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A Wellbeing Week at Work. Good or Bad Idea?

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

I have a couple of concerns about the idea of a week dedicated to wellbeing at work. Most obviously, does wellbeing at work not need our attention during the other 51 weeks of the year? Do we only have enough mental bandwidth to think about it one week in 52? Secondly, it seems to me there is a calendar entry dedicated to a particular issue every single day so unless it is directly relevant to me, I might sometimes roll my eyes and say “please, not another special day of the year I need to be aware of!”

We are inundated with information these days – both in and outside work – with 24/7 news bulletins, websites, social media, apps, newsletters, advertising, whatsapps, text messages, emails and more, all vying for our attention. So for a workplace wellbeing initiative to be seen, extra bright spotlights need to be shone on it. Which means that packing a varied programme of wellbeing activities into a week and putting together a prominent internal communications campaign might actually be the best way to get the message across, for people to understand the reasons why staff wellbeing is important and how the company is supporting it.

While some of my clients use a wellbeing at work week as a launch pad to raise awareness and interest in the subject, others implement something a little more modest: just one day can also do a job of work, so long as the message is clear and compelling and reaches the eyes and ears it needs to reach.

But how about the other 51 weeks of the year?

Some organisations are accused of paying lip service to things like staff wellbeing or its DEI policy or Environmental commitments, which is where having just one week devoted to employee wellbeing can look like a bad idea. I would suggest a better approach is to spread activities across the year so there is the opportunity to consistently support employees’ wellbeing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a weekly activity is needed, especially if budget is tight. Plenty of organisations successfully run just one event per month.

Why bother at all? Some important facts

Staff absence from work is both costly and disruptive and the single largest cause of work days lost is STRESS. In the CIPD report titled HEALTH AND WELLBEING AT WORK 2021, 79% of companies surveyed reported some stress related absence, rising to 91% of organisations with more than 250 employees. The numbers have been creeping up over recent years.

Of course there are many causes of stress, apart from workplace factors, such as

  • Financial worries

  • Personal relationships

  • Sleep

  • Ill health

But as the impact of staff absences on their employer grows, together with awareness of the issues involved, especially since the advent of Covid and hybrid working, most organisations are now taking additional measures to support wellbeing at work.

For the more enlightened organisations it goes further than trying to keep staff absence levels down.

There is a direct, positive correlation between employee wellbeing and company performance, using the key measures

  • Productivity

  • Profitability

  • Customer acquisition, retention, satisfaction and loyalty

  • Staff turnover

These are not theories, these are facts verified in countless research studies, just two of which are from the LSE (2019) and AON professional services/IPSOS (2021)

In their 2020 study titled ‘Mental Health and Employers’, Deloitte states that their work…“makes a positive case for investment in mental health by employers, finding an average return of £5 for every £1 spent.”

So whether your priority is wellbeing in the office or wellbeing on the financial statements, having a meaningful staff wellbeing strategy makes good sense for all organisations.

What comprises a successful employee wellbeing programme?

Staff engagement to ensure a high level of participation and for staff to understand how the company is taking their wellbeing seriously, get them involved before you set about creating something. Ask for suggestions about what would they like, set up a group to champion the initiative among colleagues

Senior level involvement – when team leaders and senior managers visibly support staff wellbeing initiatives, it affects both morale and participation. Signing off budget is of course essential, but active involvement from the bosses makes a demonstrable positive difference to staff

Consistency instead of a grand gesture like an annual awayday or a few sporadic events, a published calendar of activities clearly demonstrates commitment from the employer to the employee. It also allows people to plan, to book sessions in their diary and for an internal communications plan to be implemented

Variety offer activities that will appeal to everyone. Yoga and meditation are great but some people prefer more physical activities such as gym classes and running, others more passive activities such as massage and gong baths. Informative talks and workshops on sleep, stress, nutrition etc suit some people

Accessibilityensure that everyone can take part, regardless of their age, physical ability and experience. Vary the day of week, time of day and duration. Run sessions both onsite and online, recording them for people unable to attend the live sessions

Evaluate and refine – after a period of time, get feedback from participants, non participants and senior managers to understand what people like/dislike and the impact it’s having on their lives and the business. Refine the programme accordingly and then after another suitable period of time, get new feedback and follow the same process

If you disagree with any of this or would like to discuss plans for a Wellbeing week, day, event or programme, please contact Nick on + 44 (0) 787 966 6921.

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