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How to really deliver on your workplace wellbeing promises

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 28 Jun 2023

With World Wellbeing Week running 26 June-2 July, Adam Greenfield offers a practical guide to promoting better mental, physical and emotional health for employees.

A recent poll revealed that over half of employees feel their employer is guilty of “wellbeing washing” – where an organisation’s wellbeing initiatives turn out to be more lip service than actually advancing better employee mental, physical and emotional health. 

Workplace wellbeing is no longer a “nice-to-have”, where organisations can put minimal effort into a one-off wellness day or yoga class as a tick-box exercise. Employers must invest time, effort and money into tackling systemic organisational and cultural issues that affect employee wellness to bring about real change. Wellbeing initiatives aren’t just important for increasing employee engagement and productivity; they are also imperative for attracting and retaining top talent, with 86% of employees saying they would quit their job if their company didn’t support their wellbeing. 

For anyone working in the accountancy and finance world, it is important to recognise that the industry is cyclical, with highs and lows of workload and stress throughout the working year. Creating a wellbeing strategy that is not only effective during the quieter months, but stands the test of these intense and stressful periods, is vital for enhancing employee resilience, performance and happiness. 

So, how can organisations walk the walk and really deliver on their wellbeing promises? Your first step should be to conduct a “wellbeing audit”, which will enable you to strategically plan and develop an evidence-based approach to wellbeing across your organisation. As a diagnostic tool, a wellbeing audit is the first stepping stone to assessing both overall wellbeing and your offering, before planning and delivering activities which attract, engage and retain your biggest asset – your people. Conducting a wellbeing audit will enable you to get a sense of what is truly working vs what isn’t, and to measure and analyse your wellbeing budget spend, from where you’ve seen the biggest engagement to any direct value on investment and ROI. 

Here are eight steps to take to achieve this:

1 Vision: Start with the end in mind

If you fast-forwarded 12 months, what would a successful wellbeing provision look like? What would you see your employees doing? How would they feel? What would they be saying? Use these discussion prompts within your teams – whether that’s HR, senior leadership or a wellbeing committee – so that everyone is clear from the outset on what the business is trying to achieve and can visualise the outcomes.

2 Have a roadmap

Having an initial clear plan of the direction you want to take with your wellbeing strategy will lay the foundations for improvement. Creating a wellbeing strategy for the entire company can feel like a mammoth task, so this initial roadmap will allow you to break it down into actionable steps, to set achievable goals and create accountability for implementation. 

3 Understand the challenges your employees are facing

Take the time to actively listen to and truly understand the wants and needs of your employees through a blend of qualitative and quantitative research. You might want to start with a wellbeing survey (or review existing results), before drawing out the key themes and exploring them in more depth with focus groups and discussions. Encourage employee-led ideas, enabling your workforce to be part of the solutions and therefore supporting advocacy.

4 Consider the quadrants of wellbeing

The wellbeing quadrants to consider are physical, mental, chemical (e.g. nutrition, sleep) and financial. Map out where your employees’ challenges sit within these quadrants. What do you notice the most? Is there overlap? You must be mindful that challenges within each quadrant will show up in different ways between employees, so having an open mind is vital. 

5 Ensure representation from a diversity of individuals

Seek out a variety of voices for feedback and/or to be part of your wellbeing committee. You may have to approach staff directly to get them involved, or join up with other committees to bring people on-board. The more inclusive the representation, the more effective your strategy will be to cater to diverse workplace wellbeing needs. 

6 When designing your wellbeing programme, consider accessibility

With the rise of hybrid and remote working, businesses must take into account the varying effectiveness of wellbeing incentives for both in-office and working-from-home employees when developing an accessible strategy. In our experience, organisations have more success when keeping the two offerings separate – just make sure there are equal opportunities for all to be involved. 

7 Test and learn

Implement wellbeing activities as prototypes and be open to receiving feedback to refine if needed. Take these trials as a learning opportunity to have a better understanding of your employees’ wants and needs. Making your wellbeing strategy a collaborative effort across the whole business will naturally breed a healthier and happier culture, as it demonstrates to staff that you are actively looking to implement and achieve inclusive wellbeing support, instead of taking a blanket approach.

8 Measure the results

If something’s not working, find out why before pulling the plug. It could be the right wellbeing activity, but at the wrong time or not accessible for some. This will vary if you are a global organisation, so measuring what incentives and activities seem to work across the board, and what elements may need tweaking to accommodate varying needs between different teams, is essential for creating a comprehensively effective wellbeing strategy. 

These tips will hopefully get you started in pinpointing your priorities – from short-term quick fixes to longer term, strategic objectives that will support and have direct impact on your organisation’s goals, including top talent retention and increasing business growth.

Dr Adam Greenfield is a Doctor of Chiropractic, workplace wellbeing expert and the co-founder of WorkLifeWell.

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