Is wellbeing worth the investment?

Written by
Kat Searson

03 Dec 2015

03 Dec 2015 • by Kat Searson

With ‘clean eating’ and ‘mindfulness’ being hot topics dominating our social media feeds, health and wellbeing seem to be rising up the corporate agenda, and with good reason. Employees who feel supported to achieve their goals, with their wellbeing considered at the forefront, are most likely to reciprocate and go the extra mile¹. It makes sense – look after your people and they are not only less likely to burn out and get sick, but the feeling of being cared for will mean they are more likely to be engaged with the company’s goals, and go above and beyond. More so, they’ll be better able to deal with everyday pressures and stressful situations with resilience, safe in the knowledge that they are important to the business.

Not just a passing fad

The wellbeing sector is one of the fastest growing industries, valued at $502 billion worldwide, and predicted to grow by almost half as much again over the next five years². With boundaries between personal and work life becoming increasingly blurred and the ‘always on’ culture of generations coming into business, it’s no surprise that employees are expecting more from their employers in this space. Wellbeing is being seen as a vital – rather than luxury – investment.

According to the government’s Building the Case for Wellness report, those who have turned their attention to their employees’ health are realising the business benefits of higher engagement, productivity and performance.

Conversely, where wellbeing isn’t valued, the risks can be damaging. In the UK, 11.3 million days of work were lost in 2013-2014 due to stress, depression or anxiety – an average of 23 days per person. The knock on effects go way beyond absenteeism, at worst, manifesting themselves in presenteeism – low morale, a low performance culture, and poor customer service. This in turn puts businesses at risk of losing top talent, impacts employer value proposition and can affect their ability to attract new talent, making them less likely to achieve their goals.

Awakening the work-life balance:

Wellbeing is more than just personal happiness. It is deeply rooted in the classic psychology behavioural and motivational models (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s motivational theory – to name a few), and is strongly influenced by factors around personal fulfilment and self-actualisation.

Wellbeing is about making the work life conversation a reality by finding a solution for balancing the two. Supporting them in harmony is key to ensuring people perform at their best. 

Working well when we are well for work

You don’t need to look far to see who is focusing on this hot topic.

Johnson & Johnson have made it their mission to become the world’s ‘healthiest workforce’. Addressing global health needs is part of their company purpose and so the best way for them to support healthy living initiatives is to live healthily themselves.

Born from their CEO Alex Gorsky’s belief (that ‘If we manage our energy efficiently and effectively it can have a big impact on what we do every day’), their approach to health and wellness to support an energised life, is broken down into three parts: nutrition, movement and a sense of purpose. Encouraging healthy eating to boost immunity by offering free fruit is a start, as is offering flu vaccinations and private healthcare.

Companies such as Nike and Red Bull recognise that ‘fit’ is the new ‘thin’, and believe the physical fitness of their workforce also links to their mental wellbeing. They offer subsidised memberships to gyms, fitness classes and clubs, as well as opportunities to work flexibly – to take a break to jump from a spreadsheet to a spin class, for example.

Adidas go a step further by offering their employees’ life coaches and specialists trained in cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of treatment that helps people change their thinking on certain subjects. When it comes to mental health, having an environment in which stress is openly discussed and managed is key.

How to build a culture with wellbeing at the heart:

There are a number of workplace wellbeing initiatives you can adopt but it can be daunting to figure out where to start. Here are our top tips for making a difference to your business health – and some don’t cost a penny.

1. Listen and involve 
The bigger your organisation, the more diverse your workforce population is likely to be. Those that are most successful when it comes to wellbeing initiatives have mastered the ability to adapt to their audience. For example, Facebook help their many recruits relocating for positions in the San Francisco and London hubs to form support networks through communities at work. They also involve their families in clubs and ‘get together’, recognising that the stability of their relationships outside of work will have an impact on their performance in work.

Getting an overview of what your people need is key and you can start this by simply asking them. You can then involve them in building a programme they can evolve and grow, setting aside a small investment and encouraging them to develop ideas of how to use it. 

2. Keep it authentic with your brand at the centre
Keeping true to your identity and values is key to keeping your offering relevant. This extends into the wellbeing initiatives that you support. For example, if you’re in the food and drink industry, chances are your staff value what they put into their bodies and so an emphasis on healthy eating options would be an obvious starting point.

If one of your values supports innovation, provide opportunities for your people to step out of the day-to-day workplace to think differently. Facebook have a mantra: ‘find bad cell phone reception’, which encourages people to find time to have creative time away from the busy day job and their phone!

3. Lead by example to build the culture
New initiatives can be hard to implement, but don’t let that stop you; instead, lead from the front. At Innocent drinks, board directors actively participate in lunchtime sport clubs to remind people it’s OK to take an hour out in the middle of the day to reset. Give permission and lead by appointing people across the business including senior leaders to take the first step and pave the way. Only then will wellbeing become a part of your culture. 

4. Try and test 
This isn’t about getting it perfect from the offset. Build a programme that can evolve and grow organically to withstand the test of time, as it will change as the needs of your business and people do. Encourage your people to give feedback to build on ideas and don’t be afraid to change things.

¹ 2013 CIPD accredited, Performance Management report

² Accenture 2015