Someone recently told me, ’there is no appetite for wellbeing in corporate Australia’. I took their opinion on board as they were in a very credible position to have one. I’m also certain that every HR and business leader, acknowledges the importance and value that employee wellbeing brings to each individual and in turn the culture and bottom line of the organisation.
When I reflect on the many conversations I’ve had with organisations, wellbeing is on the agenda, although varies in priority while also juggling change and business as usual. By far the most common hurdle I hear is ‘there’s not much budget’. So, I don’t agree there is no appetite for wellbeing, but more, no budget for wellbeing. As wellbeing is personal and situational and with the over use of the wellbeing tag line, from a chia bowl to a mental health intervention, many organisations want to clarify what wellbeing looks like, where to start and where is the line between employer responsibility and employee responsibility for wellbeing.
“I don’t agree there is no appetite for wellbeing,
but moreso, no budget for wellbeing”
Unless a wellbeing program aligns to the organisations future strategy or addresses an immediate issue, gaining buy-in and funding can be a challenge. The other key challenge is the time lag to see results and proving return on investment. Programs that identify chronic health issues can have an immediate value, however a fully integrated preventative program can take up to 18months to 2 years to see significant results.
A key measurement of wellbeing is how someone feels about their employer and often starts with the simplest of actions. If you face the challenge of finding budget for wellbeing, there are low cost initiatives to build a culture of wellbeing through investment of time, energy and minimal budget:
What does wellbeing mean and who is responsible?
Wellbeing is different for everyone, by asking employees what it means for them, time and effort can be focused on the right initiatives. Then ask them who do they believe has responsibility for wellbeing. This allows employees to engage with initiatives in a way that suits them and not feel obligated and employers better understand expectations.
Incorporate the wellbeing conversation into one to one and team catch ups. What aspect of their health and wellbeing is being neglected that’s impacting their work and can the organisation support them to get back on track.
Lead from the top
Work culture and priorities are set by those at the top of the organisation. Living and working with wellbeing as a priority needs to be endorsed and lead by example from management. Work related stress can build from the difficulty juggling work and life priorities as well as lack of self care. Leaders need to lead by example to demonstrate self care, flexibility and trust that employees are valued by their output not just measured by the number of hours.
Influence from the middle
Create champions of wellbeing. Initiatives that are communicated from multiple sources including peer groups, have higher engagement. Ask employees for ideas of initiatives employees would like and in what way they’d be prepared to contribute. Once you who and how employees want to be involved, create a wellbeing committee, that champions health and wellbeing and spreads the word amongst their peers. Committee’s can vary in their structure and purpose, from creating formal programs and responsible for rolling out initiatives or act as role models and safe communication hubs for employees. Champions themselves can experience many added benefits including building a community, self development and tangible projects to include on their CV.
Set work boundaries
Technology has provided the ability for flexible work and work/life integration but if not managed well, can build an expectation of being available 24/7 and never switching off. Set guidelines of communications to restrict communications within certain hours unless there is an emergency. Also ensure employees know how to manage their email and communication alerts to reduce intrusion when their off work.
One final point on boundaries, when an employee is on leave, create respect they are not contactable unless it is a crisis! And on that point..
Encourage reduction of accrued leave
There is rarely a perfect time to take leave but for everyone’s health, it is essential. Research has found to reap the benefits of rest and switching off, the optimal holiday period is 8 days. If employees are habitually having extended periods without leave, encourage them take a break. Once work stress becomes someone’s normal, they may not recognise they need a break so create a culture where taking a break is encouraged not dissuaded.
Research has found to reap the benefits of rest and switching off, the optimal holiday period is 8 days
Recognition doesn’t need to have big rewards or showy gestures. Even when someone loves what they do, a lack of acknowledge and recognition is often a major component of employee dissatisfaction. A simple thank you for their contribution, well done on solving a problem, acknowledgement for how they handled a siuation. If they are going through a tough time, thanks for giving the best you can.
Mental Health awareness and confidence to support each other
Mental health awareness and removing the stigma is much needed but most people feel ill equipped to approach someone they feel may be struggling let alone offer support. First aid for physical trauma has been standard. If your organisation isn’t doing it already, Mental Health First Aid Training gives people the skills to recognise the signs of someone struggling and what to say and so as a first responder. Mental Health First Aid training can be found at a very reasonable cost.
Create Social connections
Create opportunities for employees to work in groups, organise an inhouse event, celebration, pot luck lunch. From the wellbeing champions, maybe there’s interest in a walking, running group or creative activity. People tend to be more open trying something new if they are not alone. Many employees also report they feel more positive about work if they are contributing to the greater good. Organise a group to volounteer and build it into a CSR program. Whatever the social connecting activity is, make it inclusive and try to avoid it centring around alcohol or always out of hours.