to one another), improve our mental health (£Billions are being lost each year through absenteeism and presenteeism)
Gather all the ideas and suggestions from your wellbeing team and use them to develop the wellbeing policy document. The aim is a clear, concise document, so you’ll need to filter through the suggestions and, as a group, work out what stays in and what is left out.
At this stage you may need external help – someone who understands workplace wellbeing and can help navigate the way through all the ideas and ensure that a coherent policy is created that is balanced, caters to all the people in the organisation and is achievable.
Every Wellbeing Policy should include:
- A short introduction about why caring for wellbeing in the workplace is important and why the business is championing this
- Clear advice on the three key elements to a healthy sustained lifestyle are Sleep, Diet and Exercise – so ensure these are covered in the policy document
- Describe clearly what the company offers to help care for employee wellbeing. For example, do you have a free gym membership or a person who comes in once a week to give chair massages, or a quiet space for relaxation? Are you committing to offering a number of Away Days per year to help with employee wellbeing?
Away Days focused on wellbeing can have a massive impact on employees, especially when the choices of experiences/activities are exciting, engaging and fun – rather than about work. When an employee is interested in an activity there is much more impact and therefore better results. It also creates a shared common interest with colleagues.
Effective Away Days are about connecting people face-to-face, encouraging communication on shared interests, out of the office, in a new environment.
Away days put individuals in the moment whilst being present with the people we spend most of our lives with. Being out of the office puts a new perspective on how we see each other as individuals in a non-work way. This encourages openness and understanding. While we chat with colleagues, face-to-face, about non-work-related issues we build stronger relationships.
To be effective, Away Days need to be activities that we would book or experience ourselves, in our own time and happily pay for.
- Are you arranging some wellbeing classes, e.g. on nutrition, or meditation? Do you give paid time off to staff to attend counselling sessions? Whatever you offer – make sure it is clearly listed in the document and details of how to access the benefit are also included.
- Show how you are going to create a fun, creative, collaborative and social atmosphere at work. We already know that 73% of people in an open planned office fail to speak to one another, this is such a toxic environment having a negative effect on morale, wellbeing and productivity.
It is really important to create a fun environment and it can be as simple as just talking to one another, to begin with. How you can encourage this is by showing employees a way to make that connection. Having a break – out area or collaborative section of the office where talking is encouraged, where people show their interest in others, what are they working on? What challenges they have? Perhaps provide some ideas to help? Showing an interest in their hobbies, interests, movies, books, holidays.
Other conversation starters include: internal competitions, a trophy for the week, a positive quote for the day, treats on a Friday, a coffee/tea chat, healthy snacks in the office, the layout of desks that encourage connections i.e. no dividers, arranging your next away day is!
According to a Study by Source Psychology Today, it was found that 90% of people say a fun environment is very or extremely motivating. A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.
6) Check it all makes sense
It’s always good to get an independent set of eyes to look over the document and offer advice on any changes or missing elements and to ensure you are within the law.
7) Share the news!
Distribute the wellbeing policy to ALL staff. But don’t stop there. The organisation should use the full range of in-house communication media to keep wellbeing messages alive, including employee newsletters, payslips, its intranet and video screens in common areas. Personalised communication can encourage employees to participate in creating the plan and then getting involved in the wellbeing activities that are offered.
8) Annual review
Once a year gather your wellbeing team together and take a look at the policy. Did it work over the last 12 months? Who took advantage of the opportunities on offer? Did it cater to all staff needs? Were some people left out? What could be improved? How could you expand it over the next 12 months?
Although wellbeing is very difficult to measure and some benefits are intangible, an effectively delivered wellbeing policy can improve many areas of the business, so keep a log of the improvements; some will be measurable, some anecdotal. But success is a motivator for everyone – so find the successes and celebrate them.
We know that looking after the wellbeing of your team will help to engage and motivate them, which in turn will increase productivity. In addition, it will help them feel appreciated and when a person is appreciated, they always do more than is expected of them.
9) Reporting on wellbeing
Include information about your Wellbeing Policy in your public-reporting, e.g. your annual reports and accounts. This demonstrates to employees, potential employees, investors and other stakeholders that you are observing good practice and that this is having a positive effect on the organisation.
Customers are also looking for companies with genuine corporate social responsibility. A policy that shows you put wellbeing at the heart of the business can help attract customers too.
10) Employment contracts
The Wellbeing policy can be an addition to the employment contract. If it is good enough, it can be used as a competitive edge to attract and retain the best talent – saving on expensive recruitment costs. More and more candidates are looking at the working environment, company culture, and actions around employee initiatives. It would be prudent not to ignore the shift in what attracts candidates today.
This is the way the world of business is going and must go.
As Suki Thompson recently wrote in the Sunday Times: “Successful businesses are fundamentally shifting from a time when process, tech and growth/EBIT at any cost were king, to, a culture with purpose, resilience and wellbeing at its heart, where people have become the drivers of sustainable growth and commercial outcomes.”
A good wellbeing plan is the practical application of this in today’s businesses. If you don’t yet have a policy, I hope the steps above will help you get one in place.
More on small business owners mental health and wellbeing and spotting signs of burnout.
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